Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

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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
  • 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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based on 64 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 31 - 45 of 64
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Come and Volunteer

Being a volunteer at Reserva Betary is a very enjoyable experience. The Atlantic Rainforest is so beautiful and interesting things happening around you every day. You can spot loads of pretty birds, frogs and flowers at the reserve, seeing lizards walking around, watching tadpoles swimming in the pond, observing dragonfly laying eggs, wasps making nest and ants attacking cockroaches. At night, you can watch the starry sky, discovery bioluminescence mushrooms and insects, listen to birds, frogs and cicada singing. All the people working here are super nice and helpful. They make you feel at home and provide a relaxed working environment. I did tree inventory and some creative art projects. Also helped in other project when more hands needed. I am happy to stay so close with nature and spend time on making art. I learned basic knowledge of marking trees in the forest. Wish the tree inventory project could teach volunteer how to identify different tree species and let volunteer learn more things in the future. I highly recommend Reserva Betary for everyone.

How can this program be improved?
More cooperation with universities.
Yes, I recommend this program
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By far the best volunteering experience of my life

After graduating from the University of Bath with an Economics degree and working in London for a couple years, I decided it was time to travel and do something radically different that is actually worth doing. Whilst I have been interested in environmental research and conservation for some time, I had not taken any real steps in that direction until coming to IPBio. And I am very glad I did.
As a Volunteer Coordinator, I guided volunteers and supported the team here on several projects ranging flora and fauna as well as diverse settings. This allowed me to gain experience in many different tasks, from monitoring animal pitfalls and recovering the precious bioacoustics recording deep in the forest to working in the lab looking for signs of BD disease in tadpoles and testing bioluminescent mushroom substrates. One of my favourite activities (understandably I think!) was searching for these glowing mushrooms at night in the forest, which we did a couple times. I also really enjoyed being responsible for the daily feeding of animals (yes, by the end I felt like we had developed some sort of relationship, although to what extent that was a one-way thing I am not sure) and occasionally supporting the Volunteer Programme Manager with his research and other ad hoc tasks.
Apart from the work, there are many opportunities to visit the surrounding region and all it has to offer (magnificent caves and waterfalls instantly spring to mind) as well as the small but charming town of Iporanga. As if that’s not enough, the reserve is well-run by some very friendly people (most of which are local) and there is even a beautiful, tranquil swimming spot one minute away from the volunteer house. So make sure you get some insect repellent and come along!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteering in the Atlantic Rainforest

During a trip through South America, I set aside a month long period to volunteer at an NGO. I could not have chosen a more suitable location than the IPBio Reserve, situated in the diminishing Atlantic Rainforest. The reserve is situated in a very unique position, in that it is an unparalleled nature sanctuary, but also just a short drive from the town of Iporanga. This offers the opportunity to not only be immersed in the conservation projects occurring at IPBio but also near enough to civilization to grab essentials (great for long-stay individuals) and make the most of free time.
Given the variety of projects ongoing at IPBio, there is the opportunity to partake in a wide range of projects and also to be placed in an area of personal interest. Given my professional background, I was able to assist in a number of research projects, but also help in volunteer coordination and various administrative tasks.
The staff at IPBio allowed for my time spent at the reserve to be the most memorable. At other NGOs, I have experienced a lack of organization and general discoordination amongst the staff. This could not be further from the reality at IPBio. From the carefully prepared volunteer package; outlining everything necessary for your stay, including how to get to the reserve with ease, what to expect, what projects are ongoing, etc. to the daily involvement from the volunteer coordinators and research staff.
Overall I would recommend the volunteer program at IPBio to everyone looking to become further involved in an NGO on the forefront of biodiversity conservation. Given the breadth of the projects, there are opportunities for people with a science background looking to become involved in a leading research institution but also those with less experience hoping to become grow their conservationist perspective.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Living in Mata Atlantica!

I have really enjoyed my time at ipbio; working as a Biological Research assistant for the Bioluminescent Mushroom Project has been so interesting. I have had so many opportunities to do things that I never normally would have been able to do, from designing the new mushroom project logo to searching for undiscovered species in the forest. As the work is so varied, I never found it was too repetitive and felt like I was making a valuable contribution to the reserve and to the conservation of the natural area. Ipbio’s location in the amazing Mata Atlantica also adds to the volunteer experience, a day doesn’t go by when you haven’t seen something new or strange!
Overall I would definitely recommend working at ipbio!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Every little step counts

Every little step counts. Every time a volunteer joins a program, he/she impacts not only through their work, but also with the unique perspective derived from their skills and experience. And even with their relationship with the staff, local communities and other volunteers.

I have volunteered on several projects around the world and avidly fed on the passion that spurs from everyone involved in these conservation or education projects. And IPBIO was no exception. In fact, it is probably the best experience I have had so far. Maybe because of everybody’s commitment. From the passionate founder, Sergio, who will be amazed by every little frog, insect, bird or animals he sees, with you. Add the extensive knowledge of all the biologists who devoted their lives to conservation. And the amazement of volunteers, who deeply believe their work matters, sparing no effort in all their projects.

This is why I hope you too will come to Reserva Betary. And help the Biodiversity Research projects of IPBIO and Celine.

Whether it is tree inventory, bio-luminescent mushrooms, camera traps, pitfalls, as well as cave exploring. Your help will matter. And you’ll make many new, very special friends. As I did. New friends to treasure. And, hopefully, meet again.

How can this program be improved?
Mosquito nets in windows and doors
Yes, I recommend this program
Natália with bioluminescent mushrooms

Living in the Atlantic Forest

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Great Experience

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My experience

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My experience as a volunteer

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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IPBio through the lens of my camera

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! ;)

Yes, I recommend this program
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A Unique Experience in a Unique Corner of the World

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Four Golden Weeks

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!

Yes, I recommend this program

A plethora of 'first-times'...

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.
Yes, I recommend this program

Highly Recommended!

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!
Yes, I recommend this program
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An Amazing Experience!

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!
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,...