On the Expedition
Help scientists preserve Brazilian biodiversity by studying how jaguar, puma, and other key species move across the agricultural landscape around Emas National Park.
The Araguaia River corridor is a natural connection between the highly fragmented and threatened cerrado and the vast wilderness of the Amazonian rainforest, a stronghold for many species. At the headwaters of the river lies Emas National Park, where species such as the jaguar, puma, maned-wolf, tapir, and giant anteater roam. You’re needed to help find out how these species are using the land around the Park. This is especially important now, as the rapid expansion of sugar cane in the area for biofuel production may work as a barrier for these animals as they move through the corridor.
You’ll record and map the occurrence of the indicator species, and analyze these data to understand which factors influence the presence of these species in this region. You’ll help install camera traps around the sugar cane plantations to record the species that use these areas. (The odds that you’ll see a jaguar in person are very, very slim.) In addition, we will use specially trained scat-detector dogs to seek out feces of the species of interest.
If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to help equip individual animals with radio transmitters to monitor their movements and learn about their spatial demands and habitat use – however animal handling such as this occurs rarely, and cannot be guaranteed during your expedition.
Volunteers who enjoy working directly with dogs will have plenty of opportunities to help with the care of the trained dogs used by the project. (Volunteers who prefer not to work directly with dogs will be able to perform other tasks, but all volunteers should be comfortable around dogs.)
Meals and Accommodations
You’ll be housed at a range of possible field sites as you move along the river. At Emas National Park, accommodations are provided in a comfortable house, bordering the park. The house has hot showers, flush toilets, electricity, a full kitchen, and laundry. In Baliza, Barra do Garças, Luiz Alves, and Aruanã, towns along the Araguaia River, you’ll stay at small local hotels, all with electricity and hot water. Some of these small towns might also provide internet access, small shops, etc.
When staying at Emas National Park, meals will be prepared by a local cook in the well equipped kitchen at the field station. When staying in the small towns along the river, you’ll take your meals in the hotels. Most basic food items will be available, and there will be a large variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, though it may be difficult to accommodate absolutely all special dietary requirements, depending on area supplies. A typical Brazilian meal might consist of rice and/or beans, with perhaps beef, chicken, or fish. In general, your lunches will be packed field lunches consisting of sandwiches, pastries, fruit, snacks, etc.
About the Research Area
Emas National Park is part of the Pantanal’s Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO Human Heritage Reserve. Situated in central Brazil in the extreme southwest of Goiás state, the park contains large tracts of grassland plains, small patches of shrub fields, marshes, and riparian forest grassland. With 132,000 hectares, it is one of the country’s largest Cerrado National Parks and probably the last to protect relevant resident populations of grassland jaguars, pumas, maned wolves, bush dogs and hoary-foxes in this biome. The area is in the range of 17 carnivore species, of which eight are listed as endangered. The Park is one of the best places to spot fruit-eating vertebrates such as the tapir and many birds, including toco toucans, macaws and rheas. To be in the home of the ostrich-like rheas, scarlet macaws, pampas deer, giant armadillos, herds of peccaries, giant anteaters, foxes, tapirs, jaguars, and other unique—but often elusive—creatures will be an unforgettable experience.
Located in the Park's immediate surroundings are the springs of the Araguaia River, one of the largest rivers of central Brazil. The relatively well preserved habitats along its course make it an important and extensive corridor for central Brazil’s biodiversity. For the jaguar and many other species living in and near Emas National Park, the fragmented landscape around the springs of this river provides an extension of their home ranges and a potential connection with other populations of their kind. This expedition’s study sites are located within the Park and along the banks of this magnificent river.
At certain times of year—the “beach season” of July and August-- large sandy beaches form on the river banks, and you may have a chance of observing giant river otters and Amazon river dolphins from these beaches, which also host local music shows and sport-fishing events. Near the Luiz Alves research site is the Trilha do Brito, a 4km nature trail, which you may be able to enjoy depending on the availability of local guides.
In Emas National Park, the landscape is characterized by a grassland plateau with fragmented Cerrado habitat in the surroundings of the park, where crop fields and exotic pastures predominate. The terrain is largely flat, with rolling terrain only in the valley areas. Other research areas are also predominantly flat since they are located in the Araguaia river valley; at these sites the open Cerrado vegetation is being replaced with more forest vegetation along the river’s path.