Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil
93% Rating
(29 Reviews)

Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

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
Locations
South America » Brazil
Length
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
3-6 Months
Language
English
Housing
Guesthouse
Starting Price
$136.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Volunteers at IPBio are required to pay 425 reais per week (approx 136 US Dollars). This covers your accommodation, full access to the reserve, internet access and the use of any equipment we have. Volunteers will pay for their own food and cook for themselves. Volunteers are also responsible for paying for any extra costs such as travel costs, visa costs or etc.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    89%
  • Support
    96%
  • Fun
    93%
  • Value
    91%
  • Safety
    94%
  • Housing
    80%
  • Support
    100%
  • Fun
    100%
  • Value
    100%
  • Safety
    100%

Program Reviews (29)

Natália with bioluminescent mushrooms
Natália
Female

Living in the Atlantic Forest

10/10

If you love nature, the Betary Reserve is the place for you. No wonder it is called Biodiversity Research Institute; the biodiversity at the reserve is mesmerizing. All you need to do is pay attention, and you will encounter different species every day, so make sure you bring a camera with you! Volunteers can be involved in many different activities; I helped with camera traps, to record the mammals of the reserve; tadpole research, to observe the presence of a fungus responsible for the most deadly and infectious disease in amphibians; mushroom inventory; tree inventory; and feeding the animals that are used for environmental education. On top of all that, the reserve’s location is the best if you want to go visit beautiful places on your days off, like amazing caves and waterfalls. I had a great time volunteering at Betary Reserve and recommend it to anyone wanting to have a memorable experience immersed in the Atlantic Forest!

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jamal
Male
Lille
Other

Great Experience

9/10

I am from France and volunteered on reserve betary’s for 2 months, I really enjoy it.
IPBio is an excellent working environment and is very comfortable to live in the yellow house, surrounded by wildlife.
My mission on FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine is the tree inventory, the goal is to repertories all the different species of trees on the reserve.
My second assignment is to help the team build the release center for the birds.
Apart from the projects within Celine, there is a lot of activity to do here.
The weekend trips to caves and boya crossing across the various rivers in Iporanga have been another highlight, and you definitely need to stay a minimum of a month to be able to explore the various sites within and around the area.

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Ali
Male
23 years old
France
Other

My experience

9/10

IPBIO is located next to iporanga a little city, despite the distance from the big city ; the region offers many activities like visit cave or some hike , and iporanga have lot of buses to visit big city (Sao Paulo,Curitiba, Eldorado….) .
The reverse betary offers a beautiful view with a mountain range that surrounds the reserve .

The projects proposed by IPBIO are diversed et varied. For me, that was tree inventory ( the mapping of the reserve) and reverse maintenance ( build a release center).

That was one of my best 8 weeks in a foreign country and i encourage everyone to try this rewarding experience.

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Riad
Male
23 years old
France
Other

My experience as a volunteer

9/10

I am a French engineering student, and I stayed at Reserve Betary for 8 weeks. It was a beautiful life experience, I learned a lot thanks to the different projects that ipBio provides. I decided to apply for the volunteer coordinator role, because it allowed me to contribute to the charity’s organizational needs, in addition to its communication work. I also had the chance to participate in other project like tree Inventory or Bioacoustics.

Many activities are organized at the weekends in order to discover the region, caves, waterfalls and other great landscapes. The team is nice and open to share their knowledge.
I highly recommend the volunteer program for everyone.

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Karen
Female
27 years old
Switzerland
Other

IPBio through the lens of my camera

10/10

I spent three weeks as a volunteer photographer at IPBio. My main task was to take pictures of the life of the other volunteers. Which means their personal volunteer projects (tree inventory, bioacoustics, bioluminescent mushrooms, tadpoles, birds, gardening,…) and free time activities. For every project and weekend activity I took a couple of representative pictures which will be used at the website and in the volunteer package. In addition I produced and edited some video clips. The reserve is located in the middle of the atlantic rainforest and there are many awesome weekend activities to do, for example Boia Cross, hiking, visiting waterfalls and caves (the region is called the capital of caves), BBQ and many other cool stuff. I enjoyed every day at IPBio and would recommend everybody to come to this amazing place. Come as soon as possible and stay as long as possible, you won’t regret it! ;)

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Alex
Male
4 months old
United States
Marquette University

A Unique Experience in a Unique Corner of the World

8/10

My name is Alex and I have an obsession with stories . I'm not sure when this obsession started, but my close friends know that I intentionally get myself into situations, both good and bad, where I find myself thinking, "Well this will make for a good story to tell later". It was this obsession that lead me to apply to IPBio.

I worked at IPBio for two months as the 2nd volunteer to work on the Bioacoustics Research project. As an Electrical and Computer Engineer with a love of the outdoors, I wanted to work on something technical, but also something I would find meaningful and this project absolutely met these two requirements.

On a day-to-day basis I would hike to collect audio files, listen to and annotate the sounds I collected, work with a field biologist to identify different animal species by their vocalizations, and teach a computer how to recognize patterns and vocalizations in the future. The ultimate goal of this project is to track the incredible biodiversity in the North Atlantic Forest by tracking the sounds of the forest, and my day to day work alone would have given me enough stories to bring back home to make this volunteer program worth joining.

