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IPBio - Biodiversity Research Institute

About

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.

Website
ipbio.org.br
Founded
2004

Reviews

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Ming Lin
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing volunteer program!

The volunteer program was located in a small town called Iporanga. Being born and raised in big cities, I thought I would not get used to living here. However after 5 months I fell in love with the town and the people. Brazilians are so warm and welcoming. Other than the amazing volunteer program, I had the opportunity to attend some school activities with the staff at the reserve, thereby conversed with the local children. All in all it was a very rewarding experience. Thank you to IPBIO I had such wonderful time volunteering here.

What was your funniest moment?
Visiting waterfalls and caves with other volunteers. Also, working with the Brazilians as well!
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Thomas
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

What an adventure

Hiya, I´m not a man of great words, but able to capture my surroundings with my camera.
That´s why I don´t have to much to say, but more to show: Check out my personal travel related website for the images I took while spending 3 months in the beautiful and stunning Atlantic Forest at IPBio Reserva Betary as a volunteer and check my YouTube playlist „IPBio“ to see what it is like to volunteer at IPBio and what you can expect to see, if you observe the world with an open mind, a bit of luck and some patience.

https://www.snowmanstudios.de/reise/forschungsabenteuer-brasilien/fotoalben/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMsmIZvnnr4&list=PLXIVgljOWR8UIXFnziYFa9CwTJNdHW1U2

Cheers Thomas

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I watched a pair of flirting hummingbirds for about 2 hours.
I did a 5 days timelapse recording of mushrooms growing
I did a 6 hours nights sky timelapse watching the milky ways galatic center appearing and rising
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Brenda
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

I want to come back!

I absolutely had a great time during my 8-week stay as an Eco-Volunteer. I highly recommend volunteering if you are a recent graduate who wants more hands-on work in collecting data. The staff at IPBIO are very friendly and the locals are so hospitable. The other volunteers were amazing and the volunteer house itself was very comfortable.

During the weekends you can stay at the reserve and relax or you can make plans with the other volunteers to visit Petar State park or some local waterfalls.

The owners, Sergio and Val come to the reserve every couple of weeks, and Val at times surprises you with home-cooked meals. I'm vegan so it was so sweet of her to go out of her way to make me some extremely delicious meals! I had such a wonderful time and I plan to return! :)

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
On one of the mushroom night searches, we came across hundreds of bioluminescent mushrooms and it was just magical. This was after a week or so of rain and then a hot spell. The floor resembled the night sky and it was just an incredible experience.
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Jaren
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Ipbio, I can't wait to go back

The experience I had during my 3 weeks at Ipbio was incredible. The staff is all so friendly and any problems you have they will address them and create solutions for you. They were extremely helpful in pre-planning, coordinating your travel to the reserve and all of the trips to town for groceries. During my stay they improved the internet speed and added fiber optic internet so there was no disconnect if you didn't want to. The volunteer house was comfortable and they provided everything they said they would and some. Go next door to Sal's for a drink and some good food, he also hosts cave exploration and you can arrange travel and all the details next door at his place, he even has a pool table! The staff are all very friendly and will get you involved if there are monkeys/toucans/anything of interest that you should check out! The data collection days are all super fun! My favorite was the mushroom day and river inventory. The mushroom day was fun because of the crazy variety of mushrooms you find every week! The river day was fun too because the water is cool and refreshing to work in. There are so many fun things to do around the reserve during my time the parks had just opened up from COVID restrictions and I highly recommend going to PETAR park nearby. I commend Ipbio for their safety practices during COVID and although I was vaccinated on my visit I still was happy to follow all guidelines and rules which were clearly explained to us. The reserve is spectacular I'll never forget the birds and animals I saw there and the things I learned about how special and endangered the Atlantic Forrest is. Thank you Ipbio for an amazing time, I look forward to returning!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
To see glowing mushrooms at night in the jungle was totally wild and had me stunned more than seeing wild monkeys!
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Ben
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Mushroom Hunter's Dream Oasis

IPBio is an oasis of rainforest among the ever shrinking Atlantic forest. The people working there truly have a passion for nature, conservation, and community. They do everything they possibly can to ensure your stay is enjoyable, safe and remains focused on these passions. From glowing mushrooms, to monkeys, fish, frogs, and rehabilitating birds and coatis, IPBio has something for everyone in the realm of conservation. Even all of your food scraps are converted into fertilizer for the gardens, from which you can eat fresh lettuce, peppers and pumpkins. IPBio is a truly magical place. During my three month stay, I discovered a new species of Cordyceps mushroom and photographed a novel species of robber fly, among many other wonderful specimens of the wildlife there. The friendships you make here will last a lifetime, maybe more, and the place will draw you back for repeated visits to one of the most amazing places on Earth. Iporanga.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I found some truly amazing mushrooms! A ton of unique and spectacular cordyceps mushrooms (which are the ones that grow inside insects), as well as caged stink horns, and many species of bioluminescent fungi as well!

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

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.
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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.

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

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.