Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

Video and Photos


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


Related Programs

Questions & Answers


based on 56 reviews
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Housing 8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 46 - 56 of 56
Default avatar


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
Default avatar

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
Default avatar

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
Default avatar

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
Default avatar

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
Default avatar

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

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
Default avatar

I recommend IPBio!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar

Great place to volunteer !!!!

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.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar

Great internship!

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!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar

Honestly the best NGO I have volunteered at ever

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.
Yes, I recommend


Meet the Staff

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,...