However amazing my job was here, the real stories came from my interactions with the other volunteers, the locals from Iporanga, and with the forest itself. I now have stories to bring home of catching frogs at night and searching for bioluminescent mushrooms with volunteers from around the world, who I've already made plans to visit. I have stories of drinking water from freshly cut shoots of bamboo with the staff of IPBio as I struggled through conversations with my limited Portuguese vocabulary. I have stories of climbing behind waterfalls and seeing the world's largest cave mouth. I have stories of dancing all night at a Quilombo religious festival, while not understanding the song being sung and not particularly caring.

There are also the smaller, less photo-worthy but still memorable stories that only this remote program and those like it can provide. Stories of three volunteers desperately trying to download the Game of Thrones season finale, and running out of the bathroom after finding a deadly spider, and hitchhiking to town in the back of pickup trucks that, for some reason, is blasting Miley Cyrus.

The last two months have been some of the most unique and story-worthy in my life, and if you have the chance, I would 100% recommend volunteering with IPBio. You will find yourself well out of your comfort zone, in an interesting place with interesting people, and there is no better place for a story to happen.

How can this program be improved?

I think the living accommodations leave something to be desired, but IPBio is currently constructing a new volunteer house to meet this concern, so this shouldn't be a problem for much longer.

One recommendation would be stressing the importance of learning basic Portuguese before arriving. It is not necessary to be fluent by any means, but day-to-day conversations including taxi rides, ordering at a restaurant or shopping can be made very difficult without knowing the basics.

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Ann-Kristin
Female
20 years old
Cologne, Germany
Other

Four Golden Weeks

9/10

I spent four weeks volunteering at IPBio during my semester vacations. The atmosphere at the reserve is very warm and welcoming. Everyone is very supportive and it seems like everyone here at the reserve really enjoys what they are doing! I worked with the communications program and created a newsletter for IPBio. I had a lot of freedom realising my own ideas and giving a personal note to the newsletter which I really enjoyed! The nature that surrounds the reserve is very impressing, in jungle covered hills, many caves and waterfalls and a lot more to discover! Therefore, every weekend was fully booked with trips exploring nature’s treasures. Every person that I met here, if it was another volunteer, a staff member or one of the locals, was very open and extremely nice! During the day, I was working on the newsletter, which required me sitting in front of my computer all the time, but sometimes I did help with the tree inventory as well so that I had the possibility to get out in the field! All in all, I would definitely come back to IPBio! I felt really welcomed and I think it’s a great opportunity to contribute to a really good cause and at the same time collecting personal experiences, if it is new language skills, insights in research work, making new friends, exploring new cultures or Mother Earth herself!

Tim
Male

A plethora of 'first-times'...

9/10

Hey, my name is Tim. I am a biology undergraduate from Cardiff, Wales, in the U.K. I study at the University of Bristol and have just finished my second year. I noticed a lot of friends were doing exciting projects abroad, and I wanted to do something productive with my summer, which would mix my love of science and nature, with opportunity for leisure, making new friends, and exploring this beautiful part of the world. It is the first time I have volunteered in any form, and my first time this far away from home, and so I thought a one-month stay would be a safe time to book for my first adventure. With one week remaining, I begin to wonder if one month was too short a stay... it has flown by. My answer to this, and thus my advice for first-timers would be to seriously consider at least a 2 month stay. A month sounds long, especially if it’s your first time volunteering, but once you have settled in, been trained in your work activities, and are comfortable with life at the reserve, all of a sudden it is time to go home. It’s worth noting that big excursions are only possible on the weekends, and in a month, that leaves only 8 days to properly explore. It’s not enough. It’s also worth noting that it’s only a small reserve which may have only a few volunteers upon your arrival, many of whom may be long term volunteers who have already seen the sights you would like to see and wouldn’t want go again (as they cost money) and so a longer stay will allow you to come into contact with more volunteers who haven’t yet been where you want to go. Another piece of advice is if you want to visit Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or any other far-away places, consider visiting on your way in or out of the country, as they are not near or easy to visit on a weekend.
Logistics aside, my stay at both ipBIO and Rio de Janeiro has been so exciting, character-forming, and eye opening. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but you will realise looking back on you experience here you have been put in a very privileged position to visit such an awesome environment. I worked here on several projects, and if you’re not sure what you want to do here but know you just want to help, this is a good position as you get a taster of all the work going on at the reserve. I looked at food preference using camera footage to analyse the behaviour of our Lepidodactylus flavopictus frog. I carried out maintenance tasks at the reserve; feeding the fish, turtles, testing the water quality of the tanks etc. I then studied the progression of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the causative agent of chytridiomycosis in amphibians, in an isolated population of tadpoles. This is a long term study being done for a professor at a local university, and so it was good to know I was solely responsible for data collection that has real scientific significance. It also allowed me to be exposed to real science... repetition, repetition, repetition, which allowed me to realise what a career in research will really be like.
I have made great friends here, and certainly had memories which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Cananeia is definitely worth visiting (but preferably when it is good weather). It is absolutely beautiful, see as many of the islands as you can! And enjoy the boat rides. The caves here are awesome, and the hikes through the state park are unlike any organised trials you’ll ever see… prepare to get wet and have a lot of laughs! The town is very cute and there is everything you need here for a great stay. Prepare for slow internet at the reserve, but at the same time don’t rely on it... come prepared with any videos, software, literature etc. that you think you will need as downloads will take a long time. Look at it as something to look forward to - I am glad I had limited exposure to the internet as I was able to experience Brazil with my eyes rather than through a social media app, and focus on what I was doing here and the fun I was having rather than what other people who I don’t really care about were having for dinner on the other side of the globe. One thing I will definitely take away with me, and is a lesson to be learned for the Western world, is that collectivist culture is awesome. For example, the town is 5 km down the road, and a nice walk, however if someone drives past there’s a good chance they will offer you a free lift. If you need a lift back from the town after a night out, plan ahead as Taxi’s stop at 11, but when we got into this problem we asked around the bars and someone was kind enough to drop us home free of charge. Everyone is friendly here, and is so interested in you as a foreigner or ‘gringro’ as they call it, so prepare to feel welcomed. Personally, I think you will get more from your volunteer experience here if you come with a set project or research question in mind that you can fully focus on and also (preferably finish) so you have a product to come away with knowing you made an impact. You’ll make an impact regardless, but it’s nice to be around to see through the culmination of your project. You will indisputably get more from your experience if you come knowing at least the basics of Portuguese so you can get around by yourself, and converse with the locals. I came knowing zilch and wish I knew more… it’s an element of any trip that you cannot pay for to experience. The staff at ipBIO are really helpful, friendly, and well organised, and any questions before or during your stay at ipBIO, Imran has the answer!!!! Come with an open mind and heart, and embrace Brazil! Finally, if you like your stay, which I know you will, tell your friends! Some of the most powerful recommendations can from word-of-mouth, and ipBIO is expanding both here in Iporanga, and in the amazon with a new reserve, so there is space for your friends too! Good luck and I wish you fantastic experience here at ipBIO.

