The pink dolphin, Inia geoffrensis and grey dolphin, Sotalia fluviatilis are endemic to the Amazon rivers and function as indicator species for the general health of aquatic habitats. Dolphins make an excellent indicator species because they rapidly move out of polluted or degraded habitats and in turn quickly indicate changes in the condition of aquatic systems. Moreover, dolphin abundance directly relates to food supply and thus dolphins can be used to monitor the health of fish populations. Dolphins are also easy to count and observe since they frequently surface, are large-bodied and very distinctive. The river dolphin population in the Amazon River and Yarapa tributary has been monitored for several years using transect surveys, side-scan sonar and high frequency hydrophone along rivers, lakes and channels via small boats. During these surveys, all dolphin encounters are recorded noting the species, pod size, habitat, angle, distance and the dolphin behaviour. Dissertation topics could examine the health of the aquatic systems in the Peruvian Amazon by evaluating population trends of the two species of river dolphin over time, or could focus on habitat, behaviour and group size differences between the two species. Research could incorporate the social structure of pods and inter-specific relationships between pink and grey dolphins using observations and high frequency hydrophone. Dissertations could also incorporate the fish monitoring dataset to investigate changes to dolphin abundance over time in relation to changing fish stocks.
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 survey is purely boat based and will therefore not be physically demanding.
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.