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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Questions & Answers


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 46 - 60 of 64
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Chill experience with mushrooms in a forest

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Great experience!

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.

Yes, I recommend this program

The best volunteer opportunity!

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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IPBIO Volunteering - Tree Inventory for Reserve Trails

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
Yes, I recommend this program
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Awesome place

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Tree inventory at IPBio

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Three weeks at Reserva Betary

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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3 semanas na Mata Atlântica

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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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!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteer Coordinator and Communications Coordinator

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Come and stay

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Bioluminescent Mushroom Researcher

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
Yes, I recommend this program
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Don't wait : the Altantic Forest is yours!

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Best Volunteer Experience I Have Had!

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.

Yes, I recommend this program

Highly recommend IPBio

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.

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,...