How can this program be improved?

Not sure.. it is all very well organised and executed.

Tess
Female

Highly Recommended!

9/10

I am from the United States and volunteered on IPBio’s Betary Reserve in Brazil for 5 months in total. I highly recommend volunteering with IPBio, as I had a very positive experience and plan to continue volunteering with IPBio remotely going forward.

Prior to arriving in Brazil, Imran, the volunteer coordinator at IPBio, was very responsive and answered my many questions fully so that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into even before getting to the reserve. The other staff members at IPBio are also very friendly and helpful, and I always felt comfortable reaching out if I ever needed help with anything, whether work-related or not.

The organization itself is well-run, with clear projects and realistic plans to reach its goals. There is a very clear vision here and it is evident how each of the staff members and volunteers is individually contributing to the achievement of this vision. While at IPBio, I worked on the new Bioacoustics Project. I was responsible for learning how to use the new software and hardware donated through a grant program, developing the research protocol, and carrying out the data analysis. I greatly valued how much the organization trusted me to figure out these problems using my technical background. There is definitely never a lack of work to be done around the Reserve, but both the staff and volunteers have a very good work-life balance.

The accommodations have everything you need and are kept up quite well. The volunteer house felt cramped at times, but the Reserve is in the process of building a new, bigger volunteer house that should alleviate this issue.

Iporanga itself is a great place to spend time volunteering and immersing yourself in Brazilian culture, as the people are very warm, friendly, and welcoming. I felt safe the entire time I was in Iporanga, and felt comfortable walking around the city alone at any time of day. I came to Brazil speaking a little bit of Portuguese and highly recommend learning a little before coming. While not necessary to volunteer, knowing a bit of Portuguese enabled me to meet and get to know a lot of people here, including a lot of the staff members who do not speak English fluently.

During my free time, I was able to get to know the large number of caves and waterfalls in the nearby state park PETAR, hike the area, go to local festivals, take weekend trips to nearby towns, and many other fun activities! I stayed at IPBio for 5 months and still have a long list of things I’d like to do in the area for when I someday return.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience at an organization I respect highly with a lot of people I miss already. I definitely recommend volunteering here and look forward to continuing to volunteer with IPBio remotely from home in the United States.

How can this program be improved?

I am honestly struggling to think of ways this program can be improved. The only big thing I can think of is having a bit more privacy and space to move around in the volunteer house, but IPBio is in the process of building a new and improved volunteer house, so this issue should be resolved soon!

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Jesse
Male
20 years old
United States
College of Wooster

An Amazing Experience!

10/10

Wow. The last two months here have been absolutely amazing. I came to IPBio eight weeks ago from the United States as a "lab assistant" to do research on one of the rare frogs here and track the progression of one of the most devastating fungal diseases affecting amphibians world-wide. I helped to design experiments with the Leptodactylus flavopictus frog to determine its activity periods and food preference because IPBio is, as far as we know, the only place in the world that has managed to raise one in captivity. A professor from UNICAMPI, Brazil asked us to start an ongoing project monitoring the progression of Bd in a population of tadpoles, so I have been helping with that as well. I picked up a couple more duties including taking care of the animals that we have on the reserve (turtles, fish, frogs, tadpoles, and lizards), hiking in the woods to collect data on bio acoustics, and sampling and testing the water quality of the aquarium. Work really doesn't feel like work most of the time - I got to take care of animals and walk through the jungle every day. The staff here are such wonderful people. Although I only speak limited Portuguese, their hospitality and kindness make working on the reserve one of my favorite parts of the day. After work, there is always something to do on the reserve. On clear nights, you can walk out to the vegetable garden and stare up at the brightest stars you have ever seen, then look over at the pond where you will see hundreds of glowing larva. It is such a surreal experience to travel from Sao Paulo, the massive city filled with lights, people, and sounds, to the middle of the Atlantic Forest where you can walk 100 meters from the house and be completely alone, surrounded by nature. On the weekends, there are literally hundreds of caves and waterfalls within driving distance which are mind-blowingly beautiful.

