Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

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About

The Biodiversity Research Institute (IPBio) is a place where research meets conservation. IPBio is an NGO that develops projects in environmental education and scientific research on biodiversity, ecology and on the behavior of species. In addition, IPBio 's mission is to encourage conservation, management and sustainable use of natural resources; promote the development of eco-tourism and cultural projects.

With only 7% of the Atlantic Forest remaining, we are rapidly losing one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. 200 birds and 21 primates are endemic. Conservation is critical. Volunteer Roles: 1) In Research Projects: Bioluminescent Mushrooms; Bioacoustics Project; Tree Inventory and Monitoring; Amphibian Research 2) Reserve Maintenance and Gardening: maintain trails, aquarium and microclimate greenhouse 3) Photographers/Movie Producers: wildlife photography; produce volunteer videos; short documentaries; our videos have been used by Discovery Channel 4) Fundraising and Communications - develop our social media; write grants for research equipment
Highlights
  • Visiting the town with the highest concentration of bioluminescent mushrooms in the world
  • Gaining hands on experience in the field of research and conservation
  • Participate in exciting activities such as tubing and visiting caves and waterfalls
  • Work for an organization which received accreditation as an advanced outpost of The Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO

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Reviews

95%
based on 63 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Housing 8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 15 of 63
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Kyle
10/10

The most rewarding and enjoyable time of my life.

One of my goals in volunteering at the Betary Reserve was to gain life experience, develop life skills, and mature as a person. In this regard, volunteering at the Betary Reserve has been invaluable. Living on my own without the safety net of my parents forced me to learn how to cook and take care of myself. Being forced out of my comfort zone led to much personal growth and has resulting in me leading a more adventurous lifestyle.

My second goal in volunteering at the reserve was to figure out whether I want to pursue a career in the environmental science field, and what career in that field appeals to me. I went into the experience expecting more interaction with the scientists and more data analysis than I got, though it must be noted that that was a misunderstanding on my part in addition to something that the reserve should probably make clearer. The purpose of the Betary Reserve is to gather scientific data which is sent to partner universities for analysis and use in research. Due to the nature of this relationship, as a volunteer I did very little analysis, which was a bit disappointing since I wanted to get a wider range of experience at different parts of the process. While the reserve’s staff includes a handful of biologists, we didn’t interact with them in our duties. The one scientist we worked with was an amazing and knowledgeable post-graduate who specialized in mushrooms. An environmental technician is the career most closely matching the data collection focused volunteer work we did, and while the projects were interesting and enjoyable, I can’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I wanted to be involved with the research applying the collected data, and without that involvement, I found it hard to be engaged with certain projects. This was a sentiment shared by some of my fellow volunteers. The volunteer coordinator was a volunteer turned staff member, and not being a scientist, wasn’t able to answer many in depth questions regarding the application of the data.

In addition to my role as an eco-volunteer, I did photography for the reserve, taking nature shots and candid photos of my fellow volunteers for use in promotional material. Taking pictures for the reserve was very enjoyable and gave me access to thousands of great photo-ops. After two months of taking pictures at the reserve and in town, I still have a long list of places and things I want to photograph.

A review of my experience would be incomplete without mentioning my fellow volunteers. I believe that the people who spend their time and money to help the world are good people, and the volunteers I met on the reserve reinforced that belief. Every volunteer I met was from a different country and their ages ranged from an 18-year-old to a 32-year-old, and yet we all got along and formed a strong group dynamic that supported each other and made the experience very enjoyable. In the evenings we would play card games or go to a nearby hostel to relax and eat a buffet dinner, and on weekends we hiked to caves or waterfalls, up rivers, or into the nearby town. The weekend often involved drinking games, but there was never any peer pressure directed at those like myself who didn’t drink alcohol, and we were included in the games. I have certainly made lifelong friends during this adventure.

A review of volunteering with the Betary Reserve would also be incomplete without mentioning the staggering abundance of nature found in the buffer zone. I really like Brazil, and specifically like the local town -- a 10-minute drive from the reserve -- Iporanga. Although it is a poor area of an economically disadvantaged nation, everybody in the town is extremely friendly and hospitable. The reserve itself is an enjoyable environment to work in, and every night I would go out to the ponds or greenhouse to look for and photograph tree frogs, aquatic spiders, and metamorphosing dragonflies. Although I did this almost every evening for two months, it never stopped being amazing. At the ponds are bioluminescent mosquito larvae which turn the pond into a wonderland of lights, mosquitoes in the water, and fireflies above. Above the fireflies are the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. The reserve really is out in the middle of nowhere, which is evident when you look up and see no air pollution or light pollution. While certain features of the climate (mosquitoes and high humidity) are undesirable, they are overshadowed by the abundance of life that results from the climate and geography of the area.
This place truly is amazing, and no review can entirely capture how valuable and enjoyable the experience was for me. I am considering returning to volunteer here in the future but focusing on photography as a media-volunteer. I have done a lot of traveling, and this is one of the places I want to go back to, to photograph like crazy, and to explore. I feel a connection to this place.

