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.



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Yes, I recommend this program

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!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering at IPBio is the once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll want to repeat again and again! I honestly can’t say enough good things about the 5 weeks I spent at Reserva Betary as an eco-volunteer. Every day offered something new— from photographing birds, monitoring pond habitats, searching for frogs, foraging for mushrooms. And those are considered “work day” experiences! Being surrounded by the immeasurable beauty of the Atlantic Forest while you assist the on-staff biologists with their field research is one of the best things you could do with your time. At IPBio, there are so many small ways to make a big impact on the local environment. Not to mention, the nights and weekends are filled with group barbecues, movie nights, card games, exploring caves, visiting waterfalls, and stargazing. Believe me when I say this: no amount of time spent volunteering here will feel long enough. I can’t wait to come back. Até mais, pessoal!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Stay longer than you think will be enough! Time flies by fast here. Savor every minute of it.
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Yes, I recommend this program

IPbio is a wonderful place for everyone who loves nature and adventure. The staff is very welcoming and attentive and everything is super well organised. They gave me all the info I needed to prepare and enjoy my stay as much as I could. The volunteer house was very comfortable and has good facilities. The area is truly breathtaking. Everyday was a new adventure and saw lots of wildlife and stunning views. The projects were very interesting and diverse. In the weekends we visited caves, waterfalls, did Boya cross and trips to the beach at Canenaia.
At the end of the program a presentation was held of all the data that was collected. It felt very fulfilling being able to contribute to the scientific research on the biodiversity and ecology of the flora and fauna of one of the most endangered rain forests in the world.
The interesting work, beautiful location, comfortable house, fun weekend activities and sincere warmth and kindness of the staff was a perfect combination that will assure you have an amazing time at IPbio!

I will definitely come back some day, looking forward to it already..

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Seeing the bioluminescent mushrooms was one of a lifetime experience I will never forget
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Yes, I recommend this program

My time at the reserve was amazing. The staff were super friendly and receptive and very supportive of my work. The nature is breathtakingly beautiful and I had the opportunity to see a lot different species. Seeing the glowing mushrooms is truly a one of a kind experience.
The program allows for artist to participate in eco volunteering and was totally flexible so that I could get the best out of my time there. I will definitely come back as soon as possible and it was the best decision to participate. Recommend it!

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Yes, I recommend this program

After finishing my bachelor’s degree in protection and management of nature, I wanted to take a year to discover the world and gain work experience on the field before doing a master’s degree in Ecology. I wanted to go somewhere drastically different to what I’ve been used to and Brazil seemed like an interesting destination especially in the Atlantic forest! I also wanted to meet people who shared my passion for nature. I’m glad I chose IPBio, it almost felt like a big family. I am grateful to have been part of it for some time! They have some very interesting projects running and it enabled me to learn a lot about the Atlantic forest and the species who inhabit it.

I particularly enjoyed the bird inventories. During these, we saw beautiful landscapes as well as amazing birds! The night walks looking for bioluminescent mushrooms were also amazing! Sometimes, the whole floor would be glowing with the mycelium, it looked a bit like the movie Avatar!

I definitely recommend bringing a camera. It can be useful during work hours for some inventories but above all, there are loads of landscapes, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians to take pictures of!

In our spare time, we could go and swim in the river just behind the volunteer house which I also recommend especially after work on a hot day! The walk in to town is also nice, I got to see some cool animals including monkeys and the scenery is beautiful on the way in to town. There are loads of cool activities to do on weekends such as visiting cool caves with rivers running through them, amazing hikes and Boia Cross! For the boia cross, you basically just float down the river on a tire… It sounds weird but it’s amazing! You get to go down some rapids and also calm areas. The view is incredible. It’s really fun and can also be relaxing depending on which part of the river you’re on.

One of the things that makes this experience so amazing is the people you meet there. This kind of experience attracts similar types of people. I have met incredible people there during my stay and have made really close friends with which I intend to stay in contact.

What was your funniest moment?
We went on a boia cross at night in the rapids with nothing but the moon light to see! It was extremely fun doing it with the other volunteers who were great people!


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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.

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.