My time here has been truly transformative. The relationships that I have made, the science that I have done, and the awareness of the natural world that I have gained will stay with me forever. I hope to build on my experience here and become a biologist working in the same kind of environment eventually. I would recommend this experience to anyone who loves science, conservation, nature, and is ready for a stay full of adventures!

How can this program be improved?

During my stay, a new volunteer house was being constructed right next to mine - the early morning construction noises were not ideal, but it will be done soon so it should not be an issue any more!

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Grant
Male
25 years old
United States
Evergreen State College

Chill experience with mushrooms in a forest

10/10

I came to IPBio for six months to work in the bioluminescent mushroom program. It was overall a wonderful experience. The reserve is in a great location, surrounded by lush forest full of animals and birds, and for anyone that likes nature it is glorious. The area the reserve is in is full of caves and waterfalls, so there is never lack of weekend activities. The staff are extremely supportive and welcoming, but I would recommend learning a bit of portuguese before coming as it will help with communicating with some members that don't speak english, and other locals. The mushroom program itself is very interesting. It is really unique to be in an area that still has many things to be discovered, plus seeing the mushrooms glowing at night is a real trip! The lab side of the work is also really rewarding as the research that is being done at the reserve is quite novel and complex. If you are interested in mushrooms or want to learn more about them, this is the perfect opportunity. The mushroom program is relatively young, but has so much potential! Can't recommend IPBio enough.

How can this program be improved?

While nice that the reserve is surrounded by nature, it means access to the nearby town is not the easiest. Bikes or something could be nice.

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Marta
Female
23 years old
london
University of Greenwich

Great experience!

8/10

I have the best time ever during my stay, all of the employees are super nice and so are the volunteers. Iporanga will stay in my heart forever since is a very special place with a lot of stuff to visit and adventure activities to do, plus the locals are very kind and generous people. I could only stay at IPbio for two weeks but I am definetly willing to return, it is a very enthusiastic and forward thinking organization with a lot of projects and passion for what they do. I will definetly recomend it.

Kay
Female

The best volunteer opportunity!

10/10

The hardest thing about coming to ipbio was leaving. The work is really enjoyable as your new home will be in the middle of the Atlantic forest itself, tucked away from the city life surrounded by an abundant of wildlife. As everyone has their part in helping learn more about what lies inside the Atlantic forest, my job was to document the work being done by videotaping and photographing the other volunteers research as well as documenting all the activities we do on our free time. Iporanga where ipbio is located is the capital of caves in Brasil, along with exploring multiple caves we got to check out incredible trails with hidden waterfalls and make many new friends along the way. There is so much history in this town as it was one of the first settlement towns in Brasil. Being a photographer I’ve been in heaven with all the nature around me to photograph as well as the history and people Ive meet. The people in this town are one of the nicest people Ive meet, and although many don’t speak English they will make sure to find a way to make you feel welcomed. The people working at Ipbio are also all amazing, everyone is so passionate on what they focus on and its really inspiring, and they are really interested in the work your providing as well so its an all great atmosphere and a great place to volunteer. if your into adventures and loving what you do everyday look no further, this place will treat you to one of the best experiences in your life and I personally can’t wait to return.

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David
Male
24 years old
United Kingdom
University College London

IPBIO Volunteering - Tree Inventory for Reserve Trails

10/10

Our project was the tree inventory and Phenological mapping of the trees along the trails of the reserve, which aims to be a concurrent project associated with the opening of a bird recovery and release centre opening nearby. Most days we’d be out in the forest along the Reserve trails identifying, measuring and taking bark/foliage samples of all the trees marked for the inventory. Despite neither of us being from a forest or biology background, we enjoyed this immensely, learning and doing lots of new things and practices along the way.

Despite our short stay, we managed to get a feel for the reserve and leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of the significance of the diversity of tree species and how every part of a tree can permeate and preserve our everyday lives. As a volunteering experience, it is one that we would recommend for any budding biologist who wants to get some field experience, or general persons that enjoy the outdoors and would like to contribute to conservation activities.

How can this program be improved?

Integration between Brazlians and overseas `volunteers

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Oleh
Male
34 years old
Belgium
Other

Awesome place

9/10

I was doing a tree inventory project at IpBio Iporanga for two weeks with my girlfriend and was very satisfied.
The facility itself is located in the very beautiful reserve in the forest, which was very refreshing after Sao Paolo.
There are variety of projects for people with various backgrounds, however, some projects require longer stay.
Our project involved marking, measuring and preparing data for identification of the trees, so we were able to spend a lot of time in nature (which is amazing!!)
We were also able to see projects which other volunteers were working on - like researching local frogs, tadpoles, luminescent mushrooms ( they are super cool! ) and audio monitoring of the forest.
Since reserve is located in nature - get ready for the local birds, you will really see and hear them a lot!
One thing that I can definitely recommend is learning some Portuguese beforehand. While some members of IpBio staff speak English, so there's no problem during the stay, you will feel quite limited in communication on the way to reserve, as well as during traveling around on your own.

