Unique Amazonian research ship experience
The research team are based on a historic research ship moored in the Yarapa river and also operate from a field camp in an indigenous village on the Tahuayo river. In your first week you will be having a series of lectures on Amazonian wildlife and survey methods. You will then be rotating between a series of projects including boat-based surveys of pink and grey dolphin populations, gillnet and rod surveys of the fish communities and point counts of the macaws and wading birds. As water levels drop over the season, the ecology of the flooded forests changes and you will record the transition from high to low water while on site. During these falling water level periods, water birds migrate to this site to predate on the fish fry that are returning to the river from the flooded forest. Foot-based surveys of the flooded forests and transitional forests include forest structure surveys, mist net surveys of the understorey birds, butterfly surveys, terrestrial frog surveys, camera trap points for big cats, tapirs, peccary and other terrestrial mammals, and distance sampling for primate species and other arboreal mammals. In the evening, you will have the opportunity to join fishing bat, amphibian and caiman surveys.
The primary study site is an area of seasonally flooded forest that connects the Pacaya-Samira National Reserve and the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Community Reserve. Surveys are conducted in the forest and white-water systems of the Lower Yarapa River from the confluence with the Amazon upriver towards its origin in the Ucayali river. A secondary field site extends from a base within an Amazonian community in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Reserve, surveying the black water system of the Tahuayo River and surrounding forests. The overarching goal of this project is to help conserve the Peruvian Amazon through field research that provides the science base for biodiversity conservation. Community-based conservation dominates the landscape of the western Amazon with large community-based reserves, community co-managed reserves and indigenous territories covering 98,800km². Opwall teams work closely with local communities, with particular areas of focus studying sustainable use of fish and bushmeat to support community management, and monitoring the recovery of endangered species such as giant river otter and jaguar populations. The flooded forests (várzea) of this area are particularly susceptible to global climate change which appears to be increasing the frequency of extreme flooding events and low water periods. Research will be conducted into how wildlife and people have been impacted by recent historic floods and droughts, especially in the flooded forests where effects have been devastating for terrestrial mammals, such as tapir, peccaries, armadillos and large rodents. Opwall teams contribute to one of the most extensive datasets in the Amazon and this information, managed by our Peruvian partners Fund Amazonia, is showing the impact of climate change on a range of taxa and on the livelihoods of indigenous people. It is being used to inform management decisions for community reserves and protected areas, and policy decisions for conserving the Peruvian Amazon.
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In this area of Peru, the temperature varies very little, averaging between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius (70 and 90 Fahrenheit). The humidity is, as standard, over 95%, which can make it feel quite hot and sticky. During the evenings, the temperature drops and it can feel much cooler, but it tends not to drop below around 20 degrees.
Fitness level required
Medium. This is terrestrial-based project so you will be in the forest for many of your surveys. There are no hills and you will be on marked transects but the terrain can be extremely muddy and quite uneven, which can be made more challenging by the heat and humidity.
Facilities in Peru are aboard a research boat at the main site and in traditional forest lodging at the satellite site (university students only). At both sites you will sleep in bunkbeds in dormitory-style rooms, and bathrooms are also shared, with bucket-flushed toilets and cold showers. It is unlikely that you will have any cell phone signal or wi-fi.
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