Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

Video and Photos

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.

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

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

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.59 Rating
based on 104 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 94.23%
  • 7-8 rating 5.77%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Housing 8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 8 of 104
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Théo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I miss this place SO MUCH!

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

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

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

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

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

What was your funniest moment?
We went on a boia cross at night in the rapids with nothing but the moon light to see! It was extremely fun doing it with the other volunteers who were great people!
Default avatar
Carina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I want to go back

I first heard about IPBio through a professor at Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) whose lab I had interned in the year previous. After graduating in mid-2019, I wanted to spend some time in Brazil working on a project in my field, ecology and evolution. The professor I knew at UNICAMP suggested I could create a new volunteer project at IPBio relating to bird-mediated seed dispersal. I did not know what to expect from IPBio because, to be honest, I did not watch the YouTube videos (you should definitely watch their YouTube videos!!). As a result, I went in a little blind and was incredibly impressed with the staff, the projects, the facilities, and the volunteer program as a whole. I quickly fell in love with the reserve from the moment I stepped on the rope bridge and saw Rio Betary, the river that curves around the reserve. I highly recommend going during summer, which is the rainy/warm season so you can take full advantage of the fact that there is a swimming spot a short two-minute walk from the house where you stay. The volunteer house has everything you need with a fully equipped kitchen, washer and dryer, nice bathrooms, and potentially your own private room (depending on the number of volunteers when you go). I would recommend bringing or buying Tupperware (they sell Tupperware in town), but other than that, the kitchen has everything you want (even a pressure cooker to make beans!). My situation was a little different than most of the volunteers since I spent most of my time designing a new project. Seeing how a project is built from the ground up gave me a deep appreciation for all the effort that goes into the design and execution of the volunteer projects at IPBio. I was especially appreciative of all the support I receive from the staff as well as the work environment that exists at the reserve where there is a constant exchange and flow of ideas. Although I thoroughly enjoyed every workday, I especially enjoyed the weekends when fellow volunteers and I would do fun activities like floating down the river (boia cross) or exploring caves or have a barbeque or even just walk to town. I would highly recommend exploring the nearby town, Iporanga and spending time there. The walk to town is 6 km (about an hour) but is really enjoyable if you take your time and look for wildlife along the way. While walking to town I saw monkeys, toucans, and tons of other cool birds, not to mention that the views are amazing. Volunteering with IPBio were some of the best three months of my life and I think a big factor in programs like these are the people you do it with. These volunteer programs attract likeminded people and the fellow volunteers I met from around the world made my experience one I am sure to not forget and will always treasure. I honestly hope to return to Reserva Betary one day and work with IPBio again.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Learn a bit of Portuguese! The staff are amazing and not all of them speak English so to fully take advantage of your time in Brazil you should learn some basic phrases and go from there.
Default avatar
Noah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Top Volunteer program out there 6 out of 5 stars

One of the best choices I have ever made was choosing to apply for IPBio. I had just finished my bachelors degree weeks before I left to work for IPBio as a bioluminescent mushroom researcher. I was greeted all along the way with friendly and helpful staff. Every concern of any volunteer was taken seriously. The staff themselves went above and beyond all expectations and they all became friends of mine shortly after my arrival. The diversity of programs at IPBbio with the diversity of people really built for good conversations. Not only did I get to dive in deep with mycology, but I also got to play a part in all of the projects.

It was interesting to see how all of the different parts of IPBio operate. I was incredibly happy with my role as the mushroom researcher. I got to be a part of mushrooming hikes looking for new species as well as working in a lab trying to grow them. Having the creativity to invent new substrate experiments was something I am most grateful for. I would keep up to date with current mycological information and review what previous researches had tried at IPBio. I saw my role as a puzzle. Overlooking what other people have done and then creating a new plan. At one point, some of the Mycena lucentipes logs in the fruiting chamber fruited for me and that was very exciting.

Over my time there, I had visited many parks and explored all of the caves in the guidebook. Let me tell you, every single one is worth it make sure you see them all. Imran even helps set up the activities outside of work hours. He truly goes above and beyond and I’m so grateful to have met him. I worked under Grant who is a mycology wizard. His identification skills are out of this world. He was an excellent resource and friend during my time at IPBio. Nina and Peter were the volunteer coordinators. They are super intelligent, incredibly funny, and all-around awesome people. The volunteer house where we stayed was clean and honestly hotel-like.

There is beautiful scenery everywhere. This placed turned into a home for me in my three months there. The people really made this experience incredible and I will forever be grateful for the life long relationships I have made from my time at IPBio. I was very excited for my IPBio trip and everything in person was even better than how it was outlined online, I could not be more pleased. This operation as a whole honestly deserves more than just five stars.

What would you improve about this program?
This program really went above and beyond for every single thing. I did not see anything that needed improvement and I know if there is something that can be improved it is already being tended to. The staff is incredible.
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Sarah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing people, wildlife and experience!

I really enjoyed my time volunteering at IPBio and thought that it was incredibly well organised. I was nervous because it was my first time volunteering abroad, but I was given so much useful information before I arrived (including detailed instructions of how to get there, what to bring etc) which was reassuring. During my time there, communication from the volunteer coordinator was also great as we had a morning meeting every day and he kept us updated on any ongoing news about the area.

The accommodation at the reserve is surprisingly nice, considering you're living in the middle of a rainforest! There are proper beds, with sheets provided and aircon or fans in the bedrooms. I shared a room with one other girl which was a really nice experience but I know some of the longer term volunteers also got their own rooms, which is definitely a luxury for volunteering experiences! There is a fully-equipped kitchen with lots of crockery and cutlery and two big fridges so plenty of space for food. It is nice to still be able to have some of the basic comforts from home available when volunteering and this place definitely goes above and beyond. The only thing to get used to is the regular creepy crawly visitors in the house and making sure you shut windows etc - though I must mention that there are mosquito nets across all of the windows which means you don't really need a mosquito net for your bed.

