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Furr receives Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Madagascar

D06_05Furr04.JPGBOONE—Anne Furr, a December graduate from Appalachian State University, has parlayed her interest in travel, sustainable development and marine biology into a 10-month trip to Madagascar.

Furr has received a scholarship from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to conduct research and work with Blue Ventures, a London-based organization that facilitates marine conservation and research, and environmental awareness. The scholarship will cover travel costs to Madagascar and subsistence.

Furr leaves for Madagascar in September.

“After I graduated from Appalachian, I wondered, if I could get money to do whatever I wanted to do, what would I choose?” Furr said.

It turns out, Furr’s question was easy to answer.

Furr had spent part of 2003 studying French at the University of La Réunion, located on La Réunion island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. It was an area she wanted to return to someday.

Furr searched the combination of marine biology and Madagascar on the Internet and was led to the eco-tourism organization. She then learned that Fulbright awarded grants for overseas study and work.

An avid scuba diver and past volunteer at St. Eustatius Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles, Furr continued her environmental studies in college. She earned a dual degree in sustainable development and French, with a minor in biology, graduating with honors in December 2005.

Furr says commercial fishing operations are depleting the fishing stock along Madagascar’s coast. Blue Ventures is working with local residents to identify ways to manage the region’s unique marine and coastal environment and improve the quality of life of the local communities that depend on the area’s marine resources while maintaining the biological diversity and productivity of the reefs.

Furr and other volunteers will work on that project.

One of Furr’s professors at Appalachian was Christof den Biggelaar, an associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. He directs the department’s sustainable development teaching and research farm. He also has worked as a consultant in Madagascar in the area of agroforestry and natural resource management training.

“The Malagasy government has given priority to biodiversity conservation and ecotourism as two of its major development goals,” den Biggelaar said. “Ms. Furr’s proposed project to work on marine conservation and training in sustainable reef management and use practices fit well with the country’s development goals, and fills a much-needed gap in increasing our understanding of coral reef ecosystems and human impacts on them.”

Chuck Smith, director of Appalachian’s Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Program and Furr’s advisor said, “I am very proud of Anne and her wonderful work. She is quite deserving of this honor and I know she will represent our university and nation well.”

“Furr’s ability to speak French will definitely aid her in her sustainable development work in Madagascar,” Smith added.

Furr, the daughter of David and Anne Furr of Gastonia, became interested in marine conservation after taking courses in environmental studies and ecology while a student at Charlotte Country Day School.

When her overseas adventure ends, Furr plans to attend graduate school and continue her studies.