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.