Must-See TV: BBC Four documentary to feature NIU biologist

Karen Samonds
Karen Samonds

NIU biology professor Karen Samonds has spent more than two decades piecing together a mystery.

Samonds’ field research aims to shed light on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna – and to close a gap in the fossil record.

In more than 20 years of researching Malagasy vertebrate species, she has discovered more than 30 fossil-producing sites and found the remains of fish, sharks, crocodiles, turtles and even the first marine fossil mammal from the period. While many of her discoveries have been marine organisms, the fact that her team is also finding land-dwelling animals, such as bats and lizards, has been the most significant contribution to date.

In addition to being funded by three National Geographic Research and Exploration grants, the research has drawn the attention of film crews.

While conducting research last summer, she was filmed by a BBC film crew for the “Islands of Evolution” series. The documentary, “Madagascar: A World Apart,” will air Monday, Jan. 25, on BBC Four.

Samonds also was filmed in 2013 for a documentary series titled, “Voyage of the Continents.” It depicts how, over many millennia, geology and evolution have interacted to forge life on Earth as we know it. It will air on the Discovery Channel in the future.

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