Cusuco cloud forest biodiversity research
Your expedition will take place in the spectacular cloud forests of Cusuco National Park, Honduras, which is ranked in the top 50 most irreplacable biodiversity sites in the world and is therefore a major conservation priority. You will spend time in both our main base camp, but also our more remote forest camps where you will get a real jungle experience! As well as learning about the ecology of the cloud forests and their conservation importance, you will work alongside a large team of scientists on projects including forest structure and carbon storage capacity, dung beetle community structure, amphibian and reptile transect surveys, bird point count and mist net surveys, small mammal surveys from trapping, large mammal surveys from camera trapping and bat surveys from mist netting and soundscaping. This is the most published team of forest researchers from all the Opwall sites, so a great place to learn a range of forest survey techniques and how to analyse these data sets.
Note: There may also be the opportunity to learn how to access and undertake surveys in tree canopies. This is an optional extra course costing $170 provided by Canopy Access Ltd and you can do this half day practical instead of one of the other practicals being offered.
The forests of Central America are some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, partly because they are the meeting point of two great faunas – those from North America and those from South America – which have evolved separately. Many of these ecosystems have been badly degraded but there is a proposal to join currently discontinuous areas of forest into a continuous Mesoamerican forest corridor running from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico (where there are other Opwall teams) to Panama. Part of this corridor will encompass the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park in Honduras – a site rich in endemics and endangered species yet threatened by unchecked illegal deforestation. The Opwall survey teams have been working in Cusuco since 2003 and the data produced has resulted in the Park being listed as one of the top 50 most irreplaceable protected areas in the world (based on a review of 173,000 sites worldwide). As well as underlining the biological value of Cusuco, the datasets collected by the Opwall teams are also being used to make an application for funding through a carbon credit scheme and for a UK govt grant for conservation of this region. Funding obtained in this way will then be used to manage and protect the park and the many unique species it supports.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
In the cloud forest of Cusuco National Park it can get warm in open areas (temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius) but much cooler in the shade of the forest. Overnight the temperature can drop below 10 degrees Celsius at higher altitudes. It rarely rains in the morning but it regularly rains late in the afternoon and overnight.
Fitness level required
Medium – High in Cusuco. You will need to hike from camp to camp for up to 5 hours with your backpack over steep terrain.
Facilities in Cusuco are very basic (tents, hammocks, river showers, basic trench toilets). There is no cell phone signal in Cusuco National Park and very limited satellite internet available through a communal laptop at Base Camp.