The staff is very helpful - they helped us to arrange interesting activities (hiking, going to caves etc) for the weekends, as well as figuring out transportation afterward and other practical questions.
If you are coming in winter definitely grab some warm clothes, it can be really cold at night.

I can definitely recommend this place, and I'm looking forward to checking out some other centers they plan to open in Brazil ( especially in Amazonia).

How can this program be improved?

For the program itself, I have no proposals.
The kitchen they currently have is a bit small if you have other volunteers around, however they are constructing new building right now so it should improve soon.

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Maryna
Female
34 years old
Belgium
Other

Tree inventory at IPBio

9/10

Together with my boyfriend, we worked on tree inventory project at IPBio. Our stay was rather short (only 2 weeks) but it was an interesting and overall happy experience. First of all, the place is beautiful, on the edge of Atlantic rainforest, therefore every day you spend in proximity to incredibly rich nature. We were lucky to observe various birds (imagine colorful hummingbird buzzing and flying as close as 50 cm to you), insects, fish, to enjoy exploring various trees and flowering plants just a few steps out of the door.
For the project, we had to perform trees bark photographing and measurements. This is “field” work which is quite enjoyable (unless it rains :) ). The goal of the project was to identify trees in the area in order to prepare this location for birds release.
There are numerous ways to enjoy your free time here: swimming in the nearby river, hiking or visiting marvelous caves in the PETAR natural park, getting to know local life in Iporanga.
We had great support from IPBio in organizing weekend activities and in preparation for the trip.
I would recommend volunteering with IPBio to anyone interested in nature. Few words of advice though are: try to learn as much Portuguese as possible. The majority of people do not speak English, and though they are super friendly and cooperative, Portuguese will definitely help to get around and to enjoy the country more. Also if you travel during Brazilian winter months (June, July), bring some warm clothes, tropical winter can still be quite chilly.

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Annie
Female
23 years old
IPBio - Reserva Betary
University of Brighton

Three weeks at Reserva Betary

9/10

My stay here at the Reserva Betary has been thoroughly enjoyable, throughout my stay I was working on the forest inventory program which has given me a huge insight into how practical research is undertaken. It also allowed me to further understand why a reserve like this one is so important to biodiversity, and helped me to gain a perspective on what actually working in this field would be like. The weekend trips to caves and boya crossing across the various rivers in Iporanaga have been another highlight, and you definitely need to stay a minimum of a month to be able to explore the various sites within and around the area. If we didn’t have major exploring plans for the weekend a BBQ was always happening, as well as learning how to make Caprihanas to perfection! Staying on the reserve itself has been a whole different experience, being surrounded by the forest gives you the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and after the practical work of the day, being able to sit in a hammock for hours on end in the middle of the Atlantic forest is something I have taken for granted! I have been here with two other volunteers throughout my stay and whilst it is sometimes nice to not be surrounded by people, I maybe would have like a few more volunteers to have been here too, they are building more housing for future volunteers so is just a question on the time of year you choose to stay. I would completely recommend the reserve to anyone who wants to do something completely different whilst helping the environment at the same time, and getting a feel for a place which has been relatively untouched by commercial tourism!

How can this program be improved?

A few more volunteers whilst I was here would have been good.

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Ruth
Male
20 years old
Brasília
Other

3 semanas na Mata Atlântica

10/10

Minha experiência de voluntariado no Ipbio durou cerca de 3 semanas. Durante a semana, Como estudante de engenharia florestal pude auxiliar em uma lista de flora da reserva Betary, além de trabalhar no aquário com peixes e tartarugas e com análise de desenvolvimento de girinos. A estrutura do instituto não deixou a desejar em nenhum aspecto, a casa amarela (moradia dos voluntários) oferece todos os equipamentos necessários, assim como os locais de trabalho, estufa, laboratório e etc. Os finais de semana foram reservados para conhecer as belezas naturais da região e me divertir com novos amigos. Fui muito bem tratada por todos do Instituto, que fizeram questão de me acolher desde o momento da aplicação até a minha volta. . Estar na região do Vale do Ribeira, onde existe a maior extensão de Mata Atlântica preservada, me possibilitou também praticar hobbies como a fotografia e conhecer mais sobre comunidades tradicionais da região.
Em termos pessoais, foi também uma experiência enriquecedora. À convivência com pessoas novas, não só de diferentes nacionalidades mas também com as pessoas da cidade, me trouxe novos amigos e ótimas recordações!

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Morgane
Female
24 years old
Toronto, Canada
McGill University

EXCEPTIONAL VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

10/10

My name is Morgane Holley. I'm French/American and Swiss. As the daughter of a diplomat I was fortunate enough to spend most of my life travelling from a young age. Brazil was always somewhere I was really hoping to come visit one day. It's reputation for having some of the friendliest people in the world does not disappoint. My boyfriend Matt and I came to this program together and lived in the village, Iporanga. Everyone was extremely welcoming, whether we were at the local grocery shops, getting a hair cut or having dinner at one of the restaurants in town (which are actually all really good!) I highly recommend the Dona Sinhana at Casarao, you won't regret it! Everyone is all smiles and hellos in Iporanga. Not to mention the staff at IPBio who, having lived most of their lives in Iporanga, are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to the diversity one can find in the Atlantic Forest - and eager to share!

