Caiman are amongst the largest animals found in this region, and are important apex predators in the river ecosystem. There are three species of caiman found in this part of Peru (common, black and smooth-fronted), each of which has suffered different historical levels of exploitation. Opwall has been involved in local caiman research for a number of years, and this research effort is set to continue as part of a broader project led by a PhD student. Although the specific focus of this research is still being finalised, the overarching theme is to better understand the ecology of these charismatic animals, including factors such as their abundance, behaviour, habitat usage and spatial/temporal patterns in their distribution. Data could be collected via a range of methods, including spotlight surveys conducted at night along the edges of the main river and in a series of oxbow lakes within the forest (some connected to the river and others separated during the dry season). During these surveys, the size and species identification of each individual will be recorded, allowing spatial distributions to be estimated alongside size frequency to derive broad population structure. It may also be possible to capture smaller individuals (<2m) using a noose, allowing more detailed morphometric data to be collected (e.g. length, weight, sex and the presence of parasites).
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 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.
The temperature varies very little in the area where we are based in Peru. It averages between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius (70 and 90 Fahrenheit). The humidity will usually always be over 75%, which can make it feel quite hot and sticky. During the evenings, the temperature drops and it can feel much cooler but still usually stays around 20 degrees.
Fitness level required
Low. This is terrestrial based project so you will be in the forest for your surveys. There are no hills and you will be on the marked transect but the terrain can be muddy and quite uneven.
Facilities in Peru are on a research boat where you will sleep in bunk beds in a shared cabin. The bathroom is also shared and you can expect hand flushed toilets and cold showers. You will have no cell phone signal or wifi.