The Gallito de las Rocas conservation area is located in the heart of the most biodiverse region of the planet, where the towering Andes mountains meet the sprawling Amazon basin in Southeastern Peru, near Peru's world-famous Manu National Park. However, despite the region's unmatched biological wealth, we still do not know exactly how many species can be found here. And further, we know almost nothing at all about the biology of most species—for example, how abundant are they? Which species are declining, or being driven to extinction because of climate change? At present we are unable to answer these questions, yet this knowledge is increasingly important as people drive unprecedented change in the rainforest. The goal of this expedition is to fill in major information gaps at Gallito de las Rocas, allowing us to create a long-term plan to manage and protect the area's unmatched biodiversity.
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, mammals, 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 four.
Expedition participants will help with all aspects of surveys and will gain hands-on experience in biodiversity sampling design and setup, as well as the collection and management of biological field data, all in one of the most beautiful and biodiverse places on earth.
Through your participation we hope to gain not only 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.
At a glance...
July 1-14, 2019
June 15, 2019
'Gallito de las Rocas' conservation area
Geoff Gallice, Ph.D.
Previous expedition reports
Research Objectives & Methods
(Butterflies & moths)
The Lepidoptera team will focus its surveys on two groups: butterflies that are active in the day and moths that are active mostly at night. For butterflies, the team will employ a variety of methods including baited traps, strategically-placed baits of other types such as rotting fruit and spit wads (for skippers), and hand nets for species that don’t typically visit bait. Moths will be sampled at night using an LED light setup that is designed
specifically to attract insects. This will not only draw in an impressive number and variety of moths but also an incredible diversity of other invertebrates.
All knowledge gained by the Lepidoptera team at Gallito de las Rocas will contribute to ongoing efforts to document regional butterfly and moth species diversity and natural history. With more than 1,300 butterfly species known from just a single site in Manu National Park (essentially the only site in Manu that has been well-studied), the team certainly has its work cut out for itself!
The bird team’s main goal is to document patterns in avian species richness and abundance along a 500-meter elevational gradient in the Gallito de las Rocas conservation area. This is done in three ways: first, the team will conduct point-count and walking-transect surveys to look and listen for birds. Second, since many rainforest species are cryptic and difficult to detect with standard aural-visual surveys, the team will also deploy mist-nets to
capture and band birds, further allowing us to track individuals over time and learn more about the relationships between life history, survival, and local movements. And finally, ARUs—autonomous recording units—will be deployed in the forest to record bird calls that can be identified and analyzed later. ARUs are advantageous because they can detect birds, including cryptic species, over long periods of time, greatly increasing our effective sampling effort.
Very little is known about the distribution and abundance of birds in the Manu region—and almost nothing regarding the biology of most species—so we are well-poised to make important discoveries regarding bird biology at Gallito de las Rocas during this expedition, and also as the study continues into future years.
With over 1100 species registered in Manu National Park, the team can expect to have their surveying and identification skills put to the test, yet they will be rewarded by some of the best birding anywhere in the world.
In addition to traditional aural-visual surveys for species such as monkeys, the mammal team will employ two other techniques. First, camera traps will be deployed throughout the forest, which will allow us to document larger yet cryptic species such as cats (jaguar, puma, ocelot, etc.), Andean bear, tapir, peccaries, and many others. Additionally, given that most tropical mammals typically are bats, these animals will be surveyed at
night using acoustic monitors to listen in on ultrasonic bat calls and mist nets, including in the forest canopy, to catch and release bats. Thus, the mammal team will work hard, day and night, to gather distributional records but will be rewarded with exciting discoveries of a diversity of both Andean and lowland Amazonian species.
Mammals are vital components of rainforest ecosystems, for instance as one of the most important of the forest's seed dispersers. Documenting the composition of the mammal community at Gallito de las Rocas, therefore, is an important first step in understanding the dynamics of the rainforest and the role these animals have in the processes that keep it healthy and high in biodiversity.
The bulk of the mammal team's activities will concern bats, including capturing them with mist nets for the purpose of identification. In order to handle bats participants are required to show proof of a pre-exposure rabies vaccine or titre administered within 4 years of the expedition start date. Non-vaccinated participants may help in all other aspects of the mammal team's activities, except for bat handling.
(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 herpetofauna of Gallito de las Rocas 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, including habitat loss and declining populations due to illegal trade and disease. In particular, the fungal pathogen Chytridiomycosis has taken a major toll on amphibian populations worldwide, including in Peru, with many species in critical decline or even extinct as a result of the disease. Unfortunately, during our first expedition to Gallito de las Rocas in 2018 we detected the chytrid fungus in several amphibian species. Data gathered by the herp team, therefore, will be useful in understanding both the impacts of this and other threats over time, as well as how we can protect as many of these unique 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, mammals, 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 1-14, 2019
The expedition starts and ends in the city of Cusco, Peru. Participants should arrive in Cusco on or before July 1 (any flight), and depart on or after July 14 (any flight). We will meet team members at the Cusco airport (CUZ) on the first day of the expedition, 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 15, 2019
Gallito de las Rocas is a 10,000 ha (~25,000 acre) privately-managed conservation area in Peru's Cusco Department, near Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve and right where the towering Andes Mountains meet the sprawling Amazon basin. The concession is mountainous and covered mostly in dense primary rainforest that is drained by many small streams and larger rivers. Ranging from approximately 800-2,000 masl (~2,600-6,500 ft) the area's flora and fauna is a unique mix of Andean and lowland Amazon species—here, Andean spectacled bears and Amazonian jaguars roam the same forest, along with a dizzying variety of other lifeforms both large and small.
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
Base camp at 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.
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), meals in 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.
Please note that an application fee of $150 is due after registering for the Manu Biodiversity Expedition, which reserves your spot on the expedition and is non-refundable. Although we anticipate having a full expedition, teams must have a minimum of 3 participants each; in the event that a team does not reach 3 members participants will be provided the option of joining another team(s); otherwise, any fees paid to ASA will be reimbursed to the participant, including the $150 application fee. Confirmation of the expedition teams will be provided just after the application deadline (May 31, 2019). Please read our Cancellation Policy, as well as our Terms and Conditions before making a payment. You will be given payment options upon completion of the online application form.
Expedition team leaders:
Geoff Gallice, Ph.D.
Expedition & Lepidoptera team leader
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
Julian fell in love with tropical biodiversity in 2013 when he spent an undergraduate semester banding birds in Manu National Park. He has continued to study birds from the cloud forests of Colombia to the lowland jungles of Peru, and has worked with migratory birds back home in British Columbia, Canada. Julian is currently conducting his graduate research on life history evolution of freshwater fishes in British Columbia and continues to collaborate on bird projects in his free time. In between field seasons in South America and northern British Columbia, Julian works as a bird bander in Vancouver, BC where he helps aspiring biologists develop the skills required to conduct research on wild birds. Bird banding is a wonderful gateway into tropical ecology and Julian is eager to share his excitement for birds and all things tropical!
Bird team leader
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.
Mammal team leader
Patrick has worked with mammals across North America and in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. He has a particular fondness for bats, which reach global species richness extremes in the Neotropics. Patrick leads research on the population effects of an invasive fungal disease on bates in British Columbia, on ecosystem services provided by bats in agricultural lands, and on the effect of climate-mediated wildfire on large mamals in protected areas. He is passionate about biodiversity, collaboration, and creative approaches to conservation challenges.
Anton Sorokin, M.Sc.
Herp team leader
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.
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:
You will receive a message with instructions on how to make your payment and secure your spot.