Cara Brook

It is high summer in Madagascar and the sun beats down relentlessly on our dusty field camp. I huddle beneath an invasive pine tree in this impacted landscape, trying to protect my laptop from the bright glare of the masoandro — the “eye of the day,” as the Malagasy call their sun. “Mamay ny andro,” says...

I wrote to you last as a Princeton doctoral student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where I studied the transmission dynamics of potentially zoonotic--or human-infecting--viruses carried by Malagasy fruit bats. Disease ecologists like myself use mathematical modeling tools to understand how pathogens persist in finite host populations over time--and to predict when such pathogens are most likely to pass from one individual to another. I wrapped up that PhD a few months ago and started a postdoctoral fellowship with the Miller Institute at UC Berkeley, but I’m still chasing answers to many of the same questions as before....

“Haromotana,” nods the nurse in the remote health clinic in western Madagascar. She’s only seen one case in her lifetime, but she remembers the incident from five years prior as though it happened only yesterday. She shudders slightly as she recalls the raving man who staggered into her clinic, mouth foaming, limbs thrashing, only further agitated by...

Setting the Scene On the southwest coast of Madagascar, the sun burns bright and fierce over white-hot sands and turquoise seas. The plants are small and spiny and hardened against the relentless drought—they store water over long periods in bulging baobab trunks, and open their stomata to drink in CO2 only sparingly in the relative cool...

The sunset is purple and gold in Madagascar’s dampest and most biodiverse Makira-Masoala rainforest, and the flying foxes soar high over our nets, headed westward to feed for the night on the fruit trees that line the distant coast. There is something about oceans—perhaps unsurprisingly—that speak to the ends of the Earth, and something about...

It is still dark at 7am, as I run along the beach in the southernmost region of Cape Town, South Africa. The winter air is crisp and sharp, and the frosty waves that lap at my tennis shoes roll off to distant Antarctica. I am breathless from the run and the chill and my awe of...

“You’re telling me you’re not nostalgic, then give me another word for it” —Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust” It’s almost two years to the day since I arrived in Madagascar to begin my doctoral research, brimming with dreams and idealism and a secret terror of the enormity of the tasks set before me. At the time, there...

  Losing Track of Time Time flies on the Eighth Continent. The summer rains have long given way to the dry chill of a highland autumn here in Madagascar, and the days grow short as night falls abruptly at this southern latitude. Back home, the snow is replaced by a riot of life and color,...

In Malagasy, the fahavaratra corresponds roughly to the season that we in the West like to call “summer.” But it’s a different sort of summer from any I have ever known. Varatra means lightning, of the sort that strikes the ground, and with lightning comes rain such as I have never seen. It pours from the...

It’s dusk on the eve of yet another departure from Madagascar, and I find myself once again in my ever-present state of leave-taking. A year ago—true to my fomba—I quoted Steinbeck on this subject when I said my last goodbyes in Madagascar: “It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never...

My third Thanksgiving has come and gone in Madagascar, and I think about my fiainana sambatra—my blessed life—as I explain the American fety to this month’s ekipa fanihy, the bat team. I’ve purchased a live chicken in honor of the occasion, which our masterful mpahandro, Andry, has turned from squawking feathers into fried deliciousness served...

Summer has come early to the far side of the world, and the days are long, hot and dripping. I write from Madagascar’s Makira-Masoala peninsula, the island’s densest and most biodiverse rainforest where my team and I are hard at work pathogen-sampling resident fruit bats from the research site of National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Chris...

Cara Brook is a Disease Ecologist working in the Andrew Dobson Lab at Princeton. She currently studies the great bats of Madagascar—flying foxes—and the diseases that they carry that could spill over into humans. Capturing and studying wild bats, of course, requires an ability to blend in to Malagasy culture in addition to the environment...

Cara Brook is a Disease Ecologist working in the Andrew Dobson Lab at Princeton. She currently studies the great bats of Madagascar—flying foxes—and the diseases that they carry that could spill over into humans. Capturing and studying wild bats, of course, requires an ability to blend in to Malagasy culture in addition to the environment...

Cara Brook is a Disease Ecologist working in the Andrew Dobson Lab at Princeton. She currently studies the great bats of Madagascar—flying foxes—and the diseases that they carry that could spill over into humans. Capturing and studying wild bats, of course, requires an ability to blend in to Malagasy culture in addition to the environment...