IPBio - Biodiversity Research Institute

IPBio - Biodiversity Research Institute


The Biodiversity Research Institute (IPBio) is a place where research meets conservation. IPBio is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that develops and supports projects in environmental education and scientific research on biodiversity, ecology as well as on the behavior of species of fauna and flora of Brazilian ecosystems. In addition, IPBio’s mission is to encourage conservation, management and sustainable use of natural resources; and promote the development of eco-tourism and cultural projects.

We are located in the Atlantic Forest. With only 7% of its original extent remaining, placing it on the top 5 most endangered forests list, we are rapidly losing one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. Conservation is critical.

The work done in the Betary Reserve has received international recognition. In 2009, the reserve received accreditation as an advanced outpost of The Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.


Estrada Iporanga-Apiai, km 6


Yes, I recommend this program

I am currently on a gap year and I decided to volunteer at IPBio as an Eco-Volunteer. I spend 3 weeks there and wished I had gone for a longer stay. It was an amazing experience. The programme is extremely well organized and the people on the staff are very kind and helpful. You get to do a variety of different and interesting jobs where you learn a lot about the biodiversity of the Atlantic forest. In your free time you can go swimming in the river, go to town or just stay at the reserva. The weekend trips organized by IPBio are amazing as well. During my very short stay I can say that I learned a lot about the Atlantic forest but also about the people and the culture. I would recommend this volunteer programme to anyone!

Yes, I recommend this program

Imran does a great job communicating with all the volunteers before they arrive to the program to dismiss any doubts and possible fears of traveling to another country. The program structure is created to allow those staying just two weeks to experience every aspect of what IPBio is about. It was easy to connect with other volunteers and I had a great time! My favorite activity would be the mushroom inventory. Going on the night time trails with Grant was one of the coolest things to see and their most important project

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
One thing would be to stay for more than two weeks.
Yes, I recommend this program

I left my career as a Mechanical Engineer looking to connect with nature and travel. IPBio afforded me the opportunity to experience natural phenomena that exist in very few places on the earth (glowing mushrooms!!)! The work is meaningful, the people are fantastic, and the Atlantic Forest is truly a special place. I never once felt unsafe or bored. I would recommend this experience to anyone excited about protecting the preserving nature!!! In addition to this experience, Brazil is an amazing country, forget your expectations and enjoy the beauty of this place!

Yes, I recommend this program

This never felt like a volunteer program. It felt like 2 months I had a new home surrounded by great people amazing opportunities and spectacular wildlife. The volunteer projects were never boring because the wildlife was constantly changing. Bioluminescent mushroom walks, stargazing, waterfall hikes, swimming in caves, bird watching, running into monkeys, glowing larvae, afternoon river swims, trail hikes, and dancing at festivals in town were experiences I cherish. I cant wait to go back and have more experiences of a lifetime!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Bioluminescent mushrooms glowing everywhere like in avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

I have had an amazing time at IPBio - Reserva Betary. Working as a photographer, I took pictures from frogs, insects, birds and mushrooms, day and night. My expectations were exceeded! Programs were very intersting. Learned a lot about animals and plants. Also learned how the projects are run. Over the weekend we have had fun, were visiting caves.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Took pictures from glowing mushrooms sitting on a tree.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Carys Richards

Carys is a Geography and Sustainable Development undergraduate student studying at the University of St Andrews. She is eager to explore the world whilst trying to make a positive impact on the environment.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program for several key reasons. The projects seemed to be very varied and would allow me to experience collecting field data ranging from Bird Inventory to Mushroom Research. The location looked amazing as I would be living and working in the Mata Atlântica in Brazil which has been heavily deforested and is still under threat. There are hundreds of species of animals, plants, and mushrooms that are endemic to the forest only being found in this specific region. I also wanted to gain more experience working with international scientists on globally important research.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IPBio helped me with organizing my travel from my home country to the reserve as it is not the most straightforward of places to get to given its more remote location. They also advised me on where to stay in São Paulo and what to bring with me.

