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Pantiacolla Team 2013


San Pedro Team 2013


Wayqecha Team 2013

Call for Assistants 2014

(Versión en español)

We are looking for driven, energetic students and researchers to work on our project running from August to mid-December.

Our research is not for the faint of heart. The Manu project requires living in austere field conditions for five months with limited contact with the outside world and devoting long workdays to collecting data on tropical birds.  Field sites range from lowland Amazon to high Andes, and each has its own challenges and rewards.  We encourage you to read about the experiences of previous field assistants and contact them if you have specific questions. You can also read through the most frequently asked questions.

Volunteers participate in mist-netting, nest searching, behavioral observations, field recording, playback experiments, measurements of metabolic rates, and vegetation sampling. Students may have an opportunity to use data collected on this project to write up for publication. Click here to see publications by previous field assistants.


Living expenses of assistants are covered at the field sites in Manu. Likewise, travel from Cusco to the field sites at the beginning and end of the field season is also covered; however, assistants must pay their own travel expenses to Cusco.   

If you are interested in participating in this project, please send a completed application form (doc, docx) and your CV to manubirdproject@gmail.com.

Read extended advertisement for assistants here.

Past Manu Field Teams

Pantiacolla Team 2012

San Pedro Team 2012

Wayqecha Team 2012

Summer Team 2012

Netting Team 2012

Manu Pantiacolla Team 2011

Manu San Pedro & Wayqecha Teams 2011

Manu Team 2010

Manu Team 2009

Manu Team 2008

Manu Team 2007

Manu Team 2006



Previous Field Assistants (2007-2013)



Ian Ausprey (USA) 2013

iausprey(at)yahoo(dot)com

I’ve been doing avian field work for 10 years, and this was definitely one of the most memorable field seasons. Overall, I had a fantastic time nest searching and mistnetting and would recommend it to people with a high tolerance for extremely challenging field conditions, camping, and lack of personal space. Below are some specific comments – be aware that I was at San Pedro (and visited Pantiacolla for a week) and conditions vary hugely among the stations. The challenges are much longer than the highlights. This is because there are more details to explain – every day in the field was a highlight for me.

Highlights:
1. Location and wildlife are spectacular. The forest at San Pedro ranges from beautiful moss and epiphyte laden cloud forest to bamboo stands to early successional scrub in former land slide areas. If you are reading this then I don’t need to tell you that the birds are fantastic!

2. I learned a huge amount about tropical avian ecology from direct field experience. There are few other opportunities to be immersed so comprehensively in the reproductive biology of tropical birds. I interacted with nests from species that build domes in epiphytes, open moss cups, burrows in banks, hanging domes, etc.

3. The people and cultural immersion were fantastic. Our crew was half USA/Britain and half Colombia/Peru. This is a great opportunity to meet wonderful biologists, immerse yourself in a new cultural perspectives and work on your Spanish or English. A major reason for my participating in this project was to work on Spanish, and I had a lot of opportunities to do so. I also enjoyed helping the Spanish-speakers with their English. There is also a lot of cultural learning to be had in the nearby towns and on the buses. Many of the nearby communities are indigenous where Spanish is the second language, so if you pay attention, you can learn a good deal about much of the native indigenous culture.

Challenges:

1. Make sure you like camping and can tolerate noise when sleeping. In 2013 the tent platform at San Pedro was isolated from the kitchen and from the metabolics lab with the generator, so it was easy to find peace and quiet. Not so at Wayquecha where the tents are crammed in a small room next to the generator and kitchen or at Pantiacolla where the tents are ~5m from the living area platform. People aren’t always very polite when it comes to noise at night, so take this comment seriously.

2. Field conditions are hard. Be very honest with yourself that you can handle them. Pros and cons for the stations are below:
a. Pantiacolla: Trails are flat and big and near the station, so hiking among sites is fairly straightforward. However, you have to deal with bullet ants, venomous snakes, and all other manner of lowland rainforest fauna that you need to avoid. It’s very hot and humid. There is no internet at the station or at the nearby towns, so plan to be out of touch. This is an incredibly isolated place, far from medical services or communication. I recommend contacting people who worked there for candid advice on the very extreme living conditions you will experience there.
b. San Pedro: Trails are challenging and not maintained. Look for lots of wet and/or moss-covered rocks, roots, steep banks and stream crossing that can easily trip you up. Expect to hike up to 3 km one way to the farthest nest searching plot – it will take an hour for you to get back to the station from there. You sometimes have to cross a large stream that very quickly rises and falls with rainfall at higher elevations. Expect a good deal of rain and chilly temperatures -  I finished my field days cold and wet 50% of the time . However, San Pedro is the cushiest site with a beautiful big tent platform, bathrooms, showers, running water, and a hummingbird garden in the lodge. The internet technically exists, but it is incredibly slow and barely functional beyond basic email.
c. Wayquecha: I did not visit the site, but I was told that the trails are very steep and that the weather was very cold with a good deal of rain. The “hot” showers also were not hot until November. There is internet. However, you get to visit nearby Paucartambo, a really lovely Andean town, on your days off.

3. Communication can vary from good to virtually non-existent depending on your station manager. I had to ask about nearly everything and generally found the training to be ad-hoc. This was problematic as the project has many components and I discovered what I was supposed to do for many things after the fact. It can be even more challenging if you don’t speak Spanish.

4. Some people will find the food difficult. However, I found it surprisingly tasty – lots of lentils, beans, rice, pasta, and cat food (minced canned anchovies). Vegetables were plentiful (note that getting food to Pantiacolla can be difficult and sometimes vegetables are lacking there). Fruit was limited to the local tiny tasty apples. You get one egg and two pieces of bread plus some oatmeal for breakfast. If you are hard core carnivore, you may find this diet a shock. I’m a big guy and eat a lot and was rarely hungry.

5. The language divide is real and requires a lot of work to overcome. I can communicate effectively in Spanish, but I am nowhere near fluent enough to participate fully in the colloquial fast-paced conversations that the Latinos had. It was the same for the Latinos with basic English skills. Since there were no truly bilingual people on the crew, meals usually split into two groups. It required a lot of work for the people with exposure to the other language to bridge this split. However, when it happened, it was extremely rewarding.

6. Nest searching is extremely challenging at San Pedro. There is almost no behavior to watch and the birds are extremely secretive. Most nests you find will be via systematic searching or luck when a bird flushes. Most people on the crew were very frustrated and several people did not find more than a few nests. Although Gustavo has put together a nice field guide of nest pictures the project does little to orient people to a lot of information that would make nest searching more focused, such as nesting strategies and locations, nest and territory locations from previous years, and timing of breeding. From talking to people, it sounded like nests were much easier to find at Pantiacolla (they found almost 4x the number at San Pedro) and also challenging at Wayquecha.

7. The budget on the project is extremely tight, so expect a lot of old and, at times, inadequate equipment (especially for the banding).