The natural beauty of the sights never ceases to amaze. We've seen magnificent rainbow colored birds of all shapes and sizes (the reserve is a haven for hummingbirds, they're seriously more common than pigeons in Venice), monkeys swinging over tree tops, frogs, bugs, trees and flowers of all kinds (maybe an ocelot - it's still up for debate who saw what). The jungle here is full of surprises, every element of wildlife has evolved to be bigger, more colorful and all around more exceptional. Here things you wouldn't stop to look at twice back home will make you question the very nature of reality. You might find yourself staring at grass for ten minutes straight. Don't worry, we've all been there.

IPBio offers so many incredible experiences to its volunteers. On weekends there's always some cool activity to take part in whether that be "boya crossing" (tubing down local rivers and rapids), trekking through caves waist deep in water, climbing to high mountain peaks for a breathtaking view of the jungle, or night excursions in the forest in search of large patches of glow in the dark mushrooms. A few bus rides away there's also a beautiful beach town called Cananeia - which encompasses Ilha do Cardoso - it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen - if you get the chance, don't miss it! Imran, IPBio's Volunteer Coordinator, makes all this possible and more! He often has people over for barbecues and takes us out to the local bars - he goes above and beyond - one can't overstate how pivotal a role he has in making all of this possible.

Meeting the volunteers at IPBio was of course also a huge highlight of our trip here. Although IPBio's volunteer program is still relatively new there is a growing base number of volunteers present at all times on the reserve. This is a strength in that there is something for everyone in the balance between introversion and extraversion as well as a lot of opportunity for hands on experience with tangible responsibility. Your work has a direct impact. Coming from all over the world everyone we met was very amiable despite coming from completely different experiences. We had a lot of fun and met some awesome people who I really hope we get the chance to meet again along the way.

In terms of my role specifically, I was helping IPBio by making promotional videos to showcase their volunteer program (check them out on OBBIO's Youtube Channel!) I really loved what I was doing because I got to take an equal part in everyone else's roles too. Not a single day resembled the other. The whole while, filming served as the medium through which I got to observe all the beauty IPBio has to offer. I learned a lot while I was here: about biodiversity and the issues concerning the preservation of ecosystems such as the Atlantic Forest, about the way people in rural Brazil live, about editing software and film techniques which I got to further develop for my own skill set and last but not least about myself and what it is that I want to do with my life moving forward. I couldn't have asked for more.

It goes without saying at this point I highly recommend volunteering with IPBio!

How can this program be improved?

Pack some strong mosquito repellant and cover up. It turns out I'm allergic to them and that was pretty annoying, although the local hospital (which is free even for foreigners!!) took very good care of me and in a week it was all good again. Other than that no complaints. I was terrified of spiders before coming here as well and I think I'll never again be concerned back home. IPBio cured me!

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Matthew
Male
25 years old
Toronto
McGill University

Volunteer Coordinator and Communications Coordinator

10/10

My time working at IPBio could not have been better. My work saw me take on a variety of different roles as I helped other volunteers in their work. In particular, I focused on assisting with the amphibian program, which enabled me to hike across the reserve weekly to assist in field work. Additionally, I created a brand new volunteer package for the organization, as well as numerous information packages on many different subjects, ranging from local tourism - to wildlife guides. Living at the reserve is comfortable. The Darwin House has a fully equipped kitchen, nice bedrooms, a full bathroom, and most importantly, air conditioning! After work the other volunteers and I would relax, play games, watch movies, and swim in the river (which is amazing, and so refreshing on a hot day). The weekends were exciting and were spent doing many different fun activities. We explored caves, hiked to waterfalls, tubed down rivers, went camping, and so much more. The Atlantic Forest really is a nature lovers dream, and IPBio is such an incredible organization. Definitely and incredible experience, I would recommend it to anyone looking to do meaningful work in an amazing setting. Worth every penny! Go volunteer!

How can this program be improved?

At times there were not too many volunteers all at once. This meant things could get a bit lonely, but luckily we always got along so at the same time it was kind of nice to have a quieter week now and then. I think this problem is already on its way to getting solved as the organization is building more infrastructure to house additional volunteers.

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Charlotte
Female
19 years old
Germany
Other

Come and stay

9/10

I had a wonderful time at Reserva Betary!
You cross a hanging bridge over the river and suddenly you realize you are in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by nothing but nature. It was amazing. Every morning I woke up and started my work with Rafael. My choice to help him in the garden worked out great for me! Even though it was definitely the hardest I have ever physically worked, I was very happy to prove to myself that I can do this kind of work.
Of course gardening is repetitive, but since the environment here is so different to what I am used to and there is so much to see, I did not mind. Plus, it gives you a lot of time and space to think, so I never got bored.
Rafael is the most patient and kind person, so even with my terrible Portuguese skills, we got along really well! In general, the people I worked (and also spent my free time) with are all together extraordinary and make you feel like you are at home here. They seem like one big family, happy to welcome you. Living with the other volunteers was also very cool. Since it was my first time volunteering, I expected there to be more difficulties, but excepting some food-related issues (which definitely occur every time one lives with a lot of people), we had a great time!
Summing it all up, I definitely recommend a stay here. I am sure you will enjoy the time!

