Amazon Ecology & Field Research | 10 DAYS


  • Monitor river otters in the Amazon
  • Assist a local biologist
  • Conduct a macaw population census
  • Explore Machu Picchu

Venture into the Amazon River basin to explore and study the diverse and unique ecosystem. Take part in ecology projects and study insects, mammals, amphibians and much more that this amazing part of the world.



Itinerary >>

Detailed Itinerary >>

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Arrive in Lima airport where you will be met by your Student Expeditions to Program Leader who will accompany you to your hotel.

This morning board a plane and head to Cusco – the indigenous capital of Peru. You will then travel through the Sacred Valley, passing by snowcapped peaks and rugged Andean terrain in the heart of the Inca empire.

Train to Machu Picchu

Enjoy one of the world’s most entertaining train rides. Pass by the stunning Urubamba River that flows through the towering Andean peaks. Move through the cloud forests and Aguas Calientes, the main gateway before Machu Picchu.

Explore Machu Picchu 

Today you will explore one of the seven wonders of the world. Learn the different theories about the purpose of the citadel’s construction, and discover how the structures were meticulously designed in relation to celestial patterns.

 

Upon arrival in Puerto Maldonado, you will be greeted by a local biologist who specializes in the Amazon rainforest. For workshops and seminars, guides with a background in biology and / or research experience are selected as instructors, who then conduct the workshops or lectures in the field of their expertise.

Research Activitity – Night Insects

Night is commonly known as “the insect hour“ because  they leave their diurnal hiding places in order to feed, reproduce, etc. In this activity, participants will collect species of Orthoptera (grasshoppers) Mantids (Praying Mantises) and Coleoptera (beetles), with the aid of headlamps, gloves, and magnifying glasses.  Light traps will also be used as a second sampling method to attract insects. Each insect will be thoroughly examined, so participants can learn the basics of their identification and their particular structures, survival strategies and  roles in the ecosystem.

 

Canopy Tower

A twenty minute walk from the lodge leads to the 30 meter canopy tower. From the top you can obtain spectacular views of the vast expanses of standing forest cut by the Tambopata River winding through the middle. Now and then toucans, parrots or macaws are seen flying against the horizon, or mixed species flocks land in the treetop next to you.

Introduction to tropical ecology lecture

Rather than a workshop, this is a comprehensive lecture describing the basics of rain forest structure and function. Topics include the structure of the forest (ground, understory, canopy), adaptations of plants (aerial palms, epiphytes, tabular roots), ecology of gaps (succession of fallen trees), interrelations between plants and animals (Strangler figs, tangarana ants,  spiders consumed by fungi), interrelations between animals (mixed troops of brown capuchin and squirrel monkeys).

Rate of Construction of Termite Nests

Ants and termites are the animals with the most biomass per square meter in the rainforest. Study the rate at which termite workers can degrade wood and build their nests by finding several nests, breaking off pieces of them, and then weighing and measuring the amount of matter that is reconstructed after a determined period of time.

Caiman Search

Venture out to the river’s edge at night, scanning the shores with headlamps and flashlights to catch the red gleams of reflection from caiman eyes.

 

Otter Monitoring

Paddle a canoe around an oxbow lake, filling out standard Frankfurt Zoological Society otter monitoring cards. If you see giant river otters duringyour outing you will register their location and direction on a map of the lake, and track and time their activity (swimming, fishing, resting, alarm call) You will also attempt to trace their white throat marks, which are distinct for each individual.

Ecology workshop- Introduction to the Amazon Basin

This ecology workshop will cover the physical characteristics of the Amazon Basin, the meteorological reasons for the existence of rainforests, the geological history of the Neotropics, and the meaning of Pleistoscene Refuges.

 

Transfer Boat – Tambopata River Research Lodge II

Four and half hours by boat from Tambopata River Research Lodge I, in the pristine heart of the reserve, lies the Tambopata River Research Lodge II.  One and half hours into your boat journey, as you cross the confluence with the Malinowski River, you will leave the final traces of human habitation behind.

Within the 700,000 hectare uninhabited nucleus of the reserve, sightings of capybara, caiman, geese, macaws and other large species will become more frequent.

Chuncho Clay Lick

Two hours from Tambopata River Research Lodge II, deep in the Tambopata National Reserve you will stop at the Chuncho claylick. After a brief walk (~5 minutes) you will have the chance to see dozens of large macaws feeding on the special sodium rich clays of the riverbank. The Chuncho claylick probably attracts more large macaws than any other claylick in the world and the sight of dozens of macaws taking flight is truly unforgettable. The details of your stopover will depend on the weather and the amount of macaw activity, as the birds don’t visit the clay lick when it is raining.

Orientation

Upon arrival, you will receive a welcome and briefing from the lodge manager, who will share important navigation and security tips with you.

Flora and Fauna workshop – Mammals

Mammal identification is taught mostly through the use of signals such as tracks, feces, trails and sounds. The few mammals you will spot will be identified to species level. You will also learn about the natural histories of the twenty or so most important large mammals.

Macaw Project Lectures

After dinner, scientists will provide an in-depth look at the biology of macaws, their feeding habits, theories regarding clay lick use, their breeding and feeding ecology, population fluctuations and the threats to their conservation.

Night walk

You will have the option of hiking out at night, when most of the mammals are active but rarely seen. Much easier to find are frogs with shapes and sounds as bizarre as their natural histories.

 

Macaw Population Census

The Macaw Project has been counting individuals present in trail transects and river transects in an effort to estimate macaw population variations with seasons. During your river voyage you will be given data registration cards to note species of macaws sited, number of individuals and location. This data will be plugged into the general Macaw Project data set.

Flora and Fauna workshop – Birds

Birdwatching can not be taught in a few days – but the basics of it can. Birdwatching outings will focus first on learning how to spot birds in the forest and the basics of their differentiation.

Then you will actually begin identifying birds of different habitats focusing on the easiest ones and the most common ones. Important points such as reproduction and feeding habits and mixed species flocks are also touched upon.

Ecology of Ponds

You will examine a small pond, which may disappear entirely during the dry season. To sample fish species, the traditional art of net throwing is taught and the collected units are measured, weighed and released at the place of capture. Routine water parameters such as pH, transparency, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and alkalinity are determined.

Amphibian Inventory

Nocturnal inventories are conducted using Visual Method Encounter Surveys. Transects are established in humid areas or near ponds. All amphibian occurrences are registered, annotating species, time, location, height from ground, substrate, size, weight, sex and presence of nuptial calluses (in case of the males) or pregnancy (in case of the females).

 

 

Seed dispersal and predation workshop

Seed dispersal and predation fulfill an important role in the process of natural regeneration and maintenance of vegetable populations. The theory is that the recruitment of plants and seeds near adult trees is limited by herbivore predators.  In this workshop you will count seeds and sapling in expanding concentric circles centered around an adult mother tree. You will verify with this simple experiment how predators concentrate their activities in zones with high density of seeds and how those seeds that are dispersed further from the mother tree have greater survival possibilities.

Flora and Fauna Research Activity – Botany

Based in a primary floodplain forest you will identify the essential families and go to species level with the most conspicuous. Flowers, fruits, and seeds are essential to your work in identification and you will learn their tactics for dispersion, germination, fertilization and growth.  Finally, you will also get into the uses of different plants.

Flora and Fauna Lecture – Insects and Spiders

Before identifying insects, insect anatomy is taught. Then, insects are identified to the order level. Important insect topics include their diversity and  the ecosystemic functions of key families and orders such as dung beetles, army ants, termites, etc.

You will retrace your river and road journey back to the airport in Puerto Maldonado, and the airport. A short walk from the airport is the Japipi Butterfly Farm and Exhibits, where farmed butterflies are displayed in a giant forest enclosure.

Fly to Lima and connect with your international flight.


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Andean Discovery is a flexible, reliable, and affordable travel company that organizes authentic cultural experiences. They organized two life-changing Ecuador trips for our high school students. They follow through on every detail, which makes for a safe and well-planned adventure. Our guide, Antonio, was extremely knowledgeable, fun, and related well with the kids. Andean Discovery is not one of the large cookie-cutter travel companies that provides generic experiences for high prices. It is big enough to have the needed resources and support, but small enough to customize your experience to match your needs and goals. They don't try to provide trips in every country. They are specialists and experts on Ecuador and Peru. 
David Meissner, Director of International Programs, Alexander Dawson School