Justin Baldwin (USA) 2013

justin(dot)wheeler(dot)baldwin(at)gmail(dot)com

Working as a volunteer in the Manu Bird Project was incredible. At Wayqecha, the habitat diversity in the immediate vicinity of the cabin is phenomenal, with Puna grasslands above, elfin forest around, and cloudforest below, and the birdlife was expectedly wild. The focus of the project is unique. The overarching questions of the project deal with community ecology, but on a day to day basis you end up doing a lot of descriptive work with a large natural history component.  This is the work that Gustavo publishes with field techs, as the species you encounter often lack basic life history information. To be able to hold nestlings and think “No one has ever measured nestlings of this species before” is pretty incredible, and happened more than I expected.Gustavo is a great motivator and mentor and his enthusiasm is infectious. The learning curve is ridiculously steep, and at beginning of the season, there was a lot of flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.  But one becomes very skilled at what one does by the end, and this job taught me more different field skills than any other field job I have done.  There is also a lot of improvising, as the site is kind of remote, and the nearby field station (Wayqecha Lodge) lacked basic tools.

The work was intense, 6 days a week we were on our toes for 10 h a day, nest-searching, and if your job is to do metabolic experiments, then you stay awake for sometimes more than 24h every four nights. Don’t realistically expect to do any other side-project of your own design – this volunteer work requires full-time effort.  That said, lots of techs publish work with Gustavo, and the projects more or less follow the formula of “Reproductive Biology of [insert little-known-species here]”. But the work is varied enough to make it rarely get dull. However, nest-searching can be very difficult, especially when days go by without finding new nests and with few pointers about what to look for (in part because some species’ nests there are still undescribed).  But then you have days when you find a bunch of nests and feel like a million bucks.  But the toil is worth it! Being outside in mindblowing diversity all day long makes for unforgettable animal encounters (turning around and being face to face with pumas) and physical challenges (“How badly do I want to free-solo up this 40ft cliff to lasso that Oropendola nest?”) that will push your limits and let you practice figuring out how far you are willing to go for science.

If you want to figure out if you like ecology in the Neotropics, or field biology in general, this job is the way to do it.  Please contact me with any questions.

Blaine Carnes (USA) 2013

blainehcarnes(at)gmail(dot)com

I spent the 2013 season mist-netting at Pantiacolla. Out of five years of fieldwork and seven previous trips to the tropics, this was both the most difficult and the most spectacular field season I have been part of. The biodiversity at Pantiacolla is significantly more impressive than other places I’ve worked (the crew saw 10 species of monkey, 3 species of cat, tapir, giant anteater, capybara, more herps than I can remember, and 450+ species of bird). There were numerous days where 13 hours in the field would fly by because of all the things to notice.

Come prepared. If this is your first trip to this part of the world, I highly recommend getting a copy of Birds of Peru and studying it so that you’re not overwhelmed on arrival. You will lose weight because of the workload and limited diet (there’s only so much food that can get to the stations at a time because of the transportation and storage—plus there are issues with bats, rats, opossums, and monkeys). If you read through the statements from other previous field assistants you’ll come across most of the frustrations that occur at these stations. This is a large project in a very remote, very difficult environment, and it can be a struggle to keep the logistics of everything in order.

Due to the living conditions and work, it’s very difficult for me to recommend this project for anyone without much field experience; but for those who are ready for a challenge and those who are willing and able to learn from the people around them, this will be one of the greatest experiences of your lives.


Stephanie Cavaghan (Canada) 2013

stephaniecavaghan(at)gmail(dot)com

Working on the Manu project was definitely a challenge but a worthwhile one. If you can handle eating rice and beans for days on end and hiking for 10-20 km’s a day this is the project for you. Also, being open and easy going is a must as living in close quarters with people you just met can get a little cozy.
 
I spent around 4 months living/working at the Wayqecha station. It was an amazing and truly educational experience. This station may not have the diversity of the other two but if you like amazing views and landscapes this is the place to be. The temperature range throughout the day takes some getting used to. In the morning it can be near freezing and by the afternoon on a clear day it can be 25 degrees Celsius.
 
For future field assistants I would recommend bringing cards, books or games along with you, especially with banders the days can be long and relatively boring without a distraction or two. Also, bring along extra spices to put some diversity into your cooking day, your crew will love you for changing it up. Bring along some treats from home as well, I would recommend protein bars, peanut butter or nutella.


Juliana Ceron Cardona (Colombia) 2013

juli(dot)ceron(at)gmail(dot)com

Aprender a vivir por largo tiempo en la selva ha sido una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida, descubrir cosas nuevas de la naturaleza todos los días y dejarse seducir por este bello lugar es algo mágico, me sorprende tanta diversidad de vida, tantas historias que se tejen cada instante y tener el privilegio aunque sea por un corto lapso de tiempo poder observar. Toda una puerta abierta a la imaginación, exuberancia y aprendizaje. Las aves en este lugar son fascinantes y conocer sobre su ecología y comportamiento es algo muy gratificante, poder encontrar tantos nidos diferentes y dejarse maravillar ante tanta gracia.  A la vez convivir con personas de diversas culturas y poder hacer amistades fuertes es muy grato. Esta experiencia fue de gran crecimiento personal, de entender lo importante que es cultivar la paciencia y de darme cuenta que grande parte de mi vida la quiero pasar en el monte, explorando y descubriendo. Gracias a Gustavo y Jill por haberme dado esta oportunidad y por enseñarme tantas cosas durante la temporada.


Nancy Chen (Canada, Taiwan) 2013

nanstchen(at)gmail(dot)com

Deciding to stay at Pantiacolla has been the best decision I made in my entire life. Now that statement might sound a little bit intense, but 5 months in the Peruvian Amazon is truly just that. Pure intensity over the top. In a very good way. Nobody will ever be let down by the station as one is always surrounded by the marvelous forest while witnessing nature taking place at great proximity, AND at the same time being surrounded by wonderful like-minded naturalists. The disconnection from modern distractions allows you to fully explore your surrounding and yourself, and you will come out of the jungle reborn with a brand new perspective about nature and people (yourself included!). I was very lucky to have an awesome team (Pantiacolla 2013!!) that was always very supportive and made the hikes, the rides, the beans and lentils and the lack of modern convenience means to enjoy life at its best, so I never found these lacks as obstacles to enjoying my field season. I should not forget to mention all the crazy birds, cats, snakes, monkeys, ant-eaters and armadillos that you will encounter during your stay, and that all the station managers and project directors are wonderful, wonderful people. 

Now moving from the general descriptions. For people that are doubting whether Pantiacolla is a good fit for them, as long as you are an open-minded individual (8 or above on scale 1-10) with a very, very strong drive to learn and has profound love for nature, you should give this place a chance. You cannot be allergic to ants, wasps and mosquitos, you cannot hate cooking, and you should also be able to adapt quickly to situations as well as handle a good dose of craziness—we’re talking about equipment breaking down in the middle of nowhere, flooded tents, and bad beer!

I wil wrap up with the quote list from Pantia2013 that will help determined Pantias yet-to-come along with some personal interpretations and advice:

1. It will rain. (rain gears please; I brought 2 pairs of boots and felt really smart about it)
2. Socks are gold, Oreos are diamonds; fried Oreos are fried diamonds. (bring double-digit socks and snacks. 10 is the minimum. Bring your spices, spreads and sauces too)
3. Flag everything. (You will lose something to the jungle at some point, so make sure you attach everything tightly with you. I lost 2 cameras.)
4. It will mold.

Also consider bringing:
a) a bunch of long sleeves for insect protection.
b) very good binoculars to make your life easier especially if you’re not an experienced birder.
c) best headlamp(s) that will blind your eyes when staring at it; they are very good for detecting animals during epic night walks.
d) rechargeable batteries for your headlamps. I cannot tell you how many people had to get these babies when down here. Not that easy to do though.
e) music. Party music sounds even better in the jungle.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the project or the station. Good luck!


