Join us as we explore
'Gallito de las Rocas'
Manu Biodiversity Expedition 2018
This expedition is supported by the ASA and our partner Asociación para la Conservación del Valle de Kosñipata (APCONK), a Peruvian non-profit dedicated to conservation in and around the world-famous Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru. The purpose of the expedition is to explore and survey the biodiversity of ‘Gallito de las Rocas’ (Cock-of-the-Rock), a newly-established conservation area located where the Andes mountains meet lowland Amazonia. Although Manu is thought to be the most biodiverse place on earth, much of the region remains completely unexplored biologically, and our goal is to create baseline species inventories from which a conservation management plan can be established for the area.
Participation in this expedition is open to all those interested in tropical biodiversity and field biology. Our focal groups will include Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), birds, and herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians). Surveys will be directed by team leaders who are an experts in the field, and each team will focus on surveys of its respective taxonomic group using both traditional and cutting edge surveying tools and techniques. Participants may commit to a single team or assist any combination of the three.
We are opening this expedition to all those with an interest in tropical biodiversity and field biology, not only to provide the muscle needed for survey work in our challenging conditions, but also to spread awareness of the conservation challenges facing the Manu region and train the next generation of tropical biologists and conservationists. Expedition participants will help with all aspects of surveys, including sampling design and setup, as well as the collection and management of specimens and biological field data.
At a glance...
Dates: July 30 - August 13, 2018
Application deadline: June 30, 2018
Meeting location: Cusco, Peru
Expedition leader: Geoff Gallice, Ph.D.
Research Objectives & Methodologies
Lepidoptera (Butterflies & Moths)
Butterfly and moth species will be sampled using a variety of techniques. For butterflies, baited traps will be deployed in a variety of local microhabitats, and species that do not visit baits will be collected using hand nets. Moths will be sampled at night using a metal halide light setup. Manu is thought to contain a world record number of butterfly and moth species, and this expedition will contribute to ongoing efforts to quantify the reserve’s biodiversity. Specimens collected will also contribute to important collections in Peru and the USA, permitting the further study of patterns in Lepidoptera diversity, ecology, evolution, and conservation biology.
Manu National Park and its surroundings hold a world record for butterfly diversity—Peruvian entomologists have catalogued as many as 1,300 species from one site in the Park’s Amazonian lowlands. At Gallito de las Rocas we might to expect to find this many species or more, given the overlap between Andean and lowland Amazonian habitats that occurs here.
This study will document patterns of avian species richness and abundance along a 500-elevational gradient in Gallito de las Rocas. Species occurrence will be recorded using a combination of point-count and walking-transect surveys to look and listen for birds. Many of the birds are cryptic and difficult to detect with standard aural-visual surveys, so mist-nets will also be deployed to capture and band birds. Banded birds have the added benefit of providing researchers with a means to track individuals over time. Data collected from studies of banded birds helps shed light on the relationships between life history, survival, and local movements; information that is generally lacking for most Neotropical birds. With over 1100 species registered from Manu National Park, the team can expect to have their surveying and identification skills put to the test, and be rewarded by some of the best birding anywhere in the world.
Herpetofauna (Reptiles & 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, the herp team will spend significant time in the jungle searching for frogs and snakes, especially at night, when these animals tend to be most active. But, no fear, this effort will be greatly rewarded with a unique mix of both Andean and Amazonian species. The conservation area’s herpetofauna has not been extensively assessed, so we are sure to have some exciting finds and new records!
Tropical reptile and amphibian species are facing serious threats: habitat loss, and declining populations due to the amphibian fungal pathogen Chytridiomycosis. Therefore, we consider this survey to be of particular urgency. Data gathered by the herp team will be useful in understanding both the impacts of these threats and how we can protect as many of these species as possible.
Skills & knowledge gained by participants
Methods used in the survey of tropical biodiversity, including sampling, collection, and/or field observation skills used to study Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), birds, and herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians)
Methods for the collection and management of biological data in the field
Skills used to facilitate field studies in the tropics, including the use of compass and GPS to navigate off trail, the collection and analysis of spatial data, the collection and proper field curation of biological samples
Build a network of like-minded peers and professionals in tropical field biology
Natural history and identification of plant and animal species in the Peruvian Andes-Amazon region
Field photography techniques used to document biodiversity in the tropics, and to conduct outreach across a variety of social media and other platforms
Knowledge of the major conservation challenges facing biodiversity and communities in the Andes-Amazon region of Peru
Dates: July 30 - August 13, 2018
The expedition starts and ends in the city of Cusco, Peru. Participants should arrive in Cusco on or before July 30 (any flight), and depart on or after August 13 (any flight). We will meet team members at the Cusco airport (CUZ), and also provide return transportation for the departing flight. While we do not organize flights directly, our partner STA Travel can help you make travel plans from your home country to Cusco on a recommended flight.
