Volunteer itinerary and research projects
We have set out the planned itinerary below for your first week, the specific schedule may change depending on the project needs and conditions at the time.
Volunteers who join the 2 week placement will assist with the conservation work, however they may not be able to get involved with all aspects of the research. Volunteer placements of 4 week + will also receive Emergency First Response and further project training. If possible, we recommend staying for 4 weeks + to be able to get involved in a range of the research work.
The project is located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, a protective zone surrounding Manu National Park, which is one of the world’s most biodiverse hotspots. The research centre works in partnership with prestigious research bodies such University of Glasgow, the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Oxford University Environmental Change Institute (ECI), Andina University of Cusco, San Antonio Abad of Cusco and San Diego Global Zoo.
The project aims to answer the question: “how can regenerating rainforest contribute to sustaining and conserving rainforest life in all its diversity?” By developing long term comparative studies they aim to understand how forests that have experienced different types and levels of damage regenerate.
Current research projects which volunteers may be involved in include:
The Blue headed macaws are found in the forest reserve and they have been classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Species and are threatened with extinction. The population is decreasing due to a combination of exploitation for the pet trade and loss of habitat through deforestation and increased human disturbance.
Volunteers take a short boat ride before dawn to the beach area where the small river cliff side clay lick can be monitored. The team records the number and activity of the parrots and macaws and any observed tourist impacts. Each year the team builds an observation blind which they encourage visiting tourists to use to reduce their impact on the birds.
The mammal monitoring project investigates the importance of regenerating rainforest as a habitat for different mammal species, and this is achieved through a combination of transects, seasonal camera trapping and tracking. So far more than 40 large mammal species have been recorded at the field locations. The camera traps have recorded 13 individual jaguars at the field site since 2010.
Volunteers help to set up camera traps in all 3 forest types, which allows for a comparison of encounter rates and relative abundances of species in each forest type. As salt is such an important commodity to all life in the Amazon rainforest the clay licks attract a lot of mammal species including tapirs, red howler monkeys and white-lipped peccary. Mammal prints are recorded during morning surveys and through incidental sighting.
The field site is a fantastic location for bird watching. Manu National Park is home to 10% of bird species globally so avian monitoring is a vital part of the biodiversity assessment across the different forest areas and can indicate specific pressures or forest types.
Volunteers conduct early morning transects along the different areas and record bird sighting and calls.
Amphibians are an excellent indicator species as they are extremely vulnerable to changes in their environment due to their very thin, moist skin which they use for gas exchange. This makes them very sensitive to chemical pollutants and also to changes in climate e.g. temperature and humidity. This means that amphibians are often one of the first groups of organisms to respond to changes in climate (or microclimate) caused by deforestation and other human activities.
Reptiles are another important indicator group, as they are both predators and prey. This means that they support populations of higher predators and control populations of small mammals and other prey items.
Many species of reptile are listed as data deficient and are greatly understudied so the team aims to improve the understanding of these important animals. Any changes in the food web can have substantial knock on effects which makes reptiles an important group to study.
Volunteers carry our transect surveys by walking slowly along a 100m trail through the forest looking for amphibians and reptiles on leaves, branches and on the ground. The research team also conducts pitfall surveys, which consist of four 20 litre buckets dug into the ground, joined together by a wall of plastic sheeting.
The team has made some fascinating discoveries and found some species they believe may be new to science!
Butterflies are significant bio-indicators and are important in ecosystems as pollinators to many plant species. They are good indicators of the quality of a habitat since they are sensitive to any changes.
The project is creating an inventory of the butterfly species at the area and gaining an understanding of their distribution between the 3 forests types that differ in disturbance level.
Volunteers help to set up butterfly nets baited with fermented banana at 3 heights in the 3 main forest types. Butterflies are retrieved from the net and identified using field guides created from species previously found.
The project works with the local community to create sustainable livelihoods and helped to improve the health and economic welfare of the families in the reserve while protecting and improving the rainforest environment through bio gardens, agroforestry and capacity building.