Sustaining Diverse Income Streams in an Urban Setting: Poultry Farming and Newcastle Disease in Antananarivo, Madagascar

2018 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2018-2020

C. Jessica Metcalf, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs, is examining the intersection of food security and disease in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. Home to 2 million people and in one of the world’s poorest countries, Antananarivo hosts a flourishing poultry-farming sector, which provides food security and an income stream for many households. Local poultry farms are primarily small-scale and together provide an affordable source of protein with relatively low environmental impacts compared to industrial agriculture. However, these small operations can be devastated by poultry diseases, particularly Newcastle disease (ND), which swiftly spreads between birds and can cause 100 percent mortality in unvaccinated flocks. This project is modeling the spread and distribution of ND in Antananarivo in order to identify ND-infection risk factors, as well as to improve vaccination and prevent outbreaks. Metcalf is working with Princeton students to map farms, trading centers and ND cases across the city. The project’s hypothesis is that birds are most at risk of infection from contact at trading hubs rather than between neighboring farms. The data will be used to explore the cost and benefit of ND vaccination for local poultry farmers.

Educational Impacts

Five Princeton undergraduates are chosen to participate in the project each year, with students encouraged to pursue work related to their senior thesis. They initially engage in formal meetings to narrow the design of the research program and assist in obtaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Students travel to Madagascar for 4-6 weeks of fieldwork in collaboration with students from the Veterinary School in Madagascar, while also analyzing data and taking responsibility for sharing results with stakeholders and collaborators in Madagascar and on the free online map, The project also will recruit a postdoctoral researcher and work closely with veterinary students in Antananarivo.

Participating Department

Collaborating Institutions


Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs

Research Associates