Only 1-2% of the estimated 5–10 million species of fungi are described, and a geographical bias exists with less representation from tropical areas. Little work on fungal ecology has been completed in Honduras and, until recently, none in Cusuco National Park. Cusuco National Park hosts a diverse plant community, including multiple species of oaks (Quercus) and pines (Pinus) that form mutualistic ectomycorrhizal relationships with many well-known groups of macrofungi (such as Amanita, Boletus, and Russula). Additionally, fungal distributions can be restricted by substrate or environmental factors, such as elevation, which varies by over 1000 m at different sites in the Park. The aim of the long-term fungal survey in Cusuco is to describe the fungal diversity in Cusuco and quantitatively investigate how elevation, plant communities, and other environmental variables influence the distribution of fungi. Students will survey fungi in long-term research plots and will use these data (and data from previous surveying years) to determine if fungal communities are structured by environmental variables. Students will learn fungal collecting, identification, and data analysis in R.
If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.
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. You will need to hike from camp to camp for up to 5 hours over steep terrain with your backpack.
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.