Amazon Biodiversity Expeditions
in Southeastern Peru
December 13-22, 2020 & December 28-January 06, 2021
Join the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon in Peru as we explore a remote corner of the world's largest and most biodiverse rainforest and study some of its key groups of plants and animals. Our goals are to document species diversity in this poorly-known area and monitor plant and animal populations over time, and ultimately protect the region's incredible biological wealth in the face of rapid global change. You will help us to do it.
Dec. 13-22, 2020 or
Dec. 28-Jan. 06, 2021
Camping in tents,
Expedition Highlights >>
We will focus our work on three taxonomic groups. Expedition participants can assist in one, all, or any combination of groups that suits their interests. Scroll down to read about them.
Insect diversity and biology
The ASA has several ongoing projects related to insect diversity and biology in southeastern Peru, and our expeditions further the goals of these long-term projects. In particular, we focus on the order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths. We will document the butterfly and moth species present in the study area, collecting butterflies by day using hand nets and baited traps placed in the rainforest canopy, and sampling moths at night using a portable LED light setup. We will also search for butterfly and moth caterpillars and rear them to adulthood in our field laboratory, to document species' host plants. You can read more about our work with Lepidoptera in Peru and our research progress and publications here.
In addition to Lepidoptera, we will also sample insects in other groups ranging from beetles to ants to true bugs and Orthoptera (crickets and grasshoppers), among others, using a variety of field sampling techniques across a range of Amazonian ecosystems found at the study site. The diversity of insects in our region is staggering, so we will have our work cut out for us!
Reptiles and amphibians
Surveying reptiles and amphibians is relatively straightforward but, due to the cryptic nature of many species, long hours are required to build a site inventory. Thus, we will spend significant time in the rainforest searching for these animals, especially at night, when they tend to be most active. Tropical reptile and amphibian species are facing serious threats, including habitat loss and declining populations due to illegal trade and disease (e.g., Chytridiomycosis). Data gathered during the expedition will provide important baseline information to monitor changes in populations over time as these threats grow. Although the study site has not been explored, target species which we hope to find include green anaconda and several other species of boas, bushmaster, other viper species, caiman, turtles, and, of course, a large diversity of frogs and other amphibians.
We will survey these animals using two methods. First, we will document primate diversity and abundance by patrolling trails and transects within the study area. Target species include howler monkeys, two species of capuchins, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and night monkeys, among others. Second, we will deploy camera traps at strategic locations to document more elusive species such as jaguar, puma, giant anteater, short-eared dog, giant armadillo, ocelot, and white-lipped peccary. We expect all of these species and many more occur within the study area, but without any sampling their presence remains to be confirmed. We will be the first biologists to do so, establishing a baseline inventory of the site from which changes in populations over time can be monitored.
About the study area
Sunrise over the rainforest at the study site
Aerial view of a large 'aguajal', or palm wetland, near the study site
The big broccolis are Brazil nut trees, one of the dominant canopy species in our area
Sunrise over the rainforest at the study site
Peru's Madre de Dios region, located in the country's extreme southeastern corner, is home to some of the largest expanses of pristine rainforest remaining anywhere in the Amazon. Roughly half of the region's forests are protected for the conservation of biodiversity and other natural resources, including Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), which are harvested sustainably across more than one million hectares of natural rainforest in Madre de Dios. We will travel to the end of a road that provides access to a large area set aside for Brazil nut extraction, where other activities that are devastating much of the rest of the Amazon—logging, gold mining, and cattle ranching, to name a few—are not permitted. As primary, undisturbed rainforests become ever more scarce throughout Amazonia, a better understanding of their biodiversity and how intact plant and animal communities function is of increasing importance. If we know how a rainforest ought to look, for instance, as well as what species it ought to contain and in what numbers, we will be better able to restore degraded areas to their ideal state. The data that we will gather during our expeditions, from primary rainforests that have been almost untouched by humans, will help us to better protect species and conserve biodiversity as the threats posed by human activity grow throughout the Amazon.
The study site is covered mostly in upland, 'terra firme' rainforest where the dominant emergent trees include Brazil nut, ironwood (Dipteryx micrantha), and ana caspi (Apuleia leiocarpa), among many other species. These emergents tower over the rainforest canopy and are found here in great numbers, whereas they are declining in most other areas due to illegal and unsustainable logging and conversion of rainforest to agriculture. There is also an 'aguajal' within easy access, which is a unique Amazonian wetland ecosystem that is dominated by the palm tree Mauritia flexuosa, known locally as 'aguaje'. These palms form dense stands that are an important resource for nesting blue-and-yellow macaws, a variety of large mammals including howler monkeys, and a large yet unknown diversity of terrestrial and aquatic insects, other invertebrates, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. We will have the opportunity to explore these diverse Amazonian ecosystems by foot and by water, allowing us to sample an incredible number and variety of unique plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
Geoff Gallice, Ph.D.