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Antonia
Female
19 years old
Munich

Bioluminescent Mushroom Researcher

7/10

Antonia, Germany, 18 years, 3 months as a bioluminescent mushroom researcher

When I started looking for volunteer programs abroad focusing on research, there weren't many to find, if at all (with no professional experience on my side). I was very lucky to find the Bioluminescent Mushroom Researching Program and it sounded really cool (I mean glowing mushrooms!). After my application IPBio replied really quickly, we skyped a few days later and everything was sealed. 3 months as a bioluminescent mushroom researcher ahead of me!

Before and during my stay, IPBio was really taking care, responding quickly, providing all the necessary information and helping where they could.
There were only two things I would have liked to know or to have it emphasized:
Me and the other "mushroom girl" were the first mushroom volunteers thus we started from scratch and had to experience a lot of failure and the researching was more of a cultivation attempt than "researching" as I had had it in mind. But, the positive side of it was that we were really able to work independently and contribute own ideas that were realised, it was fun! Plus, the whole IPBio team consists of young, partly international, motivated people, always nice to have around. And they were always around since you work together and spend most of your freetime together, barbecuing, hiking, drinking a caipirinha from time to time.. They are great! I wish I had learned some portuguese however..
The second thing, I liked to have had emphasized was the fact that you live in a little cabin/bungalow in the Betary Reserve in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trees. That can be cool, but in my case there was only one other volunteer and thank god we liked each other (otherwise we probably would have ended like good old Jack Torrance :D)! The rest of the team lives in town, 6km away. Well, you can like it or you don't, I think it's just important to know that it can get really desolate and isolating if there aren't at least 2-3 other volunteers around, even if the place is stunningly beautiful! There is river nearby, very good for swimming, there's the huge aquarium and the green house and many many birds!

More about the mushroom researching:
For Sierra (the other volunteer) and me the plan was to try different substrates to cultivate the mushroom on, to find the best and to optimize the cultivation process focusing on other factors like speed of growth, cost etc. After the first round of tests we had to lower our expectations a bit and focus on the sterilization process and other factors that might have caused the failure. In the end we had loads of information and had tried many different ways of doing what we did but unfortunately still couldn't really show a result. But, we decided on the next steps to take, unfortunately for us, they were to be taken by the next mushroom researchers. But I'll keep up and check from Germany how they are doing! :D

All in all I had a great time, I was able to meet awesome knew people, learn more about mushrooms and the atlantic rainforest in general and to be responsible for myself in the middle of nowhere. Plus, IPBio and its volunteer program are really young and still to develop. The things I critized all relate to the fact that Sierra and me belong to the first volunteers to ever have been there and I really believe that IPBio has a great potential and the right people working there to achieve the improvement and development they are capable of! And they need you next volunteers to get there  I also think I’m going to come back at some point, when I’m a bit older and the volunteer program a bit further, because it simply is a beautiful place!

How can this program be improved?

More volunteers at the same time would be great but that should be a problem easily solved, just apply there guys! :D

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Marie
Female
27 years old
saint gérand le puy

Don't wait : the Altantic Forest is yours!

9/10

Staying for a month at IPBio Reserve was the perfect opportunity to learn about a wide range of paramount fields within the International volunteering actions. From the fascinating scientific research projects of the Institute to the discovery of the amazing World Natural Heritage that the Atlantic Forest represents, there is so much that has caught my interests.
I enjoyed every hour of the gardening and outdoor maintenance I did in the Reserve, closely with the local gardener, just like all the little jobs I was given to help here and there, like assisting the biologists or taking part to school events organized by the Institute.
There are projects to be done at any time, any kind of weather, and developping adaptation skills is essential, in order to be able to enjoy fully the diversed missions of the Research Institute. I particularly enjoyed that freedom of all possibilities, working around locals in the reserve and having lots of occasions to discover Brazilian authentic life, and wildlife. Everyone is so welcoming, that you can only leave thinking you have to be back one day.
Working also with the partners of the Institute for the development of a community-based tourism was definitely an honour and priviledge for me, and definitely made me socially and environmentally aware of the urge to protect the gold nugget that this area embodies.
IPBio Institute is key to the conservation of the biodiversity, and volunteering there will truly make you feel part of the protection of our Future.

How can this program be improved?

Having less volunteers at a time for organization, privacy and mission achievements improvements.

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Claudio
Male
26 years old
Santiago, Chile

Best Volunteer Experience I Have Had!

10/10

IPBio is a little paradise! I’ve been working there for 3 weeks and I really love it. My job was to develop the methodology of sampling trees for forest inventories. Then I could start the first inventory in one of the trails of the reserve. Inventories includes measurement and recognition of species, which is very useful for monitoring forest growth, and reveals the useful characteristics of the species to be used by the community.
IPBio is characterized by an excellent working environment and is very comfortable to live in the Darwin house, surrounded by wildlife. Another factor that I loved was the multiple attractions of Iporanga valley, such as caves, waterfalls, forests, animals, communities and rivers.
It was an incredible experience that certainly left a deep impression on me.

