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New Building Inaugurated at SBU’s Centre ValBio

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Stanley - Wright
SBU President Samuel L. Stanley with Patricia Wright, Founder and Executive Director, Centre ValBio, wearing her Commandeur National Medal.

World-renowned primatologist Patricia Wright, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, the Madagascar Minister of Higher Education, members of the Transitional Congress and Chief of the Region, officially inaugurated NamanaBe Hall (NamanaBe means “big friendship” in the Malagasy language), the new 15,000-square-foot building designed to enhance the conservation, research and community outreach capabilities of the Centre ValBio (CVB) research campus.

Located adjacent to Ranomafana National Park, CVB is an organization founded in 2003 by Wright with a mission to protect Madagascar’s unique and biologically diverse ecosystems through conservation science and projects directly benefiting the local people (more than 50 villages surround the park), including rural healthcare delivery. CVB is operated by the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE) at Stony Brook University, where Wright also serves as a professor of biological anthropology.

“NamanaBe Hall will serve as a model for integrated research in remote settings,” said President Stanley. “It will enhance the research and outreach capabilities of Centre ValBio and enrich the unique relationship of conservation, cutting-edge research and community outreach. Centre ValBio’s integrated approach has been crucial to preserving the rainforest, researching the land’s rich biodiversity, providing assistance to and building friendships with the Malagasy people so they can help protect their most precious resources.”

“My vision for this Center is that it will be a model for conservation of the future,” said Wright. “This integrated approach is the only way we can protect both people and wildlife from destruction. Only when people from all walks of life and from all over the world care about this natural world and join together, can this goal be successful. The Malagasy people and their rich biodiversity deserve our caring.”

At the ceremony, Wright was honored with the Commandeur National Medal, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by the Republic of Madagascar for her 26 years of conservation work for Malagasy biodiversity. Previously she received the Chevalier Medal of Honor (1995) and the Officier Medal of Honor (2005), making her one of only a select few foreigners to receive this triumvirate of awards. Medals of Honor are awarded to those who have accomplished honorable, significant and exceptional deeds throughout their careers.

NamanaBe Hall
NamanaBe Hall (photo by Noel Rowe)

About NamanaBe Hall
NamanaBe Hall, designed by InSite Architecture and constructed by EMGCTP, stands four stories tall and includes an environmentally friendly design that is sensitive to its location just feet from Ranomafana National Park, overlooking picturesque waterfalls, the Namorona River and Ranomafana rainforest. Stationed along a hillside, NamanaBe Hall can be accessed by a bridge from the main CVB entrance. Its wedge-like structure adheres to the topography of the landscape and offers many vantage points for forest observation and places for study, reflection and gathering. It was built with locally sourced materials such as bricks, granite and bamboo for flooring.

The entrance floor contains a computer training lab and library, a large conference room that fits up to 80 people and a veranda for lectures, symposia and both education and outreach programs. Dormitories are located on two floors and can accommodate long-term visits for up to 52 researchers. The entire bottom floor is devoted to research, with three modern laboratories, including the only bio-safety “Level Two” lab outside of the capital city. It will soon be outfitted to study biodiversity (genetics, hormones and parasites) and infectious diseases. In addition to a green roof containing gardens, the building utilizes gray-water recycling, solar hot water, natural cooling, enhanced daylighting and an eco-swale or man-made biofiltration system that purifies water.

NamanaBe Hall features items from the Malagasy people, including photos by Pierre Men (Fianarantsoa, Madagascar), bedspreads and pillows handmade by Ranomafana weavers (FAMIOVA) and restored Malagasy furniture. The building was paid for with $3 million in generous support from private donations. This past year, Wright added her former PhD student, Mireya Mayor, a National Geographic Explorer, to her roster of key staff members. Mayor was instrumental in securing donations for the building and will play an important role in using grassroots media to attract more visitors, both academic and tourists, to NamanaBe Hall.

Enhancing CVB’s Capabilities
Conservation: Increased meeting and classroom space allows CVB to expand educational initiatives with existing high-profile partners, including the U.S. Embassy’s Artists 4 Environment program, UNICEF’s Connecting Classrooms, as well as other national conservation workshops.

Research: New labs are equipped with fume hoods, PCR machines (DNA amplifiers), deep freezers, spectrophotometers, electron microscopes and more, which will result in expanded biodiversity research. A new bio-safety “Level Two” lab will enable infectious disease research; a high-speed Internet connection, in partnership with the Telma Corporation, will enable real-time information transfer between on-site scientists and the rest of the world.

Community Outreach: NamanaBe Hall will host visiting medical professionals and facilitate on-site health and hygiene education programs. Facilities will be used as a hub for youth nationwide.

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