How can this program be improved?
The amount of interaction between the volunteers and scientists, due to the relationship of the program and universities, should be made clearer.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Janina
10/10

How I fell in love with the Atlantic Forest

Being a Photographer by profession, coming to the Betary Reserve was the best move I could have made. There are so many incredible animals living in the Atlantic Forest – nevermind the gorgeous landscapes. Every step you take, every way you look, you’re going to see a beautiful picture. You can find anything from Toucans and Hummingbirds, to large snakes, monkeys and Armadillos to glowing mushrooms and colourful flowers in every season.
But even aside from that, it was an incredible experience. There are so many things to see in the area, from waterfalls to caves and forest trails. You can go down tubing on the river, go on a day trip to the sea and swim with dolphins, or just spend some time in Iporanga, going to town parties or have dinner.
While I had the advantage of speaking some Portuguese, it’s really not necessary. The people here are some of the friendliest I have ever come across, and I have watched with amusement as English speaking Volunteers managed to have full on conversations with Brazilian people speaking Portuguese and somehow still managed to make themselves understood.
I have fallen in love with Brazil, and the Atlantic Forest in particular in the three months I spent here, which made my decision to return for a full year all the easier. I want to see Iporanga and the Betary Reserve throughout all seasons and be a part of the wonderful mission of uncovering nature’s secrets in order to preserve it and try to show the rest of the world that it is something worth protecting through my photographs.

Yes, I recommend this program
Elfi
10/10

such a great and unique experience!!!

It was such a nice experience for me in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest at IPBIO that words wont do justice to describe my stay there. The staff members and everyone else who is connected to this organisation is so incredible nice and helpful. From the beginning till the end of my stay I've always felt supported and solutions were tried to be found for any concern as quickly as possible. The surroundings in which IPBIO is located are incredible. The Atlantic Rainforest is absolutely beautiful in its abundance and richness of fauna and flora. Every day there was a new surprise of another beautiful plant or animal being discovered by my amazed eyes.
I worked there as an eco volunteer and I simply loved my work. I was mainly helping carrying out research studies with tadpoles and frogs but I've also participated in a lot of other projects like habitat monitoring, tree inventory or bird monitoring (i was really bad at getting pictures of birds but it was fun anyway).
I was lucky to be there at the same time with a lot of other wonderful people from all over the world, and also thanks to them my stay was such a unique experience. thanks a lot guys :-)!!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Chris
9/10

Highly recommended

I spent 4 weeks as a biodiversity research assistant at IPBio. My role involved spending half my time carrying out the amphibian research projects and the other half helping with the general eco-volunteer projects (e.g. bird inventory, tree inventory, mushroom inventory, fresh water habitat monitoring, reviewing camera trap footage).

The programme was very well organised and everything turned out according to plan and as prescribed. The volunteer co-ordinators Imran and Marleen, as well as all the other staff, are friendly and helpful. There is a positive attitude and things get done quickly and effectively.

The work was varied and interesting. There was a good mix of practical field work with time spent in the lab. It taught me to take an even closer look at the natural world around me and appreciate the smaller things in the forest, which I will take forward with me. My only bit of criticism is that I felt the studies were not all scientifically rigorous (e.g. variable such as number of people collecting data not controlled) and it was also not always clear what the purpose or end goal was for some projects. As the organisation continues to develop (which it will, it's run by enthusiastic and forward thinking people) I would like to see closer links fostered with universities and research groups to create more rigorous work with a higer impact.

The setting is wonderful surrounded by beautiful Atlantic forest and far from the city. The reserve itself used to be farmland and it is amazing to see how nature has reclaimed the land. I also loved exploring the local town Iporanga which is not on the tourist trail and gives you a feel for real small town Brazil - horse is a common form of transport!

The social scene was excellent and I really enjoyed getting to know other volunteers from around the world. You quickly make friendships that make the experience. There are opportunities to do get trips to caves, waterfalls and the coast on weekends.

All in all a great and worthwhile experience.

