Local woman interns in Madagascar

| June 9, 2017
Sydney Ringenberg recently traveled to Madagascar to work as a dive master and research assistant intern.

Sydney Ringenberg recently traveled to Madagascar to work as a dive master and research assistant intern.

COSHOCTON – If it wasn’t for the children’s movie “Madagascar” many of us would never have heard of the island country off of the southeast coast of Africa.  Recently, 19-year-old Sydney Ringenberg traveled there to work as a dive master and research assistant intern. She admits she didn’t know anything about the country until she began looking for information about the internship.

Ringenberg was in Madagascar about six months. During her stay, she learned to scuba dive and received her dive master certification. She also helped her instructor teach new volunteers and conducted sea grass and underwater visual census (uvs) surveys. These surveys help detect changes in coastal environments. At times, she traveled to other villages to complete surveys and got to spend the night in the home of a local resident.

“Seeing how the people in Madagascar live was an eye-opener. There is almost no proper education, sanitation or mode of transportation. Coming from a first-world country to a third world one was so surprising.” Ringenberg also spent time entering data from the surveys, worked on a seaweed farm (which involves rowing about a kilometer into the ocean to clean lines, harvest seaweed and reseed the lines.

She also traveled to other villages to participate and assist in sea cucumber sales and to help with beach clean-ups. Teaching English was also one of her jobs. She even helped to construct an artificial reef. Ringenberg traveled to two national parks while she was in Madagascar and would like to return to the country to visit other reserves and to see if the artificial reef has grown.

Ringenberg was surprised to see how the local residents traveled. They use a “brouse” which is like a bus, but a brouse with 16 seats can be filled with more than 24 people. Babies and small children are put on a lap, wherever they will fit.  There are no seatbelts and live animals might be tied to the top. She said that fish could be dangling in her face or chickens running around during the ride. “More people means more money, so they cram as many in as they can.”

During her visit to Andringitra National Park, Ringenberg said she did the most difficult hiking she has ever done in her life, but the views were so worth it when she got to the top. She also said she would go back to Andringitra in a heartbeat.

Ringenberg said that while she was never scared or worried while she was in Madagascar, there were a few things she didn’t like. “It isn’t anything personal against Madagascar – I just didn’t like seeing how the people have to live their lives. They are uneducated so they have limited means to earn a living. Charcoal or fishing may be the only way they know how to make money.” The natural resources in Madagascar are being depleted. Trees are being chopped down continually to make charcoal and the fishing areas are in terrible shape.

“The government or other people who are “higher up” in the community think they can simply say, “stop cutting the trees, we’re making it illegal” and tell them to stop using bad fishing practices, but what are the people supposed to do? It’s all they know. You can’t just take away someone’s livelihood and not give them an alternative.” Ringenberg liked Reef Doctor because the department is providing alternatives to fishing for the locals, such as seaweed and sea cucumber farming.

“The whole experience was great! One of my favorite things would be learning to dive and getting my dive master. I love being in the water. It really is a different world under there,” said Ringenberg.  She also said she will be able to use her dive master certification to get work and do what she loves all around the world in the future.


Category: Education

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