Miranda Ciotti (USA) 2013

mirandaciotti(at)yahoo(dot)com

My experience as a research assistant with Gustavo was educational in all areas. I believe it is a unique opportunity to gain a well rounded experience in evolutionary biology through hands on research and much time in the field. I have left the project with new skills in field research ad well as a new found interest in ornithology and renewed love for the outdoors. If you have a love for being outside, hiking, and asking questions about the natural world then this is the position for you! A few words of caution and consideration: If you are not interested in invasive research methods, than this is not the study for you. If you need meat or special dietary needs, bring your favorite energy foods for nutritional support (nuts, peanut butter, dried fruit, protein powder, bio pills) as well as moral support. Spending a field season exploring the forest is a memorable and rewarding experience, but it can become mundane toward the end. To keep a sharp mind and fresh spirit I would recommend bringing games (cards, chest, backgammon), movies, books, art supplies, musical instruments- whatever activities that make you happy at home are worth bringing to your field station to share with your crew. It will make the experience richer and everyone happier. Please contact me if you have more questions. Have a great season!

My experience as a research assistant with Gustavo was educational in all areas. I believe it is a unique opportunity to gain a well rounded experience in evolutionary biology through hands on research and much time in the field. I have left the project with new skills in field research ad well as a new found interest in ornithology and renewed love for the outdoors. If you have a love for being outside, hiking, and asking questions about the natural world then this is the position for you! A few words of caution and consideration: If you are not interested in invasive research methods, than this is not the study for you. If you need meat or special dietary needs, bring your favorite energy foods for nutritional support (nuts, peanut butter, dried fruit, protein powder, bio pills) as well as moral support. Spending a field season exploring the forest is a memorable and rewarding experience, but it can become mundane toward the end. To keep a sharp mind and fresh spirit I would recommend bringing games (cards, chest, backgammon), movies, books, art supplies, musical instruments- whatever activities that make you happy at home are worth bringing to your field station to share with your crew. It will make the experience richer and everyone happier. Please contact me if you have more questions. Have a great season!

Justin Demianew (USA) 2013

jad97(at)humboldt(dot)edu

I spent the Fall of 2013 running around the lowlands of the Peruvian Amazon (station: Pantiacolla), chasing birds and searching for their nests, mist netting, catching snakes, frogs, and caimans.  I saw many of the most venomous snakes in the western hemisphere as well as margay, ocelot, poison dart frogs, grison, tyra, peccaries, too many birds to mention, many species of monkey, beetles galore, fresh water rays, eels, and many other wicked and badass animals. Every day I would encounter a new species (for me) of either an insect, bird, reptile or amphibian.  The biodiversity is off the charts.  In the jungle you will, without a doubt, see lots of crazy and out of this world creatures.  In summary it was an amazing and rewarding experience and you are guaranteed to have the time of your life.

Warning: The jungle is a rough and tough environment.  To date I have participated in many field projects, but the conditions of Pantiacolla were by far the harshest. The heat and humidity can be on the verge of unbearable.  Thankfully there are many streams to jump in and a river to bath in at night.  Going to bed dripping sweat (literally) is a very common occurrence.  Bring supplies accordingly.  DO NOT BRING leather ANYTHING. Shoes will mold and fall apart, your wallet will turn into a mold forest as well as your belts. Bugs are abundant, it’s the jungle! I personally didn’t wear bug spray (not a fan) although I did spray my backpack and tent for chiggers.  I recommend you bring some. Many of us had botflys or other parasites. Don’t leave soaking wet sweaty clothes out to dry, at least rinse them out first. You will probably get really sick, at least once.  Bring Imodium, pepto, and any other drug of choice.  Bring antifungal powder for your feet and maybe some crème in the event of a fungal breakout.  Full disclosure, I had holes in my boots for two months, which meant my feet were soaked all day every day and luckily I didn't have any fungal issues.  However, I used powder and wore sandals at all times around the station to keep the feet aired out.  I recommend you do the same.   I would also bring a bike tire repair kit for the holes in boots.  It works!

Other advice to volunteers:
If you wear size 10 or bigger bring your own rain/rubber/gum boots. Seriously, you probably will not be able to find your size down here.
If you do not have to bring electronic equipment, DON’T! Many of us had problems with electronics after months in the humidity.  Even if your stuff doesn’t get wet directly it is subject to the harsh and wet environment.  If you do want to bring electronics I recommend you invest in some silica, lots of good ziplock bags, and real dry bags.  You should definitely bring ziplocks and dry bags for everything you own.  No matter what it is your stuff will mold: tent, cloths (even in bags, but at least it slows the process), shoes, backpacks (both the big one you will keep in your tent or on the platform and especially your field bag), your sleeping bag and mattress….EVERYTHING.
Bring field guides for taxa you are interested in.  These are not present at the stations. There are probably many more things I failed to mention.  If you have questions or concerns please feel free to email me. Also, although I can only speak for Peru, if you are considering the Colombia project I think much of this is very applicable.

And finally, be prepared to have the field season of a life time, Suerte!


Jacob Drucker (USA) 2013

jacobdrucker92(at)gmail(dot)com

Working for the Manu Bird Project was a life-changing experience for me. Since a young age it had been my dream to do field work with birds in the neotropics and this project allowed my wish to be fulfilled. Like any good dream there was a good amount of being cold, wet, occasional hunger, and plenty of frustration, but all this was surpassed by the zen and adrenaline of nest searching, the joy of working with nestlings, the excitement of birdwatching, and the breathtaking landscape that is Wayqecha. Add in having the most incredible group of co-workers in the world and all of Manu road for potential exploration on days off, and you might as well be in paradise. My time in Manu has helped me gain a better view of how I would like to pursue my passion for ornithology and evolution, and provided me with connections, friendships and memories that will stay with me forever.


Colin Fagan (USA) 2013

colin(dot)fagan(at)ksc(dot)keene(dot)edu

I worked on the metabolics team at Wayqecha from August to December of 2013. I can say that it was every bit the adventure I was hoping it would be. Through this project, I was able to explore one of the most unique and amazing habitats in the world. As a junior in college, it was a needed change of pace. It is rare that a student at my age is given the opportunity to work hands on with tropical birds in such a remote setting. 
I jumped into this project with little previous field experience, and no experience working with birds. My advice to anyone with a similar background looking for an adventure is to apply to this project! My fellow field technicians and station manager were amazingly positive and motivated me to push my limits as an ecologist and a person. I learned more about ecology, the scientific process, and what it takes to produce data on a grand scale than I had during all my years as an undergraduate.
 
Here’s a little advice for those of you considering working at Wayqecha.

1. Invest in great rain gear, a pair of muck boots, and a decent pair of hiking boots.             
-Towards the end of the season, the rain really picks up. To keep sane bring gear to stay dry

2. Bring protein
-Your diet at Waqecha will basically consist of vegetarian meals. It is important to bring things like peanut butter, nuts, or even protein powder to supplement your diet. You can’t bring enough extra food!

3. If you are considering the metabolics team bring entertainment
-Usually consisting of an eight hour shift, some metabolics nights can be rough. However, they are a great chance for catching up on data, or reading scientific papers if you’re a night owl. Movies on your computer or a couple of books are also recommended.