All of the other volunteers were really welcoming and friendly, despite the fact I arrived when they had all been volunteering together for a month or two. I felt like I was able to fit into the group after a couple of days quite easily and all of the staff helped to make you feel welcome and at home too. There is some really awesome research going on at IPBio and they have a wide variety of resources available and also seem keen to welcome volunteers' ideas regarding projects, which is really refreshing!

An obvious thing about staying at IPBio is how beautiful the setting is and how much cool wildlife you will see whilst you're there. I was super excited to see a number of different hummingbirds visiting the feeding stations at the reserve every day. There are always vultures flying around high above the reserve and mountains too, which is a great sight. I was a tad disappointed that I didn't see any monkeys but I was only there for 2 weeks in the end and the capuchin monkeys are pretty elusive and uncommon. I know some of the other volunteers had caught a glimpse though!

If you're happy to get hot, sweaty and a bit muddy whilst carrying out a variety of different surveys in the beautiful rainforest, and don't mind the occasional (or frequent!) mosquito bite, then I would highly recommend you volunteer here. It's has a great community spirit and allows you to learn a lot about the local area and wildlife. I think it also encourages you to come out of your shell and comfort zone, which gives you a great sense of achievement!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would stay for much longer because I had to come home early due to COVID-19!
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Maisie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Semester at IPBio

I loved my time in Brazil with IPBio, their volunteer program is very well-run and is located in a beautiful location. The reserve is absolutely gorgeous, with hummingbirds flying around at all times and a nice place to swim in the river right behind our house. The volunteer house has a fully equipped kitchen and even has air conditioning in each bedroom! I loved the work we did and thought it was awesome we got to help on every project they had going. Doing something different each day of the week kept it interesting and fun. There were also plenty of options for weekend activities, and the volunteer coordinator made it super easy to set up these adventures. We just had to let him know the week before and he would arrange the transportation and guides! I definitely recommend this program and suggest to anyone going to the Reserve to take full advantage of all the area has to offer and participate in the weekend outings!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We went into some awesome caves while we were there, but one of the craziest was an underwater cave where you had to hold onto a rope above your head (or swim!) just to stay above the water. The region also has a lot of opportunities for boia cross-floating down the river on tubes!-and I got to do it at night, guided by moonlight down the river in the middle of a tropical rainforest! Certainly some things I didn't expect to be able to do while I was there, but they were amazing!
Default avatar
Ari
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience & Well-Organized

I was an Eco-Volunteer at IPBio for three weeks. I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular & Cellular Biology and Economics, and hadn’t had much experience conducting ecological field research. My time as an Eco-Volunteer changed this. I learned how to spot and take inventory of birds and mushrooms, wade in a river to catch (and later, release) fish, which we would later identify and photograph, and monitor the health of a pond. Do prepare to get sweaty and get some bug bites, because this is part of the “job” of working in the Atlantic Forest!
The organization of the Volunteer Program is top-notch. Imran, the volunteer coordinator, has done a fantastic job of building this program. He is great with responding to emails and WhatsApp messages in a timely manner. Volunteers go through a first-day orientation, in which we learn more about IPBio, the protocols for each of the tasks, and rules/logistics. Imran meets with the volunteers every morning at 9am to give us updates and answer any questions we may have. Furthermore, the volunteer housing has a large space for cooking and spending time with the other volunteers, and Imran is great about helping us fix any problem in the house.
I recommend two things if you plan on going to IPBio. Firstly, get a plan on your mobile device that allows you to use WhatsApp, Messenger, and make calls without WiFi. Sometimes, the WiFi at the reserve randomly goes out and you may be stuck without WiFi for a day, especially if it’s Saturday or Sunday. Secondly, I highly recommend learning some Portuguese before you arrive. Not only will it make transportation and shopping a little easier, it will also help you get immersed in the local community of Iporanga. If you want to learn about peoples’ lives and points of view, you cannot get by with just English. I also would note that the interaction we have with locals is, unfortunately, limited, since we are on the Reserve most of the time, which is 6 kilometers away from the town. In order to have more interaction with locals, make sure to visit Iporanga and talk with people in the town, whether that be at a bar or restaurant, or somewhere else (like a gym). For me, since I am Catholic, I attended Mass in Iporanga and found it to be a great way to better understand local culture and meet people.

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Rory
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

IpBio; a great little adventure

My only complaint about IpBio was that I didn't book to stay longer! A truly great little adventure, where I learned a lot and for once in my life I listened to those who knew what was around us. How could it not be fun paddling in ponds or rivers in tropical heat or rain storms?

Imran and his crew were incredibly supportive to a novice like me and the other volunteers were a mixed bunch happy friendly people.

One day you will find yourself counting, photographing and then identifying birds or bugs. Another sifting through foliage for mushroom species, always varied, always interesting. Go do it!

What would you improve about this program?
Somewhere to dry clothes. they are either sweat wet or wet wet!
Default avatar
Susanna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Very well organized, amazing experience!

I am currently on a gap year and I decided to volunteer at IPBio as an Eco-Volunteer. I spend 3 weeks there and wished I had gone for a longer stay. It was an amazing experience. The programme is extremely well organized and the people on the staff are very kind and helpful. You get to do a variety of different and interesting jobs where you learn a lot about the biodiversity of the Atlantic forest. In your free time you can go swimming in the river, go to town or just stay at the reserva. The weekend trips organized by IPBio are amazing as well. During my very short stay I can say that I learned a lot about the Atlantic forest but also about the people and the culture. I would recommend this volunteer programme to anyone!