IPBio- Biodiversity Research Institute
IPBio- Biodiversity Research Institute Programs
IPBio- Biodiversity Research Institute Reviews
A plethora of first times..
Submitted by Timothy Dodd - University of Bristol | July 19, 2017
Hey, my name is Tim. I am a biology undergraduate from Cardiff, Wales, in the U.K. I study at the University of Bristol and have just finished my second year. I noticed a lot of friends were doing exciting projects abroad, and I wanted to do something productive with my summer, which would mix my love of science and nature, with opportunity for leisure, making new friends, and exploring this beautiful part of the world. It is the first time I have volunteered in any form, and my first time this far away from home, and so I thought a one-month stay would be a safe time to book for my first adventure. With one week remaining, I begin to wonder if one month was too short a stay... it has flown by. My answer to this, and thus my advice for first-timers would be to seriously consider at least a 2 month stay. A month sounds long, especially if it’s your first time volunteering, but once you have settled in, been trained in your work activities, and are comfortable with life at the reserve, all of a sudden it is time to go home. It’s worth noting that big excursions are only possible on the weekends, and in a month, that leaves only 8 days to properly explore. It’s not enough. It’s also worth noting that it’s only a small reserve which may have only a few volunteers upon your arrival, many of whom may be long term volunteers who have already seen the sights you would like to see and wouldn’t want go again (as they cost money) and so a longer stay will allow you to come into contact with more volunteers who haven’t yet been where you want to go. Another piece of advice is if you want to visit Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or any other far-away places, consider visiting on your way in or out of the country, as they are not near or easy to visit on a weekend.
Logistics aside, my stay at both ipBIO and Rio de Janeiro has been so exciting, character-forming, and eye opening. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but you will realise looking back on you experience here you have been put in a very privileged position to visit such an awesome environment. I worked here on several projects, and if you’re not sure what you want to do here but know you just want to help, this is a good position as you get a taster of all the work going on at the reserve. I looked at food preference using camera footage to analyse the behaviour of our Lepidodactylus flavopictus frog. I carried out maintenance tasks at the reserve; feeding the fish, turtles, testing the water quality of the tanks etc. I then studied the progression of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the causative agent of chytridiomycosis in amphibians, in an isolated population of tadpoles. This is a long term study being done for a professor at a local university, and so it was good to know I was solely responsible for data collection that has real scientific significance. It also allowed me to be exposed to real science... repetition, repetition, repetition, which allowed me to realise what a career in research will really be like.
I have made great friends here, and certainly had memories which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Cananeia is definitely worth visiting (but preferably when it is good weather). It is absolutely beautiful, see as many of the islands as you can! And enjoy the boat rides. The caves here are awesome, and the hikes through the state park are unlike any organised trials you’ll ever see… prepare to get wet and have a lot of laughs! The town is very cute and there is everything you need here for a great stay. Prepare for slow internet at the reserve, but at the same time don’t rely on it... come prepared with any videos, software, literature etc. that you think you will need as downloads will take a long time. Look at it as something to look forward to - I am glad I had limited exposure to the internet as I was able to experience Brazil with my eyes rather than through a social media app, and focus on what I was doing here and the fun I was having rather than what other people who I don’t really care about were having for dinner on the other side of the globe. One thing I will definitely take away with me, and is a lesson to be learned for the Western world, is that collectivist culture is awesome. For example, the town is 5 km down the road, and a nice walk, however if someone drives past there’s a good chance they will offer you a free lift. If you need a lift back from the town after a night out, plan ahead as Taxi’s stop at 11, but when we got into this problem we asked around the bars and someone was kind enough to drop us home free of charge. Everyone is friendly here, and is so interested in you as a foreigner or ‘gringro’ as they call it, so prepare to feel welcomed. Personally, I think you will get more from your volunteer experience here if you come with a set project or research question in mind that you can fully focus on and also (preferably finish) so you have a product to come away with knowing you made an impact. You’ll make an impact regardless, but it’s nice to be around to see through the culmination of your project. You will indisputably get more from your experience if you come knowing at least the basics of Portuguese so you can get around by yourself, and converse with the locals. I came knowing zilch and wish I knew more… it’s an element of any trip that you cannot pay for to experience. The staff at ipBIO are really helpful, friendly, and well organised, and any questions before or during your stay at ipBIO, Imran has the answer!!!! Come with an open mind and heart, and embrace Brazil! Finally, if you like your stay, which I know you will, tell your friends! Some of the most powerful recommendations can from word-of-mouth, and ipBIO is expanding both here in Iporanga, and in the amazon with a new reserve, so there is space for your friends too! Good luck and I wish you fantastic experience here at ipBIO.