4. Contact past field techs
-We have a good idea of what you’re in for. Send us an e-mail with questions about anything!



Laura Gómez (Colombia) 2012, 2013

laugm3(at)gmail(dot)com

2013: De regreso en el Manu redescubrí porque me gusta tanto internarme en el monte, alejarse de las obligaciones sociales y dedicarse a observar el mundo sin más presión que una nube gris sobre la cabeza o el hambre que recuerda que ya es medio día y hay que comer para continuar caminado…Como mi experiencia del año anterior esta fue inolvidable y llena de buenos momentos, increíbles aves y nidos y un montón de otros bichos que alegraban cada día. Además la oportunidad de conocer gente de todo el mundo y compartir diferentes costumbres, comidas e idiomas siempre enriquece la experiencia…Este año igualmente estuve en las estaciones de San Pedro y Pantiacolla, y de nuevo lograron maravillarme con todas las sorpresas que a su modo cada uno de estos bosques guardan. Si estás pensando ir a alguna de estas estaciones por favor no olvides una chaqueta para la lluvia y una buena bolsa seca para tus equipos electrónicos y además buena disposición para caminar mucho y trabajar duro; lo que aprendas en el proyecto va a depender en gran medida de ti, entre más camines más cosas puedes observar, entre más te esfuerces más nidos puedes encontrar…

2012
: Participar en el proyecto fue y será siempre una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida. Tuve la enorme fortuna de trabajar en las estaciones de Pantiacolla y de San Pedro, pero aún no puedo decidir si me quedo con la exuberancia, tranquilidad e inmensidad de tierras bajas o la magia y la belleza del bosque de niebla…El proyecto además de brindarme la oportunidad de conocer más sobre las historias de vida de las aves, su fisiología y enorme diversidad, me permitió crecer enormemente a nivel profesional y personal, no solo al lado de excelentes maestros como lo son Gustavo y Jill  sino también de mis compañeros y maravillosos amigos que me enseñaron cada día la importancia de la paciencia y de ser tolerante, pero sobre todo de nunca perder la curiosidad…Gracias a todos!!!

Julian Heavyside (Canada) 2013

julianheavyside(at)gmail(dot)com

In this moment, I deeply wish I could be back down the Manu Road. The trip was life changing. I had the opportunity to work on the banding team at both the San Pedro and Pantiacolla stations, so feel free to email me for detailed accounts of my experiences there.
As stated by many other assistants, living conditions at all the stations can be challenging. However, in my opinion, this is all part of the complete experience. You may be cold, wet, and/or hungry at any point, but the truly spectacular biodiversity will make up for it. Because there is so much to see, everyone had completely unique viewing experiences. During meals, we would all share our day's sightings, and we had always seen different and equally amazing things. There is great potential to observe stuff that is barely known by science, which is a beautiful concept in today's world. If you haven't been to the tropics before, they will blow your mind. If you have, you know how radical they are, and you should get the heck back down as soon as possible.

I'll keep it brief, but here are my key suggestions which I urge you to strongly consider:
-Definitely number 1: go on night walks!!!! In four months, when you're back home and the trip is over, you'll be sitting on your couch wishing you'd caught more spectacled caiman, seen more margays hunt night monkeys, or heard more tropical screech owls. Take a nap after the day of work, and hit the trails. You will never regret it.
-On a related note, bring the best headlamp you can afford. An entirely new set of animals comes out at night, and you will miss them if you have a crummy light.
-Consider bringing burly rubber boots, or stiff footbeds, because the local boots have thin soles and offer little support.
-Go to a shoe store and pick up 100 packets of silica gel for free. Empty them out into a stocking, and put it in a tupperware that seals well (you can buy good containers in Cusco at "Plastico 2000"). This will be a drying chamber for your camera etc., because it is humid down there! Cook the silica in a frying pan to dry it out, and repeat.
-Banding team: do your furthest and most-challenging sites first. You will need to camp, or hike ~1hr to some stations, and weather can become a problem later in the season. Get the tough stations done first, so you can be less stressed at the end of the season when the clear days are few. Also, banding in the tropics is slow sometimes, so bring a book!
-Nest searchers: sometimes, you will go a long time without finding nests. Keep your head up and keep moving. You won't find much if you sit by the river feeling sorry for yourself (which I admit I sometimes did). The nests are there, you just need to notice them. It's hard to search without much of a target image (you'll be looking for nests of all species), so you basically just need to keep walking around and poking everything suspiciously nest-like. Eventually you will be rewarded.

Other recommendations:
-Neotropical Rainforest Mammals field guide
-peanut butter
-sewing kit
-butterfly net (just bring the mesh, you can make a good pole and hoop with bamboo etc.)
-a little spanish goes a long way


Jeremiah Kennedy (Canada) 2013

fisherking(at)telus(dot)net; a6c21768(at)telus(dot)net

I was lucky enough to spend the bulk of the 2013 season at the Pantiacolla field station not far from Manu National Park. Spending four months in the Amazon basin is a treat and I would highly suggest that any individual interested in the natural world take advantage of this opportunity and apply for this project. Pantiacolla was my favorite of the stations as I enjoyed the warm temperatures and the extreme diversity.

The conditions are a bit rustic with a fairly small platform to spend free time on and few food choices. This and the extreme humidity can turn some people off, but I don’t think that anyone who even slightly enjoys some warm temperatures and isolation would let these things get in the way of an experience of a lifetime.

Bring some water-tight Tupperware, silica, quick dry clothing, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, rechargeable batteries and anything else you would bring into the field. Don’t forget optics and something to play music on.

Go into the project knowing that it is a bit “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” run. Go with the flow and you will definitely enjoy yourself, but don’t hesitate to make suggestions if you see changes that should be made.

If I could only say one thing about the experience, I would say “unpredictable.” You leave the tent clearing in the morning and NEVER know what you will see: Cats, anteaters, forest-eagles, monkeys and many, many other animals and plants that will take your breath away. GO! Or you’re crazy.


Stephanie Levins (USA) 2013

stephl301(at)comcast(dot)net

I was stationed at San Pedro in 2013. I was primarily on the metabolics team, but I worked on the banding team for a month in the middle. This project obviously had its ups and downs, but overall I learned a ton and really got into birding. This project is so much more than just birds, though. It’s meeting and working with people who share your interests, learning about and living in a culture different from your own, enjoying the wildlife that is all around you, and learning to make the best of every situation (or at least laughing after the fact).

Here are some important things to know before you come volunteer-

In general:
-At some point you will be eating rotten food. The bread will mold, the eggs will go black, the vegetables will be fuzzy, and you will get really frustrated. Bring Pepto Bismol, trail mix, and a sense of humor.
-Bring some dice (5 for Yahtzee!) and a deck of cards and bond with your coworkers!
-Make the most of your time there. If you aren’t on the banding team but want more experience banding, ask to join them every now and then.
-Go through ALL of the project equipment in the first week so you know what you have. There was a bunch of (incredibly useful) stuff that we didn’t realize we had until we were packing up in December.
-Get to know your coworkers, especially if they don’t speak your native language. (Side note: attempt to learn SOME Spanish before you show up. A little goes a long way.) Don’t let the group be divided based on a language barrier.