Federico
Male
32 years old
Rome, Italy

Highly recommend IPBio

10/10

First arriving to the Vale do Ribeira is an experience in itself: beautiful rolling hills covered with the Mata Atlantica forest are led through by tough roads announcing the remoteness of the region. Villagers on donkeys give you a thumbs up as you drive by and people on foot nod their head in sign of welcome. The IP Bio reserve is well off the beaten path, and can only be accessed by crossing a rope bridge over the crystal clear Betary stream.
My experience as a volunteer was great and I highly recommend it. The staff is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and guided me as much in my work as in my understanding of local culture. As a tip to future volunteers I would say to have a clear focus of the project to be completed at the reserve. This made my experience more gratifying and helped me enjoy the escapades to forests, rivers and caves all the more.

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Matthew
Male
22 years old
Louisville

I recommend IPBio!

9/10

I've been working at the Betary Reserve for over a month now, and I'm thrilled that I came. IPBio is a fantastic organization which knows its mission and is committed to it. In my time here I have been helping the reserve with things such as grant writing, content creation, tourism research, and general maintenance of the reserve. I'm also taking twice-weekly Portuguese lessons.

For the outdoorsy type, there's lots to do on the weekends. The Atlantic Forest is a nature-lover's dream come true, with more biodiversity than you can wrap your head around. Nearby there are also plenty of trails, camp sites, caves, rivers, state parks, rural communities, and of course the town of Iporanga. The reserve is also an ideal place to curl up with a book for a relaxing weekend if that's your style. I'd highly recommend this experience to anyone. IPBio is true to its mission and supportive of its volunteers.

How can this program be improved?

I'd love to see an expansion of the vegetable garden. It's a good size and can be used for cooking, but could also offer more.

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Jenny
Female
34 years old
Iporanga, Bresil
Other

Great place to volunteer !!!!

10/10

I fell in love with Iporanga. In love with the forest and the people who live here. After my B.A.C. Biology at UQAM in Canada, I wanted to combine my desire to travel and learn. I accidentally found this voluntary position at the Biodiversity Research Institute (IPBio) on the internet. I was immediately tempted. The quick answers to all my questions from the coordinator convinced me and three weeks later I was there and now I don’t want to leave.

Arriving I did not know what to expect, but certainly I do not expect to have as much convenience in the middle of the forest. Here we have a house for volunteers with fully equipped kitchen, bedroom and bathroom with shower and hot water, a real luxury. You quickly feel at home. In addition, we have access to the research center, which has all the equipment necessary for scientific research. Most important, we have access to people who work here and are always happy to answer any questions. They are so awesome that even once the weekend came; it was them who offered to take us on excursions into the forest or to visit caves or extraordinary waterfalls.

My job here is to continue an existing research topic. 3 times a week I go out in forest 9am to 12am tour the pitfalls to identify the presence of frogs. The path is easily accessible via trails and is very pleasant. I unfortunately did not bring proper boots so they lent me the necessary equipment to walk safely in the forest. Here the motto is: “no problem, we'll find a solution”.

The rest of the day, I analyse existing videos of frogs or I have Portuguese lessons with a great tutor. In the end, there are so many interesting things to do here that it is possible to participate in whatever you want if you ask. The passion of the people working at the reserve is immense and they demonstrate great pleasure in sharing their knowledge.

Of course there is a physically tiring part to field research, but if you can walk, you can work here. The forest here is so diverse that we quickly forget the little aches and we always look forward to getting back out into the forest.

We are housed on the reserve but food is not included. So we will regularly go to the neighbouring village of Iporanga for supplies at least once a week.

I will keep the unforgettable memory of the smell of the forest and the mornings when you get up to the sound of birds singing and even howler monkeys. The people here are so warm that I will leave with new friendships and a single idea in mind: that of returning as soon as possible.

Quick tips:

- Wear comfortable clothes to go in the forest.

- Try to learn some Portuguese to get you to understand local, and they will appreciate you more ease and pleasure to communicate.

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Marleen
Female
22 years old
Iporanga, Brazil

Great internship!

8/10

I’m currently doing my five month internship at IPBio and I love it! The people that work here are very friendly and will support you with all the help you need. I’m doing a mammal monitoring research (after the first week I already captured a fieldmouse, tayra, opossum, paca and a capuchin monkey) and in addition to that I help with the selection of footage that they are collecting to make a documentary. On the weekend there are plenty of fun activities to do such as buoy cross, exploring the caves, hiking and swimming.

I would definitely recommend this organization!

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Imran
Male
25 years old
Brazil
McGill University

Honestly the best NGO I have volunteered at ever

10/10

I have volunteered across the world but have never been so impressed with an NGO.
IPBio has great infrastructure: microclimate greenhouse, aquarium, labs, volunteer house and is located of a reserve

IPBio does great work: research on bioluminescent mushrooms and videos wildlife to study animal behaviour as well as use their content to produce nature documentaries and eBooks

IPBio offers interesting roles for volunteers: education, research assistant, photographers, movie producers, reserve maintenance, communications positions and more so no matter what skills you have you can help out.

IPBio is also a lot of fun: the staff is awesome and like people who enjoy themselves but also work hard. On weekends, I would visit caves, state parks, go wildlife watching, swim in the river, visit waterfalls.

How can this program be improved?

Have bicycles so volunteers can travel into town easily. I suggested it and they liked the idea so maybe this will be solved by the time you come.

About The Provider

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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

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