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ceiba. dipteryx. iriartea. astrocaryum. swietenia. cedrelinga. hura. zanthoxylum.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
* All training provided *
Understanding the diversity, population dynamics, and carbon dynamics
of trees and other plants in Amazonian Peru

Team Objectives

The Tree Research Team, with headquarters in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with listing the tree (and liana) species to be found at each research site. Other than diversity, the team also aims to determine the density, size distribution, basal area, community structure, and carbon content of trees (using multiple 0.05 ha forest plots) and how these vary within and between sites. Tree census plots are placed in all the forest types identified at each site. With the information gathered by this team used as dependent variables, the other wildlife research teams (i.e. mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.) can better understand the patterns of change within and between sites with respect to their own taxonomic groups of interest.

Botany - Tree monitoring, Darwin con pla

Research coordinator, Darwin Solano, inputting tree data directly into the smartphone. Photo: Chris Kirkby

Botany - Team (Nicholas Cade) (2).jpg

Tree research team intern, Pedro (from Colombia), identifying a tree species by looking at leaf venation. Photo: Nicholas Cade

Fig tree at ARCC (Tom Ambrose).jpg
Bamboo internode (Chris Kirkby) small.JP

Methods Used and Skills Taught

The methods and techniques that our volunteers and interns learn and implement under the leadership and supervision of our tree research coordinators, include botanical plot set-up; diametre breast height (DBH) measurements of trees; tree species identification; tagging trees with numbered aluminium tags; and tree height calculation. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use include R, SPSS, Estimates, and QGIS. Each field site requires 30-60 tree plots (each 10 x 50 m or 0.05 ha)

The gloom at the base of a giant Fig tree, festooned with lianas. 

Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma

A Typical Day

DBH tape measure 1.png

Research days are split into morning and afternoon sessions. On each research day, typically both 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 8:00 am, after breakfast, with assessing the map of forest types at the field site and identifying the two or three plots that will be sampled that day. Having arrived at the geographic centre of the first plot, with the help of a GPS, a 50 m tape measure is used to mark out the centreline of the plot. With the help of a shorter 5 m tape measure, the team will determine if a tree is located within the plot or not. For those deemed within, a DBH tape measure is used to measure its diameter. Those trees within the plot and of a diameter of at least 10 cm, are subsequently identified, with voucher specimens taken if field identification is not possible. Photos of leaves, flowers, and trunk are also taken to aid identification is some circumstances. The presence of Guadua bamboo in a plot is also noted. In the morning session between 1-2 plots can be finished. In the afternoon, after lunch, one plot is usually sampled, with the remainder of the session set aside for data input and discussions of tree identification techniques. All research schedules and activities are subject to change at the discretion of the team coordinator.

The internode area of a Guadua sarcocarpa bamboo stem. Photo: Chris Kirkby

Pourouma leaf 1.png

Looking up through Malastomataceae plant leaves towards the palm-filled canopy.

Video: Chris Kirkby

Volunteer and Intern Participation Fees


All meals (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities.

Not included

Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.


1 week     -  US$ 576

2 weeks   -  US$ 1,092​

3 weeks   -  US$ 1,600

1 month   -  US$ 2,117

6 weeks   -  US$ 2,583

2 months -  US$ 3,304

3 months​ -  US$ 4,450


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 airline Latam.

Non-profit Fee Breakdown

Banking 5% 

Accommodation 21%

Meals 29%

Equipment  8%

Transport 15% 

Communication 3%

Staff 19%

Profit  0%

Recommended Reading

Field Guides

Book - Trees of Peru.jpg

Published Articles

Williams (2001) Review of antiviral and immunomodulating properties of plants of the Peruvian rainforest with a particular emphasis on Una de Gato and Sangre de Grado. Alternative Medicine Review 6(6): 567.

Vandebroek (2004) A comparison of traditional healers' medicinal plant knowledge in the Bolivian Andes and Amazon. Social Science & Medicine 59: 837–849.

Balunas (2005) Drug discovery from medicinal plants. Life Sciences 78:  431-441.

Bussmann (2006) Traditional medicinal plant use in Northern Peru: tracking two thousand years of healing culture. Journal of Ethnobiology and  Ethnomedicine 2.

Bussmann (2007) Blending traditional and Western medicine: medicinal plant use among patients at Clinica Anticona in El Porvenir, Peru. Ethnobotany  Research and Applications 5.

Perrault-Archambault (2008) Distribution of agrobiodiversity in home gardens along the Corrientes River, Peruvian Amazon. Economic Botany 62(2): 109–126.

Sanz-Biset (2009) A first survey on the medicinal plants of the Chazuta valley (Peruvian Amazon). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 122: 333–362.

Trees of Peru. By: TD Pennington

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