San Pedro specific:
-It might be sunny and (sometimes) toasty during the day, but when the clouds roll in it can get pretty cold. My 55+ sleeping bag was not cutting it, so I bought a blanket in town which helped a lot. I also bought a second blanket to add extra cushion to my sleeping pad. You’re spending four months on a wooden platform – splurge and get a cushy sleeping pad.
-The shower water is icy cold, and it’s usually not hot enough outside for that to be considered refreshing. I’d guess that average number of showers per week (per person) was 2-3.
-The Cock of the Rock Lodge staff are incredibly nice and friendly. Talk to them when they’re around, and pretend there’s a chance you can beat them in a game of soccer.
-The internet situation is nothing to rely on. Some nights you might be able to send some emails and check Facebook, and others it might take 30 minutes to find out it’s too slow to even sign in to your accounts. If you assume there won’t be internet in San Pedro, you’ll be pleasantly surprised on nights when there is SOMETHING. To avoid a lot of anger and frustration, seriously lower your expectations. (Skype is not happening.) There is a decently cheap payphone in Pilcopata (the town you go to for groceries), as well as a couple of internet “cafes”. The internet at those places is also not great, but it’s better than at San Pedro.
-Villa Carmen is a biological station & tourist hotel just outside of town. It’s a great place to visit on your day off to enjoy the wildlife of the lowlands. You can wander around the trails for free, the staff are very friendly and eager to chat, and drinking beers by the lake is the best way to relax (plus there are a ton of birds there).

Feel free to email me if you have any questions!






Mario Agustin Loaiza Munoz (Colombia) 2009, 2010, 2013

loaizamunoz01(at)gmail(dot)com

2013: Nunca será posible saber quién de los dos nos enseñara más. Si tus compañeros de campo o el bosque que te rodea, estos dos te muestran
los caminos para pensar diferente tanto de tu carrera como de la asombrosa naturaleza. Y entre estos amigos y bosques harán la
combinación perfecta para que como siempre sea inolvidable la experiencia en el proyecto MANU. Proyecto que te acoge como parte de
una familia en la cual siempre podrás confiar, pues en ella encontré personajes inolvidables, reencontré amigos y deje otro que quedó en la
memoria para siempre.

San Pedro con sus montañas y quebradas pone a prueba la fortaleza de un buen biólogo naturalista, pues estas laderas escarpadas y cubiertas
de niebla es el lugar donde se entiende perfectamente la magnificencia de los Andes y su climatología inesperada que cubrió con aguaceros
intensos estaciones, carpas, caminatas, fiestas, experimentos metabólicos y buenas tertulias entre inglés, español, francés y
quechua debatiendo la mejor forma de encontrar nidos, capturar las especies focales o que no se pegue el arroz a las ollas.

2010: La oportunidad de regresar al proyecto ofreció muchas más experiencias, aprendizaje, crecimiento personal y profesional de las que se esperaban. Gracias a los nuevos compañeros, los distintos lugares y travesías inolvidables que condujeron a lograr los objetivos diarios, teniendo la posibilidad de observar mas de seis especies de mamíferos y un mínimo de 20 sp de aves dentro de doseles de mas de 40 metros e innumerables frutos comestibles, algo que cualquier ser humano debería vivenciar. La habilidad que se adquirió en la temporada pasada se incrementó  disfrutando así  mucho mas ésta nueva oportunidad de vivir en la selva amazónica. 

Lo más invaluable de este proyecto es, que al darse cuenta de la falta y el apoyo que ofrece la familia se encuentran personas que dan la moral, la pasión, la alegría y la energía necesaria para seguir inmerso en el entendimiento de la vida y porque las cosas suceden en determinados momentos.

2009: El trabajo que realice dentro del proyecto me dio la posibilidad de comprender como ha funcionado la vida durante millones de años mostrándome como nacen, crecen y mueren, insectos, plantas y animales. Y descubrir que estos cambios suceden a diario pero solo se logran identificar cuando se vive entre sitios conservados y aislados, en donde tú eres  considerado con un mamífero más en la selva. La búsqueda de nidos es algo que al principio es un poco complicado ya que no estaba acostumbrado a detallar tan minuciosamente arboles, matorrales, rocas, raíces, y un sinfín de sitios donde se ocultan los nidos, pero con el paso del tiempo se adquiere una habilidad única y se comienza a encontrar los nidos alegrándose a diario de ver que ponen los huevos y al cabo de unos días nacen los pichones y entristeciéndose cuando es depredado ya que se alcanza a coger cariño a los polluelos, sin dejar de lado que poder ver un evento de depredación es algo fascinante.  Pero no todo fue trabajo y aprendizaje de la biología reproductiva de las aves, pues conocer los otros integrantes de la estación es algo magnifico, ya que cada uno es diferente,  de cada uno se aprende algo nuevo, debido a que cada persona tiene sus aficiones, gustos, temperamentos específicos, culturas y tradiciones. Transformándonos en la familia TONO 2009 en la cual se discutía y bromeaba.

En mi proceso de formación como biólogo, persona e investigador fue lo mejor que pude haber hecho.


Gliselle Marin (Belize) 2013

gliselle(at)gmail(dot)com

The experience as a volunteer with the Manu Bird Project is one that simply cannot be summed up in a single paragraph. When I signed up to be a research assistant for this project, I expected it to have some impact on my career as a biologist, but I certainly did not expect the great impact it would have on my life. I was stationed at the Wayqecha station in the cloud forest, and this was an environment unlike any I had ever visited before. Wayqecha is wild in a sense that was unknown to me, with unmatched views, and forests ranging from dense fern and moss filled to scrubby, elfin forests. The Manu Project accepted me even with a limited knowledge of Peruvian birds, but the intense and demanding schedule allowed me to become immersed in a world of birds that I quickly fell in love with. I found working with birds to be personally fulfilling, and though I knew that birds were charismatic, the hands on experience that we gained with this project allowed me to see the beauty of their amazing habits, characteristics and innate features. I developed my observational skills to a level I had not known, and quickly became more careful and thoughtful both in my recording and handling techniques.
 
One of the best parts of my time with the Manu Bird Project, was meeting many wonderful people. This started with the project PIs who personally visited with the field crews to inform and assist us on the project. I was lucky to be on a crew that quickly became a family for me, and introduced me to young biologists who are truly passionate about the work they do.  The project was personally a great experience for me as a lot of the field work required independence and good judgment, but the living situations highlighted a sense of community. I treasured my time living with people who shared similar interests and enjoyed being removed temporarily from a world of convenience and getting back to basics. If you have a true passion for ecology and conservation and enjoy personal challenges, I highly recommend volunteering with the Manu Bird Project as the experiences that come from it will be some of the most memorable and fulfilling you will have.


Adam Milch (USA) 2013

Amilch3(at)gmail(dot)com

The Manu project is undoubtedly one of the most interesting volunteer projects someone can do in their lives. It is definitely not for everyone, and it is important to make sure that you are at the right point in your life to participate before applying. But this project is well worth making time in your life to be a part of. Even though you are volunteering, the feeling of reward you get from camping in the rainforest for 4 months is worth more than any amount you could be paid. You will meet some interesting people, see many interesting things, and learn a huge amount.
I volunteered at the Pantiacolla station in 2013 and aside from getting used to the food, weather, and bathing in the river, the feeling of isolation from the outside world was the biggest adjustment for me. The nearest town has a few small stores and a restaurant with a TV and a payphone that you can use to call home (the US) for around 35 cents a minute. Bring a lot of change with you because you can’t always exchange bills for coins. The town is accessible in dry weather by boat, and is around 15-20 minutes downstream.