Program: Biodiversity Research Assistant
A great experience and look forward to continuing to volunteer with IPBio!
Submitted by Tess | July 18, 2017
I am from the United States and volunteered with IPBio's Bioacoustics Project for just over 5 months in total. Overall, the past 5 months have been fantastic and I feel incredibly fortunate to have this kind of an opportunity.
My background is in engineering and physics, so I was especially excited to find a technical volunteer opportunity abroad with such a direct impact on conservation research efforts. My typical week on the bioacoustics project included hiking up into the forest to collect audio data, listening to the audio recordings and teaching the software to recognize each individual type of species vocalization, and brushing up on my coding skills to create an analysis program. In all, I found the work very rewarding, relevant, and am able to see the direct impact of my work.
I greatly enjoyed working with and getting to know the staff and other volunteers at IPBio. They are a very kind, helpful, and welcoming group of people who I am going to miss quite a lot! Everyone at the Betary Reserve was very dedicated and was working toward IPBio's vision. I always felt comfortable asking for help or advice, whether work-related or not. While not strictly necessary for the volunteer program, I would recommend learning at least a little Portuguese prior to arriving in Iporanga because many staff members do not speak English fluently and a little Portuguese can go a long way!
The volunteer house was kept up quite well, but could feel a bit cramped at times when we were at full volunteer capacity. This shouldn't be an issue soon, though, because IPBio is in the process of building a new, bigger volunteer house that should alleviate this problem!
After 5 months of living on the Betary Reserve, I still have yet to complete my Iporanga bucket list. There are endless caves, waterfalls, and trails to explore in the gorgeous Vale do Ribeira, and countless weekend trips to nearby attractions.
Overall, my time at IPBio was a fantastic experience that I will always keep close to my heart. I 100% recommend volunteering here and look forward to continuing to volunteer with IPBio remotely from home in the United States!
Program: Bioacoustics Research & Inventory
Six month mushroom volunteer
Submitted by Grant | July 06, 2017
I was a volunteer for six months at the betary reserve in their bioluminescent mushroom program. The mushroom program itself is great. The nice thing about the mushroom program is that it is very research oriented. I was given some practical skills and guidance and the general idea of what they want to accomplish, and then was left to do the projects rather independently. The reserve is in a nice location, in a lush forest full of animals and birds, so for anyone that likes nature it is perfect. The area the reserve is in is full of caves and waterfalls too, so there is never lack of weekend activities. The staff are extremely supportive and welcoming, but I would recommend learning a bit of Portuguese before coming as it will help with communicating with some members that don't speak english, and other locals. Can't recommend IPBio enough.
Submitted by Jesse Garrett-Larsen - College of Wooster | July 06, 2017
I worked at IPBio for two months this summer as a volunteer from the United States. I am currently going into my third year of college working on a degree in Biology. I was looking for an opportunity to do research that complimented my school work and gave me experience in my future field when I ran across IPBio. It was exactly what I was looking for.
I worked on a variety of different projects during my time here at IPBio. I wrote research papers and carried out experiments investigating the food preference one of the rare endemic frogs here in the Atlantic Forest as well as setting up a long-term monitoring of local tadpoles to track the progression of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis both for the research institute itself and for a professor at UNICAMPI, Brazil. I was also responsible for feeding the animals in the aquarium and terrariums. I have seen myself gain confidence working in the field and in the lab. Working with the animals here has been an amazing experience that has helped me realize that this is what I want to do with my life!
Every morning, I woke up, cooked breakfast, and walked 30 seconds to work. Living in the volunteer house on the reserve meant that I was always surrounded by nature. I have spent countless hours during and after work wondering through the forest, marveling at the stunning biodiversity and beauty of the life here. On clear nights, the milky way lights up the sky and the stars provide enough light to walk without a light. It feels like something out of a dream. There really is no way to put into words the beauty both on the reserve and the surrounding area.
IPBio is located just outside PETAR, a national park with hundreds of caves and waterfalls. On the weekends, I visited some of these caves with other volunteers. Every trip I took blew me away. The guides were extremely friendly and the sites were all magnificent.
I realize that it is very cheesy, but the past two months here really have changed my life. The hospitality and selflessness that everyone has shown me has inspired me, and the scientific realizations that I have made will hopefully lead to future studies back at school and a career in biology. I would recommend this program to anyone who is even remotely interested in science, loves the natural world, and is ready for an adventure!
Program: Biodiversity Research Assistant
Totally worth it!
Submitted by Marta Quintana - london United Kingdom | June 29, 2017
Great experience! Meet amazing people during my stay in IPbio, Everybody is super passionate about what they do and Iporanga is a very nice place with many weekend activities to do, I had a very good time here and aiming to repeat in the future.
Program: Biodiversity Research Assistant