As a volunteer (1-3 weeks) or intern (1 month or more), you will assist our team based in the Quellomayo area of the Vilcanota River valley, located in the Cusco region a little north of Machu picchu, with a broad mix of research activities relating to birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants. You will need to be fit and energetic to make the most of assisting this team, as the terrain is hilly and even mountainous in places, requiring the team to climb up and down steep slopes and through cold mountain streams as they sample wildlife using transects, plots, mist-net stations and so forth, at altitudes ranging from 1,300 to 3,000 metres above sea level.
Fauna Forever’s cloud forest and Andes wildlife team is focused on establishing baselines of data using standard field techniques to understand the diversity and abundance of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants in a variety of habitat types, such as humid cloud forest, agriculture and montane forest mosaics, riverine forest, secondary forest, and in Polylepis-dominated forest patches at the very edge of high Andean Puna grasslands. Monitoring of environmental and human-related factors required to help explain the patterns in wildlife populations within and between habitat types is also a basic objective. These factors include habitat characteristics, altitude, climate, human activities (with an emphasis on land-use and threats such as hunting and trapping), and the status of keystone predators, prey, and parasites for those species of highest conservation priority. The team is active in the field all year, though high rainfall in February sometimes reduces the number of active field days per month.
This is the team with the most diverse set of field methods under its remit, due to the number of focal taxonomic groups and habitat types that require study, even though the total number of species per group may be smaller than at lower elevations. Field assistants will be involved in undertaking point count, line transect, plot or quadrat, pit fall trap, and camera trap methods, frequently two or three per day. This team will specifically appeal to those people wanting to learn a broad range of protocols for studying wildlife diversity and population dynamics.
Wildlife data at Quellomayo has been collected since 2015, at four main stations ranging from 1300 to 3000 metres above sea level.
A typical day on this team in the Quellomayo area starts at 5:30 am, when bird research activities commence – following a healthy if quickly-eaten breakfast of fruit salad, eggs, and coffee (all organic and locally produced, of course). During such bird research mornings, either 9 mist nets stations or 12 point count stations are sampled during a 3 hour period. In the case of mist netting, once the nets have been opened between 05:30 and 06:00 am, team members will check each net every 30 minutes or so. On encountering a captured bird, the individual is carefully extracted, placed into a canvas bag, notes taken on which net it was in, and then taken to the processing table set up nearby. Training is provided to those learning how to safely extract and process birds. At the table, the bird is carefully processed, which requires correct identification, placing a numbered aluminium band or ring on its leg; taking weight, tarsus, wing, and bill measurements; assessing physical characteristics to help determine its sex, if it is breeding, its age, including plumage and molt patterns for which photographs of the bird may also be taken; and finally assessing the health of the bird, including counting ecto-parasite loads. Once all this is completed, the bird is taken back to an area close to where it was captured and carefully released. Some birds like hummingbirds do not receive the full process, as they are more sensitive to being handled and get stressed quickly. During mornings designated for point count surveys, the team will visit each of the designated stations for that day for a period of 10 minutes, and will record all the species that can be detected by sight and sound, including an estimate of radial distance (to the nearest metre) to all perched species. On returning to base after almost 4 hours of work, the data collected is carefully typed into the database on the laptop. Late morning, is dedicated to setting up and monitoring pit-fall traps, used to sample amphibians and reptiles, and if it’s sunny then a line transect survey or two may be undertaken, to sample the population of lizards that will be out basking in the sun. After lunch, and the obligatory rest to recover from the morning’s exertions, the afternoon is a combination of setting up and monitoring camera traps and footprint traps (used to gauge terrestrial mammal populations), counting and measuring trees in 10 by 50 m plots (as part of our habitat characterization studies), identifying, counting and photographing butterflies and dung-beetles in baited live traps established days before, and making courtesy calls at the homes of local people on whose properties we undertake this research. In the evening after dinner, there can be time to watch documentaries, films, and to participate in general discussions about conservation and community development in Peru (which are usually led by our coordinator team). Week days are full of activities like those described above, with the weekends set aside for less arduous activities, like mending mist nets and other equipment, catching up with data input tasks, editing photos, writing blogs and field reports, responding to emails (there is a slow internet connection at the Yellow River Homestay which doubles as our Quellomayo base camp), and getting involved with local community activities such as harvesting (and planting) coffee, cacao, pineapples and bananas; digging drainage ditches; clearing paths; litter picking; and on occasions giving talks at community gatherings and taking small groups of school children out for extra-curricular learning and play activities (with an emphasis on environmental education). For recent arrivals on the project, there will also be various theoretical and practical training sessions to get people up to speed on the sample methods we use and why.
1 Week (07 Days 06 Nights) - US$930
2 Weeks (14 Days 13 Nights) - US$1,450
3 Weeks (21 Days 20 Nights) - US$1,750
1 Month (30 Days 29 Nights) - US$2,345
2 Months (60 Days 59 Nights) - US$3,955
3 Months (90 Days 89 Nights) - US$5,130
4 Months (120 Days 119 Nights) - US$6,120
5 Months (150 Days 149 Nights) - US$7,500
More than 5 months - US$50 per day
These costs (which we treat as a donation to the non-profit organisation) include airport transfers (on arrival and departure); accommodation (in shared rooms); main meals (including vegetarian options); clean drinking water (always); local road and river transport to/from field sites (scheduled dates only); sheets, pillow case, and mosquito nets; access to our office wifi (where available); access to our library and equipment pool (e.g. GPS); orientation, field training and supervision from our staff; participation certificate and future reference letters (as required).
They do not include any flights; travel/health insurance (which is compulsory for all participants); taxis in Puerto Maldonado or Cusco (other than those used for scheduled trips to restaurants for meals); between meal snacks (cookies, sweets, etc.); and bottled beverages (Coca cola, Sprite, Fanta, etc.).
Discounts are possible for groups of 4 people or more, that have the same start
and end dates. Please contact us if this is your case.
In 2017 and 2018, applicants for volunteer and intern positions will be free to choose the start and end dates that are most convenient for them, although we'd prefer start dates to coincide with a week day (Mon-Fri) if at all possible. On applying, please use the calendar to select these dates.
The cost breakdown detailed below is based on an average stay of 6 weeks.
Local transport (cars, boats) - 19%
Accommodation in the city - 4%
Accommodation in the field - 24%
Meals in the city - 3%
Meals in the field - 14%
Equipment and maintenance - 8%
Communication - 4%
Training, Supervision and Administration - 18%
Other (health, third party services, donations) - 6%
Profits - 0%
Please consider bringing one or more of these guide books and species plates:
1. Birds of Machu Picchu and the Cusco Region, Peru (Lynks Edicions) by Barry Walker
2. Rapid Field Guides - Anfibios Acjanaco, Wayqecha y Pillahuata, Cusco, Peru (The Field Museum) by Alessandro Catenazzi
3. Flowers of Machu picchu (Paperback) by Gino Cassinelli Del Sante & Daniel Huaman Chang
4. Rapid Field Guides - Conspicuous Plants of Machu picchu, Peru (The Field Museum) by Norma Salinas
It is a short skip-and-a-jump from our Quellomayo project area to Machu picchu, the must-see Inca archaeological site and now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Our Cusco Office staff will organise an excellent two- or three-day round-trip from Quellomayo for you and any other project colleagues wishing to make the most of the opportunity, including entry tickets and excellent rates at one or more of the many hotels in Aguas Calientes that we regularly use, and of course our friendly English-speaking tour guides. Aguas Calientes is the small town at the foot of the citadel from which everyone accesses the ruins via buses that run all day from 6 am to 6 pm. All-inclusive prices can be as low US$350 per person for a two-day one-night guided excursion (to and from Quellomayo), though please contact us for an up-to-date quote, as prices can change quickly depending on the season and availability.