How can this program be improved?
As above - ensure the projects are practical and relevant and foster links with researchers to make sure they have a real world impact
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jalitaa
9/10

An Amazing Time!!!

I volunteered at IPBio as a video editor/videographer for and I must say that I truly recommend this wonderful place to anyone who is looking for an enriching experience in the jungle. Coming from the bay area in California, the change in scenery and environment was something I was really looking forward to. The process of getting there and being introduced to the place was all very streamlined and quite simple to do. At first I was very anxious, however once I got off the bus and met with Marleen and Imran, I felt instantly comfortable and excited to get started. I was editing a documentary style video for IPBio so my weekdays were spent mainly working on that. However if I thought I had the time, I joined the Eco-volunteers in mushroom hunting and other activities! Every weekend I spent there was breathtaking; from towering waterfalls to cathedral-like caves, my mouth dropped open each time at every destination and it made me fall in love with Brazil more and more. I honestly never felt safer here and within the three weeks I was there (I regret not staying longer!) I already felt part of the community within the reserve as well as the small community in the nearby town, Iporanga. The hospitality and kindness of the people there truly made my time there so amazing and memorable. If you are on the brink of deciding whether you should come here, I urge you to do so and if you were deciding the length of time to stay, I advise you to go big because time passes so so fast here it’s honestly hard to wrap my mind around!

Yes, I recommend this program
IPBIO experience
Mathieu
9/10

Great experience !

This experience was great in several ways. I always wanted to do my share in protecting biodiversity and discovering wild life. So when I heard about IPBIO I planned to go there. Done, I was there for a month and it surpassed my expectations. First, I was surprised how nice and welcoming Brazilian people are. Then the landscape is crazy; jungle, mountains cave and waterfalls are everywhere. About IPBIO; the working activities are nice and diverse - we can participate at mushrooms inventory, birds, tree inventory even fish. Mammals you can inventory by using the camera traps are also amazing. But the most interesting aspect is to live with people from everywhere, different languages and areas but all super nice !

Yes, I recommend this program
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Michael
9/10

Bioluminescent Mushrooms in the Lab and in the Forest and so Much More

At the Atlantic Forest Betary Reserve Field Station the work was enjoyable and rewarding and the staff and locals are all very friendly and welcoming. By the end of my stay everyone felt like family. I always had the weekends to look forward to because there were so many tourist activities to take part in and there was always a BBQ happening somewhere.
I was a mushroom volunteer researcher for 6 months and I spent the majority of my work week developing methods for growing bioluminescent mushroom species endemic to the Atlantic Forest in conjunction with a lab at Sao Paolo University. Another main part of my work was helping to implement a mushroom inventory process for the reserve to begin to collect, identify and catalogue mushroom species and track and maintain mushroom biodiversity. I completed scientific article research to gain updated and background information on current mushroom species identified in the Atlantic Forest and growing methods across many different cultivated and non-cultivated species. I worked to maintain mushroom mycelium cultures by replication involving media preparation, clean room, Laminar flow hood and autoclave use and sterilization practices. I helped support the Volunteer Manager with integrating and familiarizing new volunteers with the reserve and field station. Aside from all this I had the opportunity to support multiple projects including amphibian monitoring of Bd fungus effects, bioacoustics tracking, camera trap tracking, tree inventory, habitat monitoring of ponds, fish inventory of local stream, aquaponics system setup and gardening tasks. I definitely recommend IPBIO!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Matteo
10/10

IPbio

One of the most beautiful places where i’ve ever been. I did volunteering in the nature, in the Atlantic Forest and it was cool. I loved the projects, the Reserva and the Iporanga’s people.
The staff is very prepared and gentle if you miss some information. A very good experience that I can advice to everyone! There are a lot of fun weekend activities, caves, waterfall, beaches and boia crossing were very cool.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Carys
10/10

Wow! What a trip!

I somehow stumbled across volunteering at the reserve online whilst looking for a fun/productive way to spend my summer and I am so thankful that I did! I’m a Geography and SD major from the UK so I was drawn to the programme because of the range of activities available across trees, mammals, birds, mushrooms and amphibians, all set within the Atlantic Forest.

I have loved waking up knowing that my work would be different each day with some projects more relaxed than others and some work being weather dependent (i.e. fish inventory typically on sunny days). My favourite projects have been those that mean I can go into the forest such as tree, mushroom and bird inventories. Every time I go into the forest I see something amazing- whether that is a giant toad, cool mushroom or for those lucky enough- monkeys!! I would highly recommend volunteering at the reserve to anyone with an interest in the environment- you don’t have to be a scientist- just someone who can appreciate the natural world around them.