The volunteer coordinators at the reserve were incredibly supportive both before arrival and whilst we were staying. They also helped us organize our weekend trips and involved us in local community activities. Aside from this, my university helped me plan my trip financially. Everything else such as getting the right vaccinations, I organized alone which was pretty simple.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say to make the most of your time away! Plan and budget for your evenings and weekend trips – Brazil is a huge country with so much to offer so you should explore as much as possible. I wish I had visited so many more places in Brazil and added a couple of weeks to my trip at the end (but that just means I will organize a future trip back there!). You need to be aware that it takes a lot of time to travel between destinations in the country given such large distances.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day is usually split between a morning and afternoon activity. We have a meeting every morning at 9 AM to go through the plan for the day and discuss any questions/issues people have. Then we would all participate in a project such as tree inventory, bird inventory, mushroom inventory, habitat monitoring, camera trap footage reviewing (OBBIO), or another assigned project.

Some people had roles that were more lab focused such as working with frogs or working with mushrooms. We would have usually around an hour for lunch which was pretty flexible, and then typically a different afternoon activity. The evenings and weekends are free so we would have dinners planned, movie nights, trips to town, cave visits, boia cross, and lots of other activities!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that I would struggle with the language and that it would negatively affect my experience. I found that people were very willing to try to talk to me and encouraged me even though I struggled speaking Portuguese. People would go out of their way to communicate with me, and I made some great friends with the other volunteers (from a range of countries), the staff and the local people, which helped me to feel like an extended part of the community.

Should you go to the reserve?

YES! 100%. You shouldn't be scared of travelling alone to a country where you might not speak the language. I didn't have any experience that made me uncomfortable or regret my decision to come to Brazil. My stay in São Paulo was great, the intra-country travel was a lot easier than I expected, the project work was varied and interesting, and the people were so welcoming! I would highly recommend this project to anyone! I had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of my experience at IPBio.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ana Glaucia Martins

Job Title
Manager of IPBio
Ana Glaucia gained a undergraduate degree in Biology in 2006 and post-graduate specialization in Conservation and Management of Fauna in 2011. She began to work at IPBio in 2007 as a research assistant and as of 2014 she became the manager.
Ana from IPBio

What is your favorite travel memory?

I am privileged to have been born in Iporanga, where IPBio is located, as it is situated in an area with such wonderful places to visit. Iporanga is known as the Cave Capital of Brazil and is located in the most preserved area of Atlantic Forest. There are various hikes to do, waterfalls to see and wildlife to watch but my favorite travel memory is from a cave called “Casa da Pedra”. This is located 30 minutes from Iporangas town center and is the largest cave opening in the world stretching approximately 215 meters. I remember visiting it when I was just child and being so impressed by its size. I have visited the cave many times since then but it always seems to amaze me.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I believe I have grown a lot since joining IPBio in 2007. I initially worked as a research assistant, then became the head biologist and now manage the Institute. Since then I have not only gained experience in my own field but developed other skills in management, finance, project development and various other areas. IPBio gave me the space and opportunity to discover new talents and find new interests in areas outside of biology which I am grateful for.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Personally I would choose the “Research Assistant” role. I believe that this role is the most interesting as it is designed so that people with or without scientific degrees can participate in research. Many people, not only biologists, are interested in biology and it is important for the lay public to understand how conservation works on the ground. Additionally, this program is varied as you assist all ongoing research so the volunteer becomes familiar with wide range of activities such as: setting up camera traps to photograph mammals; visiting pitfalls to monitor frogs; working in the lab to study mushrooms; conducting inventories of tree species on the reserve etc.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I believe what makes IPBio unique is the fact that the founder decided to only hire local biologists. This was a conscious decision in order to develop the talents and harness the interest and knowledge of people who live on the front lines of the forest. This gave opportunities to local biologists who would have to relocate to urban areas to follow their passion of working for a reputable research center. Moreover, as the biologists are locals it has connected the research centers aims to the community and rose awareness about environmental concerns and the importance of conservation.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

IPBio's success can be attributed to its diversification. IPBio has managed to combine research, tourism and education in a self-reinforcing manner. Although research is our focus, realizing that people are fascinated by nature, IPBio developed educational tours through public visitation to our reserve as well as receiving school trips. IPBio understood that people are not only interested by nature but also by the scientific method which is key developing future generations who understand and care about the environment.