The ecology of seasonally flooded forests is driven by the extrinsic forces of large fluctuations in water level between the high and low water seasons. In contrast, the relatively aseasonal upland (non-flooded) forests are regulated by intrinsic biological drivers, such as competition and predator-prey interactions. The transitional forest between flooded and upland forests is a unique habitat that has features of both ecological systems. Primates, ungulates, rodents, felids and other mammals will be surveyed using line transects and camera traps to determine habitat preferences and abundances in flooded, transitional and upland forests. Flooded forest is a volatile ecosystem with annual and inter-annual fluctuations and is vulnerable to climate change, whereas upland forest is more stable and more resilient to climate change. Dissertation topics could examine the differences in terrestrial and arboreal mammals between the three forest types to examine vulnerability and resilience to climate change. Differences in predators, such as jaguars, pumas and ocelots, could be used to look at predator-prey relationships between upland, transitional, and flooded forests. Transect surveys will use Distance analysis and camera traps will be set along transects on 14-day rotations and can be analysed by capture rates or occupancy. Forest structure and fruit availability data may be collected from a series of habitat plots along transects.
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
Moderate. This project will be based in the forest, where terrain can be quite uneven and muddy, and where you may also need to cross small streams. You will spend the majority of your day in the forest in humid conditions, which can be quite physically tiring (but great fun!).
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.