Outside of project work, I have loved getting to know the other volunteers from around the world and the amazing staff, who go above and beyond to make your time here as enjoyable as possible. Spending my evenings and weekends with the other volunteers here has been the highlight of my trip with many incredible visits to the caves around Iporanga, a trip to Cananeia to see the dolphins, group cooking sessions, meals out and so much laughter. I have enjoyed every second and want to say a massive thank you to everyone who I have met here for making my experience one that I will never forget!

Obrigada!!

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think of is that I would have loved to spend a little bit of time in the lab- just to experience the more scientific aspect of the research here. Having said that, I really loved being out in the field everyday as there was always something exciting to see!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Gaby
10/10

Great Volunteer Experience

I stayed at the Betary Reserve for about 10 weeks from June to August. This has been such an amazing experience. The people here definitely made the stay what it was - Imran and Marleen are both great to work for, the staff has been super friendly, and the other volunteers have made this trip what it was. I do not speak any Portuguese, so it was not always easy to communicate with the others who work here, but they made an effort to engage which was super nice of all of them. The science done here is not super rigorous, so if you are looking to gain lab skills this might not be the best place for you. But if you are looking to understand the enjoyment, as well as challenges, of doing field science this is a great place. For the most part, the Betary Reserve provides a chill work environment. The work is not super physically or mentally demanding, and not all the projects feel as purposeful as others, but they were all enjoyable. I was here in the winter, so it wasn't very hot, humid, or rainy, but it should be mentioned that the winter down here can get cold. I definitely did not prepare the best for this, so if you come in the winter I would suggest a decently warm sweater or jacket (some nights I would need to wear all of my clothes to stay warm - but luckily most days and nights were not too bad). The volunteer home is nice (and currently a new one is being built). I had a private room in a dorm style living space - although there are some shared rooms and it seems that it is just the luck of the draw on which one you get placed in. We have access to a laundry machine, and even in the winter, the clothes dried pretty well outside (sunny days help). The weekend activities range from hiking through caves and waterfalls to town parties in the small, yet surprisingly social and fun town of Iporanga. I would definitely recommend the Betary Reserve as a volunteer experience! (This is an honest review, but it should be mentioned that we are guided and given time in the last week to write reviews so that future volunteers can have a better picture of the work and experiences created at the Betary Reserve).

How can this program be improved?
Really hard to say where this program could be improved because it is so great already, but if I am to give an area of improvement it would be the rigor of the science - this can be hard with a variety of volunteers coming and going all the time, but making sure the standards are followed is important.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Lloyd
10/10

Once in a lifetime

When recalling my experience at The Betary Reserve, I can’t help but smile so big. The time spent trekking through the North Atlantic Forrest collecting data on its diverse wildlife and plant life were some of the best memories I have. It's truly a hands on experience. If you like to get out into the wild, this is the volunteer experience for you. I also want to make note that one of the greatest unexpected things that will happen is you will form amazing bonds with fellow volunteers and staff members of the reserve, not to mention the incredible people of Iporanga. Please go, and learn, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
I think everyone comes to the reserve with a certain role attached to them as to what they will be doing. But ultimately most of us ended up doing a little of everything, or I guess it felt as if sometimes we were just doing whatever the staff needed help with. Which was fine but it didn't feel like I was really immersed in my selected role. I had a great time though and don't regret anything.
Yes, I recommend this program
Dayron
10/10

Research and more!

Hello Everyone, I am an Environmental Engineering major from Miami Florida and my last two months have been spent volunteering at Betary Reserve. The position that I undertook coming in was a Biological Research Assistant, this is a more specialized role in comparison to one of the other options such as eco-volunteer. Let me run through a typical day at the Reserve, we start our mornings at 9am with a group meeting detailing the task which we will be doing. In the morning the volunteers are usually together working on different inventory projects, some of the inventory are fish, tree, bird, mushroom, and habitat monitoring. In the afternoons I had a specialized project in which I was working with amphibians and was studying the effects of a deadly fungus called BD for short. It was great lab work experience and I really enjoyed my time working on these projects. The facilities at Betary Reserve were beyond amazing and they are just finishing up the new volunteer guest house which will be a great addition to the program. If you are looking for an organization to do research or gain some insight on what biological field research looks like than it will be a great fit. The staff is extremely friendly and I would consider them close friends after two months of being here. The volunteer coordinator goes above and beyond the call of duty and has been extremely helpful with even the smallest of inconveniences. Overall my time at Betary Reserve is one that I will never forget, the small town community, research experience, and working for a NGO that is making a difference is one that I will never forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Kareem
10/10