This project will teach you much more about yourself than you think and I highly suggest it to those who feel they are up to the challenge. It is not easy but getting the rare experience to live in the Amazon is a pricelessly unforgettable reward.


Alvaro José Rodríguez Cardona (Colombia) 2013

tigerwolverine7(at)hotmail(dot)com

Despertar en la mañana con el canto de los monos Aulladores, tomar un breve desayudo y salir a andar por tan maravilloso lugar encontrándote paso a paso con miles de pequeños y  maravillosos mundos, aves fascinantes, insectos de colores psicodélicos, monos, pecarís, serpientes, venados, todo esto mientras juegas a las escondidas con la vida en un mar de imponente vegetación verde, para después regresar al medio día y compartir un gratificante almuerzo con tus compañeros, reírse un poco, platicar sobre lo visto en la mañana y regresar de nuevo a esa maravillosa selva.
Es verdad puede que haya momentos que sean duros, días que te vas con las manos vacías al no encontrar un nido, uno que otro malestar estomacal, tal vez una que otra caída, las mosquitos susurrándote al oído palabras no precisamente románticas y calores sofocantes alternados de noches supremamente frías.

Pero nada de esto logra opacar la magnificencia de estar ahí, en ese corazón del mundo, sentirás la emoción de meter un gol de chilena cada que encuentras un nido, sentirás que celebras un campeonato mundial cada vez que te reúnes en la mesa con tus compañeros, sentirás la vida misma al tomar un baño en el rio con un cielo plagado de estrellas fugaces y al tener un pequeño huevo o polluelo entre tus manos.
Lastimosamente no pude terminar la temporada, pero indudablemente puedo decir que fue la experiencia más bonita de mi vida, de regreso en la ciudad ya nada es igual, y me paso las noches recordando lo vivido en la selva y soñando cuando volveré a ella.

Si te gusta la selva, si eres un fanático de la vida, si te encanta trabajar con las aves, indudablemente debes estar allí.

Manuel Andres Sanchez Martinez (Colombia) 2009, 2012, 2013

manusama79(at)gmail(dot)com


2012, 2013: La experiencia en estos dos últimos años (2012 – 2013) estuvo llena de maravillosos momentos, en los cuales tuve la oportunidad de conocer a excelente grupo de personas comprometidas con el trabajo y capaces de sortear las diferentes dificultades que se presentan en el campo. Dos años consecutivos me sirvieron para aprender día tras día no solo de aves si no de un sin número de animales y plantas. Lo que más me gusto de la estancia en la Amazonia peruana fue el hecho de poder levantarme cada día y pensar que tenía toda la selva para explorar, poder conocer a mucha gente y sus formas de vida, muy diferentes a la mía.

2009: La participación en el proyecto la pasada temporada fue muy enriquecedor e importante tanto personal como profesionalmente, ya que adquiri mucha experiencia en trabajo de campo, por ejemplo como tomar datos en campo, destreza en el empleo de herramientas para la toma de datos, reconocimiento de una cierta cantidad de especies tanto de aves como otro tipo de animales y plantas, a sortear algunos incovenientes que se presentan en el campo, a aprender y a convivir con varias personas que tienen culturas diferentes. Por otra parte disfrute mucho el haber conocido un lugar que presenta un buen estado de conservacion con gran gran biodiversidad asociada.

Jack Shutt (UK) 2013

jdshutt216(at)gmail(dot)com

The Manu Bird Project is an amazing and unique experience. As with any project of this duration, difficulty and isolation, it throws up many upsides and downsides. You are guaranteed to see many hundreds of truly astonishing bird species and this never grows old and will keep you enthralled from start to finish. This is not to mention the abundant other forms of life you will encounter and all the while ‘working’ in one of the most stunning landscapes on Earth – as a life-affirming experience it really is second to none.

Having said this, living conditions are hard – your diet is poor, logistics are difficult and some basic amenities completely lacking. You can expect to be frustrated by aspects of the project and tensions to flare occasionally when living so close to so few for so long. I felt sometimes that the organization and communication was poor and new training was negligible, although help is available on all these fronts when truly needed. But just remember that all the bad times will fade to nothing very quickly and you’ll soon wish you were back hurtling down the road again, hanging onto the back of a truck for dear life – proving how worthwhile this project and experience really is!

I was based at San Pedro for the 2013 field season. It is a fantastic and genuinely stunning place with, in my opinion, the best birdlife around and the added bonus of providing you with calves of steel by the end! It gives you a great chance to experience a wide range of habitats and species, with Villa Carmen and the lowlands or Wayqecha and the highlands both within reach for your day off. The road around the camp is also not to be missed, especially the Mirador, as this itself gives an excellent gradient within easy reach.

As far as advice goes, I think the most important thing is to take a freestanding, comfortably sized tent that works properly without guys on a platform – this will make your life so much easier! Flip-flops are essential to dry your feet out at the end of the day. Friaje’s at the start of the season are actually cold, so bring more than one jumper/fleece and a good blanket never goes amiss either. Good wellies and waterproofs are very important too – you will be needing them! If on the ringing team, you will catch some excellent stuff but it can be slow-going at times so be prepared. Also, at San Pedro, I would recommend starting with the furthest away and camping sites, as when the rains hit properly from November rivers can become impassable, paths more difficult and you’ll want to be closer to cover for when it starts bucketing it down mid-way through your session!

Most of all though, make the most of it and enjoy, as I’m sure you will!!!


Juliana Soto Patiño (Colombia) 2013

julianita.nea(at)gmail(dot)com

Participar en el proyecto  fue y será una de las experiencias más impresionantes de mi vida. Es un aprendizaje constante en todos los sentidos. Despertar cada mañana, escuchar los exuberantes sonidos de la naturaleza, contemplar a cada paso la majestuosidad de la vida. Caminar y sorprenderse con cada componente del paisaje, cada acción del mismo. El proyecto es la oportunidad para formarse como biólogo, como profesional pero sobretodo como persona, es la oportunidad de convivir con personas hermosas compartiendo escenarios y momentos inigualables. El proyecto marcó mi vida y pude apreciar la grandeza de la vida como nunca antes y de aprender mucho  sobre aves y el entorno en general, a valorar cada cosa, persona y lugar en el mundo. Aprender acerca de la biología reproductiva de aves, buscar nidos, monitorearlos, medir polluelos, observar depredaciones, ver diferentes comportamientos reproductivos, presenciar los procesos reproductivos de las aves es algo maravilloso, trabajar con los experimentos metabólicos, pasar la noche en vela, capturar las aves para los experimentos y observar tanta variación y diversidad son cosas que nunca se podrán olvidar de esta experiencia. Trabajar junto a Gustavo, Jill y todo el equipo es muy gratificante, es sentirse en familia, con la que aprendes pero también compartes felicidad, risas, historias y por qué no tristezas. Gracias a Manu Bird Project por darme la oportunidad de hacer parte de una temporada llena de aves, naturaleza, paisajes indescriptibles, momentos inolvidables y personas únicas.


Sheela Turbek (USA) 2013

sheela(dot)turbek(at)gmail(dot)com

A few sentences cannot do justice to the incredible experience of living in the lowland tropical rainforest for an extended period of time. The biodiversity and natural beauty of Manu National Park was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Although I walked the same trails on a daily basis, hardly a day went by in which a mesmerizing new species of bird, insect, or plant failed to catch my attention. Mist netting days were long and occasionally monotonous, but these downsides were more than outweighed by the impressive array of fascinating and often vibrant birds that we had the opportunity to examine in the hand. I highly recommend this experience for anyone with an insatiable curiosity in the natural world and a strong interest in the ecology and natural history of tropical birds. Pantiacolla has the fewest amenities and is certainly the most remote station of the project. However, nothing can compare to bathing in a river amid capybaras as the sun dips below the horizon, washing dishes beneath a sky full of shooting stars, and getting to know a diverse group of fellow passionate biologists without the distractions of technological devices. You will not regret temporarily forgoing modern comforts and completely immersing yourself in the magical environment of the Amazon rainforest!
Words of advice for those heading to Pantiacolla:

1.    If possible, avoid bringing brand new field equipment, as few items will escape mold-free.
2.    Pack any field guides you may want (there are very few at the station) and plenty of books to read during the field season. You will have quite a   
       bit of down time on slow mist netting days.
3.    Take advantage of every available opportunity to see as much wildlife as possible. Night hikes are almost always rewarding!


Wendy Valencia (Colombia) 2013

valenaturaa(at)gmail(dot)com

Vivir en una selva húmeda tropical, en un lugar con una diversidad tan exorbitante como el Amazonas y particularmente en un sitio tan hermoso como Pantiacolla ha sido la experiencia de mayor sensibilidad, sorpresa y admiración constante por el mundo natural que he tenido. A pesar de que continuamente vas a campo mientras estudias Biología y a veces por largo tiempo, nunca se compara con la experiencia de vivir ahí, en la selva, levantándote con los aullidos de los monos aulladores, y acostándote al ritmo del canto de la rata del bambú después de un mágico baño en el río desde el cual casi todos los días puedes ver la vía láctea y estrellas fugaces. Nunca había experimentado la magia y la complejidad de un ecosistema como la selva al nivel al que la vives cuando todo el día estás caminando, observando, involucrado con el lugar en el que buscas nidos. Un día te das cuenta de que  ya no te pierdes, otro que ya conoces todos los árboles grandes de la parcela donde buscas, después, que ya sabes dónde están generalmente las manadas de monos y posteriormente aprendes dónde estás porque escuchas a la screeming pija cantar. De verdad te logras involucrar con el ambiente y aprender biología en el mayor laboratorio, aprender de primera mano, observando y sintiendo. Lo que se aprende experimentando durante esos meses en la selva no lo puedes aprender nunca en un salón de clase. Y no sólo acerca de historia natural, lo que aprendes sobre ti mismo caminando todo el día solo y conviviendo con personas que finalmente se terminan volviendo tus hermanos.

No sólo es una experiencia de trabajo sino que involucra todos los aspectos de la vida, haces amigos con los que te ríes, molestas, juegas fútbol, volleyball, bailas, cocinas, compartes y aprendes de culturas diferentes. Aprendes a tener una disciplina de trabajo en campo y con los datos muy importante si consideras que la biología de campo es tu elección de vida. Y finalmente, los polluelos!!!!! Los polluelos! es que parece magia, que un huevo con calor se vuelva polluelo, y después crezca y le salgan plumas, y casi todo al parecer contra reloj antes de que un depredador de lo coma. Si te gusta el campo, no te pierdas de ver esto!


Ben Vernasco (USA) 2013

bjv4(at)humboldt(dot)edu

The Manu Bird Project was one of the most fun and challenging field jobs out of the 8 field jobs that I have had. During my time, I was
stationed at the highest elevation site, Wayquecha biological station. I was one of the two banders responsible for managing the 13 mist
netting stations and training my fellow coworkers how to band. Mist netting at Wayquecha was a hit or a miss depending on the station and
the weather. Work consisted of very early mornings (0345 was the earliest) and long days (nets were open from dawn to dusk). When the
nets were slow, there was lots of time in the day to read, look for birds, or nest search (so bring some good books!). The views were
amazing and the biodiversity is extremely unique, we caught some really amazing species. Don't expect too much privacy outside of your
tent! The bag I checked underneath the plane never made it to Cusco, so I went the whole season with the clothes/gear I could find in Cusco
(If this happens to anyone email me for store names). One important part of having a good time is group cohesiveness and weekend
adventures! Puarcutambo is way better than Pilcopata for days off, stay at the Tres Cruces Hostel in Puarcutambo. I highly recommend this
project for anyone that wants to work in Neotropical ornithology. Feel free to email me with questions. Things to bring:
sewing kit, zero degree sleeping bag, a good sleeping pad, cards, portable speakers, and an easy going personality.

Wendy Vidal (Colombia) 2012

Wendyvidalh(at)gmail(dot)com

 

Alguien un día me dijo, la vida se encarga de ponerte en el lugar en el que debes estar, entonces estaba yo allí, en Wayquecha, en la estación más alta de todas, la más fría, despertándome muy temprano en la mañana y alcanzando a admirar como el sol empezaba a iluminar las montañas; y así empezaba la mañana de arduas caminatas, en el bosque, en la puna y en los ríos pequeños… En ocasiones, me perdí pero siempre encontré el camino de regreso, además de hermosos lugares en lo alto de las montañas. Es que esta experiencia te enseña en todos los campos, aprendes a tener un ritmo de trabajo, a afinar la observación, a ser ágil en la toma de muestras, a manejar metodologías complejas e innovadoras, a vivir en condiciones de campo,  convivir con personas de diferentes costumbres, diferentes idiomas, hasta el punto de sentirlos familia. También adquieres un poco más de paciencia, hasta con los métodos, que están en constante adaptación a las nuevas circunstancias. Y bueno, Wayquecha es una estación fría, así que debes llevar buen abrigo, la comida suele conservarse en buen estado debido a la temperatura, aunque debes prepararte para una dieta poco variada... Por la altura las enfermedades que puedas adquirir son menores que en las estaciones bajas, puedes sufrir del estomago (lleva medicamento) o sentirte raro por el cambio de dieta. Tenemos acceso a internet en las noches luego de caminar 40 min a la estación biológica, y bueno hay que cuidarse la salud pues por lo menos yo, no llevaba seguro médico. Para mí el proyecto no fue una experiencia netamente académica, más bien una experiencia de vida.

Harrison Jones (USA) 2012

vireoviscount1(at)gmail(dot)com

Working with the Manu Bird Project was an incredibly unique experience that was at once trying and rewarding. Any project which demands the volume and duration of work in as isolated and unique an environment as the eastern slopes of the Andes is bound to offer its fair share of frustrations as well as unforgettable moments. To be sure, the restricted diet, logistical difficulties, and lack of some basic ‘Western’ amenities, compounded by certain organizational problems, at times made for frustrations and frictions. Yet looking back on the five month period that I spent in Peru, it is inevitably the laughs, the magnificent views, and of course the opportunity to interact with and appreciate the immense diversity of Andean wildlife that comes to mind. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the difficult moments, the ability to live and work in such an untouched habitat for long enough to grow to appreciate its intricacies is all the more rewarding. The banding work is certainly difficult, with long 12 to 14 hour days, early mornings, and often quite a bit of hiking to get to the nets, but the diversity (not to mention colors) of the birds more than makes up for it. Jill and Gustavo were incredibly inspiring and kind people to work alongside as well.