Application & payment deadline: June 30, 2018
The expedition will take place in the Cusco Department, in southeastern Peru, where the towering Andes mountains meet the sprawling Amazon basin. After meeting in the city of Cusco (capital of the department of Cusco) we will work our way overland down to the Andean foothills at Pillcopata, and then by foot deep into the jungle of the Gallito de las Rocas concession. After concluding field work in Gallito de las Rocas the team will return to Cusco, where the expedition will conclude.
Click here for more about Gallito de las Rocas
The first night of the expedition will be spent at a mid-range hotel in Cusco. The following night will be spent at Hotel Gallito de las Rocas, the only mid-range accommodation in Pillcopata. Rooms at both hotels will be shared, and are basic with shared bathrooms. Meals during stays at hotels will be taken as a group either in the hotel or a nearby restaurant.
During the survey period in the Gallito de las Rocas concession we will be camping at a rustic site with very basic facilities at the edge of a river. Expedition members should each plan to bring a tent (or share with another team member), a sleeping pad, and a light sleeping bag. We will cook and have our meals at the campsite, under the rain forest canopy and a brilliant jungle night sky.
Please see the Full Expedition Description for a complete packing list.
Expedition & team leaders:
Expedition & Lepidoptera team leader:
Geoff Gallice, Ph.D., Entomology (University of Florida, 2015).
Geoff is a research associate in Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida. The museum is home to the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, and houses one of the largest collections of butterflies and moths in the world. Geoff’s current research, which relies heavily on the extensive McGuire Center collections, aims to understand patterns in the ecology, evolution, and threat status of Neotropical butterflies, with a particular focus on the clearwing butterflies (Nymphalidae: Ithomiini). He is also active in applied conservation, leading the research-focused non-profit organization Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon based in southeastern Peru and collaborating with researchers at several universities in Peru, the USA, and Europe. His applied conservation work aims to understand the negative environmental effects of road expansion and other infrastructure development in the Peruvian Amazon.
Bird team leader:
Micah Scholer, Ph.D. Candidate (University of British Columbia)
For his Ph.D. Micah is studying the life history characteristics of South American birds. He has worked for over four years along the Manu Road from the upper extent of the cloud forest to humid lowland jungle as part of a long-term bird banding project investigating avian survival rates and life span. Micah is particularly interested in how patterns of molt and plumage can be used to place birds into age classes, which can help to refine models of demographic processes. In addition, he has had a long-standing passion for raptor biology and studied interactions between cavity nesting owls and woodpeckers in the Rocky Mountains for his masters thesis. He has since launched a similar project in Peru aimed at understanding how facultative relationships between woodpeckers and a variety of cavity-nesting species, including owls, influence the bird community composition.
Bird team leader:
Gloria Jilahuanco (APCONK)
Gloria is from Pillcopata, Peru, from where she manages the Gallito de las Rocas concession that she and her family founded several years ago. Gloria has an academic background in ecotourism and a keen interest in birds, and is currently working to promote bird-focused tourism in and around Pillcopata, including in the concession. In addition to her work at Gallito, Gloria also travels extensively throughout Peru and neighboring Ecuador, where she participates in and runs birding expeditions, and co-leads academic field courses spanning tropical biology and conservation.
Herp team leader:
Anton Sorokin, Graduate student (East Carolina University)
Anton has worked with poison frogs in the Ranitomeya genus both in the field in Peru and in the lab. His research delves into the evolution of behavior in poison frogs. Specifically, he is investigating how they navigate and respond to changes within their territories, as well as their spatial memory as they move through their dynamic home ranges. Anton has extensive field experience in the tropics and is especially passionate about the Neotropics. Besides research, Anton is very involved with nature photography and has contributed to various photography initiatives, magazines, and books.
The expedition fee covers all project-related local transportation and all accommodations, including transfer to and from the airport (or bus terminal) in Cusco, all other transportation to and from the field site, all lodging (hotels in Cusco and Pillcopata, as well as a basic campsite that will be set up and maintained by field staff), and all food (3 meals per day, plus coffee, tea, and snacks, except meals in Cusco). All field equipment related to biodiversity surveys (insect traps and nets, specimen storage equipment, GPS units, mist nets, snake hooks, etc.) will also be provided.
What’s not included?
The fee does not include international or domestic airfare (i.e., from your home country to Lima, and then on to Cusco), or personal expenses in Peru (e.g., souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, etc.). Personal gear and equipment, including binoculars, are not provided. See the expedition packing list for items to bring with you.
At least 18 years old at time of expedition (unless accompanied by a parent or guardian)
Proof of medical and travel insurance
Excellent physical condition
Valid passport or ability to travel to/within Peru. Citizens from most countries (including the USA and Canada) receive a visa at the international airport in Lima, usually for 90 days but check this with the immigration official that admits you. Passport must be valid at least 6 months from the end of the expedition. Please note that immigration officials may request proof of departing flight from Peru before granting entry to foreign citizens.
No formal training or education is required; we invite people from all background to assist our biodiversity surveys. However, a healthy curiosity for tropical nature, a positive attitude in the face of challenging field conditions, and a willingness to work with people from a variety of backgrounds to achieve a common goal are essential.
How to apply
Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements (see previous section))
When you’re ready to apply, click here to fill out the form, or visit the following link:
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