President of the Board, ASA
Geoff has been studying Amazonian butterfly ecology, natural history, and conservation for more than the past 10 years. He has a particular interest in understanding what makes some species common and others more rare, and he also heads a long-term project to document all of the butterfly and moth species, as well as their host plants, in southeastern Peru. Geoff has taught field courses, led expeditions, and conducted biological research throughout the world's tropics, including Peru and Ecuador, Central America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Day 1. The team meets in Puerto Maldonado, the bustling capital and economic hub of the Madre de Dios region. In Puerto Maldonado we'll have the chance to pick up last minute supplies before heading to our base camp, Finca Las Piedras. Overnight at Finca Las Piedras.
Day 2. Finca Las Piedras is the ASA's home base in Madre de Dios, and it is here that we'll get our first introduction to the rainforest and the techniques used to study biodiversity in the Amazon. We'll also use this time to make final preparations for the next day's expedition further into the jungle. Overnight at Finca Las Piedras.
Day 3. From Finca Las Piedras we'll travel to the end of a rough road used to take Brazil nuts out of the rainforest. This will be our base camp, miles from the nearest town, shop, or house, from where we will explore the rainforest, its different ecosystems and myriad plants and animals. We'll set up our tents, get settled into the remote jungle, and get to work! Overnight in our tents at the remote expedition site.
Days 4-8. The field work continues. Since we'll be studying different groups of animals during both day and night, we will organize our time so that everything gets done and everyone is contributing to the project or projects they have the greatest interest in. We'll be hunting for butterflies and scanning the canopy for monkeys in the day, walking the rainforest at night to search for reptiles and amphibians, and spending every minute possible searching for too many things than can be listed here. Nights spent in tents at the remote expedition site.
Day 9. With our work finished, we’ll retrace our steps back to Finca Las Piedras to clean off our gear, sort through our specimens, enter data, and organize photos and videos. Tonight we will have a farewell dinner as a group and reflect on our experience in the rainforest. Overnight at Finca Las Piedras.
Day 10. With the expedition concluded we will make sure each participant makes it to the airport for their flight home or onward travel.
The expedition fee covers all project-related local transportation and all accommodations, including transfer to and from the airport (or bus terminal) in Puerto Maldonado, all other transportation to and from the expedition site, all lodging (lodging at Finca Las Piedras, as well as a basic campsite at the expedition location), and all food (3 meals per day). All field equipment related to biodiversity surveys (insect traps and nets, specimen storage equipment, GPS units, etc.) will also be provided.
What's Not Included
The fee does not include meals in Puerto Maldonado (if arriving early), international or domestic airfare (i.e., from your home country to Lima, and then on to Puerto Maldonado), or personal expenses in Peru (e.g., souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, etc.). Personal gear and equipment, including tents or other camping gear, binoculars, etc., are not provided. Medical expenses, including travel/medical insurance that covers you in Peru (required), as well as any costs associated with medical care and/or evacuation in Peru, are also not covered by the Expedition Fee.
The first two nights of the expedition, as well as the last, will be spent at Finca Las Piedras, the ASA's rustic yet comfortable home base in the Peruvian Amazon that has shared rooms, shared composting toilets and showers, a screened dining hall, and WiFi. The remaining nights will be spent camping at a remote site with very basic facilities. Expedition participants should each plan to bring a tent (or share with another participant), a sleeping pad, and a light sleeping bag. Meals will be cooked for us at the campsite and we will eat under the rainforest canopy and a brilliant jungle night sky.
How to Apply
Joining the expedition team is easy! Just follow the following four easy steps:
1. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements (See FAQs).
2. Decide which session you'd like to participate in and fill out the form below. Once we receive it we'll send you further instructions.
4. Return all follow-up documentation and pay your full balance by up to two weeks before the start of your expedition.
Important Information Regarding Covid-19
The health and safety of participants in our programs is of extreme importance to us. We have adopted a number of measures to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus at our facilities and on all of our programs that are based on guidelines provided by Peruvian and international health organizations, including the Peruvian Ministry of Health, the WHO, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These measures include social distancing and sanitation protocols, among others, and will be in place during all expeditions.
We also understand that the rapidly evolving situation makes planning difficult, especially in terms of travel arrangements. To accommodate this uncertainty we have temporarily relaxed our normal requirements for payments and registration deadlines. Until further notice participants will be able to pay the full balance of their program by up to two weeks before its start date. We have temporarily waived the normally-required application fee. Please read our Terms and Conditions for further details.
Still have questions? Send us a message: