On the Expedition
Survey the astounding biodiversity of the rainforest and canopies of the Ecuadorian Andes for tropical birds and a variety of plant species, and help set camera traps for rare shots of spectacled bears, puma, ocelots and other animals.
The Santa Lucia Reserve is home to tremendous biodiversity, protecting over 390 species of tropical birds, thousands of plant species and an estimated 45 species of mammals. In this stunning cloud forest, you'll hike through mountainous terrain toward a different research assignment each day.
You’ll help survey key bird and large mammal species (studying the latter primarily through camera trapping) and their associated vegetation types to determine abundance and distribution. This information will provide reserve managers with accurate scientific data to create habitat and species action plans in the hope of connecting with and extending the habitat corridor which stretches from Ecuador into Colombia and provides larger species, in particular, with extended territories.
You’ll help to set up camera traps to record the presence of mammals; you’ll conduct daily bird surveys; you’ll explore the unique invertebrate and amphibian communities that make their home in the bromeliads of the cloud forest; and you will survey tree species, size, and density to determine the carbon storage of the reserve. You'll also help identify and photograph tracks around the traps. You'll also gather data on the habitat by measuring and counting trees, determining canopy cover, and identifying species of orchids and other plant life. In your recreational time, you can enjoy pick-up games of soccer or volleyball, take part in fiestas and dances in nearby towns, or hike to gorgeous waterfalls.
Meals and Accommodations
Volunteers stay in the Santa Lucia Lodge, which offers shared rooms, both conventional and compost toilets, and hot showers with spectacular views of the forest! In the evenings, the lodge is lit by generator. Lodge staff prepare traditional Ecuadorian and international meals, using organic produce from the garden. Volunteers are welcome to lend a hand in the garden and kitchen.
About the Research Area
The Santa Lucia Reserve, declared a protected forest in 1988, covers an area of 713 hectares of cloudforest and spans an altitudinal range from 1400 to 2600 m. The base station at 1900m has a pleasant daily temperature in the mid to upper 20s (Celsius), although afternoons and evenings can be cool and chilly. Mammalian species registered at Santa Lucia include four species of cat (jaguarundi, ocelot, Andean cat, and puma), coatimundis and spectacled bear. Among the tropical birds that make their home in the reserve are hummingbirds, tanagers, Red-billed parrots, Toucan barbets, Wattled guans and many, many more. Native plants include an amazing variety of orchids, bromeliads and other epiphytes.