frogs. snakes. toads. caecilians. lizards. tortoises. turtles. caiman
Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
* All training provided *
Understanding the diversity, distribution, population dynamics, and optimal conservation strategies of forest-dwelling amphibians and reptiles in Amazonian Peru
The Herpetofauna Research Team, with headquarters in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with developing baseline datasets on the diversity and abundance of 120 species of amphibians and reptiles at numerous field sites across the Madre de Dios region of Amazonian Peru, and to monitor changes in these variables over time scales ranging from months to decades. By undertaking sampling throughout the year, in dry and wet seasons; across various habitat types, including floodplain and terra firme forest; and in contrasting land-use categories, such as reserves and national parks, native community forests, ecotourism concessions, Brazil nut forests, timber extraction zones, and forests associated with agriculture and cattle ranching; and also by collating climate data at each study site, the team is able to determine the relative importance of each variable, understand the patterns and trends in diversity and abundance in time and space, and ultimately predict the current and future conservation status of herps across the entire landscape.
A young Smooth-fronted caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus)
Photo: Gordon Dimmig
A male Giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor)
Photo: Jason Kopp
Methods Used and Skills Taught
The herpetofauna sampling methods that our volunteers and interns learn and implement under the leadership and supervision of our professional herpetofauna research coordinators, include line transects, quadrat plot counts, pitfall traps, intensive searches of waterways and swamps, and PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tagging. All methods require skilled handling of species (training provided) and precise measurement of numerous physical characteristics. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use and teach, include R, SPSS, Distance, Mark, Estimates, and QGIS. Each field site has 11-33 line transects, 100-200 quadrat plots, 8-12 pitfall traps, and 1-3 river, stream or lake sampling routes, all within 4 km of each research camp. Each week, sampling is undertaken Monday to midday on Saturday, after which team members are free to relax and explore the local area. Click here for precise details of sampling protocols.
A Typical Day
Research days are split into morning, afternoon, and nocturnal sampling sessions. On each research day, typically two sessions are completed, for a total of around 7 hrs of active field time and data input per day. On most morning sessions, sampling begins at 9:00 am, after breakfast, with checking pitfall traps, followed by either line transect and quadrat plot sampling. On returning to the field station after 2 hours of fieldwork, the team will process the herp species captured (identification, weighing, measuring, and tagging in some cases) before returning them to the point of capture. After lunch, which is served at 1 pm, team members can relax for a couple of hours, and will then input data from the morning sample session into the laptop. At around 5 pm the team will check the pitfall traps once again and quickly process and return the captured species. After dinner, whcih is served at 7 pm, the team will ready itself for the main nocturnal sampling sessions. This takes place from around 8.30 pm until 11 pm or midnight. This session could include line transects, quadrat plots, or going out in the boat or canoe to sample sections of a nearby river or oxbow lake. Saturday mornings are usually set aside for habitat monitoring, which is undertaken within modified Gentry plots, or catching up on any missed sampling sessions from the previous week.
Plica umbra (Photo: Ian Markham)
The herpetofauna research team catch a Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus).
Video: Lucy Dablin/Fauna Forever
Chris Ketola (our herpetofauna team coordinator) and his intern (Ella Davey from the UK) measuring a Dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus). Video: Chris Ketola/Fauna Forever
Volunteer and Intern Participation Fees
All meals (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities, local Sunday expeditions.
Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.
1 week - US$ 500
2 weeks - US$ 900
3 weeks - US$ 1200
1 month - US$ 1600
6 weeks - US$ 2200
2 months - US$ 2850
3 months - US$ 4100
Any time of year. We recommend successful applicants arrive in the city of Puerto Maldonado (PEM) on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday if at all possible. The city is served by daily flights from Lima (LIM) and Cusco (CUZ) via the airlines Latam and Avianca.
Non-profit Fee Breakdown
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