Best time of my life

The projects that we work on here at Betary Reserve are very educational and fun. From tagging trees to monitor forest growth to collecting macroinvertebrates to monitor habitats everything we do is for a very important cause. It is great to reap the benefits of the work that we do, for example we planted cassava and another day we had a cassava party where we made them into fries, baked them, and made cakes with them. Another great thing about Betary Reserve is how everything is organized very well, however at the same time the volunteer coordinators are flexible and are always willing to accept suggestions to make the projects or all around living better here at Betary Reserve. For example, after seeing that I do a lot of work with aquaponics back home, Imran wanted me to come to Betary Reserve and install a number of systems here, and I did just that. Not only did I just do that, but had the time of my life doing it and working with the people here to make things happen.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think of to improve the program is to make it bigger so that more people can have this great experience.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
10/10

Amazing Program

I have spent the past two months volunteering at IPBio as an eco-volunteer and I couldn’t image a better way to have spent my summer. This position was amazing because I had the opportunity to participate in and learn about many different projects such as tree, bird, mushroom and fish inventory as well as habitat monitoring. I was also able to focus my time working with frogs in the lab. The lab and field experiences I had here allowed me to learn so much as well as be active and hands on with the projects. The staff and other volunteers made the experience even better. I have never met a more welcoming, friendly and supportive group of people. Every day here is a new adventure whether it is at work or exploring the area on the weekends. There is not ever a shortage of things to do here if you like to explore nature and hike. My time here is something I’ll forever be grateful for and always remember.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Rowan
10/10

I truly discovered my passion in life here!

My time at IPBio was absolutely unforgettable! During my two month stay, I served as a research assistant for the numerous amphibian studies, as well as an eco-volunteer, assisting with various other projects in the field. Every day, I spent either the morning or the afternoon in the lab with tadpoles and frogs; I did everything from feeding them and cleaning tanks, to measuring lengths, taking masses, and photographing them under microscopes for data collection!

The other half of my day was spent in the field, overseen by the lovely and super knowledgeable Marleen, collecting data for a variety of other projects at IPBio. One of my favorites was wading in the river to gather temperature and velocity of the water, analyze the substrate composition, and catch fish to get a better idea of the species diversity in the environment. Another awesome project I got to help with was the pond habitat monitoring, which was set up by a fellow volunteer during my time at IPBio. Lily created a monitoring system to track the health of a variety of aquatic habitats on the reserve, and once a week we would collect data from one of the ponds, rotating through them over the weeks. My favorite part was probably identifying the macro-invertebrate species in each pond, which required us to sift through a small sample size that we collected, picking out a variety of insect larvae, tiny crustaceans, snails, and aquatic worms to identify.

Not only were the projects here so interesting and fun, they were impeccably well organized. The staff were so supportive and helpful, and fun as well! Being my first time out of my home country, they made the process as smooth as humanly possible, and Imran answered all of my silly little questions graciously and quickly before my arrival. Accommodations were better than I could have ever expected, when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the luxury of having my very own AC unit in my room! Adriana is not only an absolute sweetheart, but keeps everything at IPBio sparkling clean 24/7. I honestly don’t know how she does it! Anna and Henrique are so so knowledgeable in their fields, and taught me so much about the Atlantic Forest’s ecosystem and biodiversity. My fellow volunteers during my stay were all so interesting and wonderful, it was an honor and pleasure to get to know them, for whatever the length of time our paths crossed.

The weekend trips I had the opportunity to experience were truly astounding, and just opened my eyes even more to how stunning and unique Brazil is. It is SO worth budgeting out some extra money to go on at least one of the trips, whether it’s relaxing on the beach in Cananaeia and watching dolphins play basically right by the shore, or hiking deep into the jungle to see the largest cave opening in the world, you will not be disappointed.

I had no idea how passionate about amphibians I would become while here in Brazil- being an Ecology and Environmental Science student in the US, I was drawn to IPBio’s projects in general, but had no special interest in amphibians. After my time volunteering, I have decided to go on for my masters and hopefully become a PhD candidate in herpetology down the line! They are fascinating creatures and I think anyone who has the chance should get to know them a little better; they are an important bioindicator for many biomes, and can tell us so much about the health of the environments they inhabit. So, thank you IPBio for igniting this passion in me, and for giving me the opportunity to find it! I hope to return soon, and see all of the wonderful people (and frogs) I got to know during my stay. Obrigada, Brazil <3

Yes, I recommend this program

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About 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,...