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


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Yes, I recommend this program

I am a 22 year old from Canada with an Environmental Technician diploma and I volunteered at IPBio for 5 weeks. I was hoping to freshen up my field and lab skills and broaden my knowledge of the natural environment during my stay. The Betary reserve was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The volunteer coordinator, Imran, was extremely helpful and organized prior to my arrival and during my entire stay. He is very accommodating and resourceful. The volunteer program was methodical with set working hours and schedules which I enjoyed. We covered a wide range of study from species Identification of all sorts to measuring water parameters and working with the microscope in the lab. We really got down to the nitty gritty of sampling and were able to experience all of the joys of field work like wading through swamps and mud, bushwacking in heat or rain and being bitten by various insects. The biologists at the reserve are brilliant and insightful. They are wealths of knowledge with a love for Brazilian biodiversity so I suggest learning some Portuguese and picking their brains while you are there. All of the staff members are welcoming and friendly. The volunteer house was exceptionally tidy and well stocked. As far as free time activities, we may have been living in the middle of the jungle far away from any cities but there was still plenty to do. There were waterfalls, swimming and caving close to the reserve and we planned some weekend getaways to the coast and to Argentina. My favourite part of living on the reserve was taking night walks down to the aquarium and seeing all of the creatures that come out of the jungle at night that glow and make noise. Overall my experience with IPBio was wonderful and I highly recommend them. I enjoyed living in the thick of the jungle and getting to witness the local culture while enhancing my knowledge of the environment. For anyone planning to volunteer with them, I also recommend bringing quick dry clothing (there are no dryers for clothing), long socks to tuck your work pants into to avoid bug bites and ticks, and a headlamp with a red light setting for night walks. I will miss waking up to the sounds of the jungle and will cherish this experience for many years to come!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would learn more Portuguese before arriving. I would have liked to communicate better with the non english speaking staff and the locals in town. Although everyone is very friendly and patient with Portuguese speaking attempts, I feel as though I would have created more connections if I had better means of communication. I also would have found more time in my life to stay longer in South America. After volunteering on the reserve I was very motivated to explore more of the biodiversity and culture of South America and wished that I had more time to do so.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I can say in one breath that this is the best thing i did in my life. In five I experienced what I thought would take a lifetime.

I came as a muralist but I got to be an Eco volunteer half the time. I got to collect data about living organisms and got to know them a bit closer, I saw animals and especially insects that i couldn't believe existed and so much more. I could go on and on but words really can't describe the experience you get from this place.

I had tears in my eyes so many times just from the beautiful and wondrous things and little moments that occurred there.

From a more practical perspective this place was excellent as well. You get all the facilities you need and the staff is very attentive, helpful and kind.
Lastly I can only urge you to go visit this wonderful place, and stay as long as you can . If you ever wondered if there is magic in the world this is the place to confirm it:)

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Yes, I recommend this program

IPBio is a research institute on the Reserva Betary which is located in the Atlantic Rainforest, 6km away from the closest town of Iporanga. I needed to complete an internship for my M.Ed program, and did alot of research and spoke with several volunteer opportunities, but many of them seemed to me like a scam that only really wanted my money. IPBio is not one of those places. It is truly a magical and beautiful place with so much to do and every day of work is different, and you can really see the benefits of the work that you are doing. I initially was supposed to stay for 6 weeks but I fell in love with the area and the people I was with, so I actually extended my stay by 1 week. It's one place that I will always remember and I hope to return some day. It is one of the only places that I've traveled to that I would actually visit again. The staff are incredible, and really helpful and welcoming, and you really feel like you are part of a big family. I would recommend this place to anyone that wants to travel abroad and volunteer.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
- Learn some Portuguese - the staff at IPBio is Brazilian and many only speak Portuguese, and just trying a little bit really helps you connect with them on another level and they really appreciate it. And they will always help you if you're willing to ask! They will never laugh at you for getting something wrong or asking questions about Portuguese. There is nothing to be nervous about. Not only that, but in order to get into town, you pretty much either need to take a taxi, catch the one bus that goes by throughout the day, or take a hitchhike. Hitch-hiking into town is super safe, and if you're able to speak with the kind people that pick you up, there is so much more to learn outside of working on the reserve.
- Bring stuff for alllllllll the weather. One day it will be 9C and the next day it will be 27C. Prepare yoself.
- Forget about your fear of bugs. They're everywhere. You're in their territory. They're really cool.
- There is wifi, but don't expect much. It's enough to speak with your family at home, but download your movies before you come here if that's important to you. You barely even need wifi, you're busy all day anyway!
- Bring a little bit of extra money. I spent a little more than I thought I would - but not that much. I didn't expect to be going on trips every weekend, but it was so worth it and I'm glad that I did.
- Don't be afraid! Brazil's got a reputation, but don't generalize. It's an amazing place.
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Yes, I recommend this program

IPBio is conveniently located near the Village of Iporanga, and still far enough to give a unique experience of living in the wilderness. Waking up to calls of birds and the flowing river is one of the perks living at the volunteer house. The staff is so helpful and cheerful at any time of the day. Work hard during the day to help preserve wilderness and relax in the clear and warm water of the river at the back of the house. Enjoy swimming with fish and have the experience of a natural spa. Worthwhile to stay at least 4-6 weeks to immerse yourself in the beauty of Atlantic forest and over weekends visit places like Iguazu falls or Cananeia to explore the beauty of Brazil. An experience full of such beautiful places and people is surely going to leave you in tears when you head back home.

What would you improve about this program?
Staff works very hard for providing best possible experience to the volunteers. Improving convenient ride services to the town of iporanga would make it even better experience.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered at the Betary Reserve for 8 weeks from May to July 2019 and it was an incredible experience. As an eco-volunteer, I got to work with on the bird inventory, habitat monitoring, fish inventory, mushrooms, and some other projects such as gardening and trail maintenance. I also worked as a muralist and painted the rooms of the volunteer house while I was there. Working as both a eco-volunteer and a muralist really enriched the experience for me. As for outside of work, there is lots of ways to enjoy the breathtaking nature of the area; such as: hikes, waterfalls, and lookout points like “The Cross” just outside of Iporgana. Also, during my time there I enjoyed spending time in town, swimming, doing boia cross, and going on a trip to Cananéia. I highly recommend this volunteer experience for anyone who is interested in being immersed in nature and seeing incredible biodiversity. This experience was also my first time going travelling abroad and the staff were extremely helpful with regards to planning travel and expenses. Overall, volunteering at the Betary Reserve was a highly rewarding once-in-a-lifetime experience I would recommend to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
The volunteer house is a great place overall, but some improvements could be made there. I know the staff works very hard on the volunteer accommodations, but there is only so much that can be done for things like the busy kitchen and bathrooms.


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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.

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