            I was assigned to the Wayqecha station in the high Andean cloud forest, an environment which is incredibly different from any of the lowland forests at the other field stations and deserves to be considered and appreciated in its own right. It is definitely an Andean, and not Amazonian, environment, with a temperature that ranges from a very comfortable ‘indian summer’ of pleasantly cool to (on very sunny days) hot during the day to cold temperatures at night. As such, the climate is anything but tropical, lacking the humidity and mugginess of the lowlands and meaning that you’ll have an easier time of hiking up and down those mountainsides. While there is a rainy season from late November onwards, during most of the field season you will be treated to light misty rain and low clouds (fog) which blow up the valley in impressive fashion each afternoon. The habitat itself is extremely varied, ranging from puna grassland to stunted elfin forest, to full on cloud forest, which is home to an impressive array of tree ferns, orchids and other epiphytes, hummingbirds, tanagers, and flowerpiercers. Yes, the density of wildlife might not be up to Amazonian standards, but the birds are as colorful as anywhere else, and always unpredictable as to what you might run across. Oh, and the views are better than anywhere else in the Kosnipata valley...

            For Wayqecha, I would recommend bringing a 3.5 to four season tent, a sleeping bag which is rated to at least freezing, and some good sunblock- at 3000 meters you will burn in about fifteen minutes on a cloudless day. A good knowledge of Spanish will help a lot in terms of communication with the locals and the research group. My time in Peru with the project convinced me that I want to pursue ornithology as a career and opened my eyes to the amazing world of neotropical fieldwork.



Diego A Rinconguarin (Colombia) 2011, 2012

Diegoarincong(at)gmail(dot)com

2012: De nuevo trabajando con Gustavo y Jill, mi segunda temporada en Manu Bird Project, esta vez regresé como encargado de Wayqecha, de las tres estaciones la más fría. En 2012 más familiarizado con las metodologías y tareas que se manejan en el proyecto como la búsqueda de nidos (a veces frustrante), redes, trasnochadas en tasas metabólicas, trabajo con los datos, días de cocina y logística, para que todo saliera bien. Estar a cargo te dá tiempo para conocer bien a tus compañeros, allí te encontrarás con personas que son excelentes trabajadores, personas que quieren aprender mucho, personas que se quejan de todo, los que no se quejan por nada, los buenos amigos y las personas desordenadas, entre otros, pero hay que tener en cuenta que todos tenemos diferentes personalidades y por eso recomiendo no amargarse, ser tolerante, tener paciencia y muchísimo interés por aprender. Hay días en que estás agotado y te quieres ir a dormir a las 6 de la tarde, también tendrás momentos bonitos, malos, preocupantes, emocionantes, tristes, de tensión, días lluviosos, pero hay que saber sortearlos y aprovecharlos, porque un componente muy importante (en la vida) es la buena convivencia y el buen ambiente de trabajo y mas en el campamento, que es tu casa y que estás viviendo con un grupo de siete personas que son tu familia durante cuatro meses o más. Debes interesarte por los datos que tomes y aprovecharlos, debes ser muy ordenado y observador y así podrás preguntarte el porqué de muchas cosas que allí veas. Tienes la oportunidad de visitar uno de los lugares con la más alta diversidad del mundo, podrás ver allí las tángaras de alta montaña que son espectaculares; si caminas hacia arriba un poco más, podrás ver muchos pájaros de la Puna y si caminas hacia abajo o por entre el monte cerca al campamento de Esperanza, verás los pájaros que se mezclan a menos de 2500 m. Es una buena oportunidad para conocer personas de diferentes países, en este caso, a personas de más de 10 nacionalidades dentro del proyecto, como de El Salvador, Brasil, Estados Unidos, México, Canadá, Perú, Ecuador, Bélgica, Inglaterra, Sudáfrica, Francia, China y más colombianos; sin olvidar a los conductores de camión, de bus, guías de turismo, turistas, mas voluntarios de otros proyectos, lugareños, profesores...... Otra cosa, las salidas a Pilcopata por mercado cada 15 días, algo largas porque vas desde los 3000 m hasta los 500 m, pero puedes ver las montañas que nunca se terminan y como cambia el monte en el gradiente y siempre, cada viaje es más interesante que el anterior. Finalmente, sería buena idea llevar speakers para la música y seguir en 2013 invictos en fútbol, ya que en 2012 siempre les ganamos al personal del lodge de Wayqecha.

Agradezco a Gustavo y a Jill por compartir sus conocimientos y por permitirme regresar. Para más información: aplica al proyecto, visita el Manu y estoy seguro que querrás volver!!

2011: Ayudar con este proyecto ha sido sin duda alguna una experiencia asombrosa, ya que muchas cosas allí fueron nuevas para mí; desde San Pedro, los viajes, los otros compañeros, los nidos, los huevos, las aves, la comida, las montañas, las lluvias, los ríos y miles de cosas mas, son imposibles de olvidar. Buscar nidos es un trabajo entretenido porque recorriendo el bosque por entre matorrales, bambú, cruzando ríos y quebradas uno se da cuenta de todo lo que tiene al rededor y que la tranquilidad que se siente en medio del bosque es única. Además, para nadie es sorpresa que el trabajo de campo es difícil y se tienen incomodidades y que todas las personas somos diferentes, pero aun así en San Pedro las cosas fueron las mejores siempre. Finalmente, cuando la temporada esta por acabar uno ruega que el tiempo se pase muy lento, para disfrutar al máximo todo allí. El Manu fué sorprendente y espero algún día regresar para seguir aprendiendo de todo, gracias Gustavo y gracias amigos.

Juan Diego (Colombia) 2012

lanero89(at)gmail(dot)com

Tener la fortuna de estar en un país como Perú, y no solo eso, sino llegar a uno de los lugares más increíbles del mundo (la Amazonía), lo hace crecer a uno como persona, no solo a nivel académico y en experiencia de campo sino como ser humano que debe tener un conocimiento holístico de lo que le rodea y más que eso mantener una relación respetuosa con la majestuosidad de la selva, que nos ofrece mucho pero a la vez se hace frágil ante la intervención humana.

El duro día a día de caminatas y búsqueda de nidos tiene una gran recompensa cuando se ve un ave salir de una cavidad o transportar un gran insecto en su pico, y más cuando tienes la fortuna de encontrar tan elaboradas estructuras y toda una historia detrás. Gracias a Gustavo y Jill por hacer posible esta gran experiencia.

Catherine Klein (France) 2012

4iklein(at)gmail(dot)com

Even if the 2012 field session was a bit disorganized in Wayqecha, I really think Manu Bird project is a really good opportunity for those who want to study and discover rainforest birds. If you have a problem with changing protocols, don’t hesitate to say yes! The managers, especially Jill, are ready to help you and open for all suggestions. You will learn to live in a community, to cook with non-usual food for a lot of people, to sit on a potato bag during hours in a truck for traveling... And of course, a lot of fascinating things about birds and tropical forest.

 I worked in Wayqecha in 2012, it is a fantastic station. You will not see as many birds compared to the other stations, the nests are difficult to find, the mist nets are often empty, you will learn to swim through spiny bushes, the cabana is not very comfortable... But I really dont regret my station choice, I'm totally in love with this amazing landscape! I already miss my little break, sitting in the grassland with a cookie, looking the valley going down to the Amazonian forest... If you like mountains and cool temperatures, go to Wayqecha!

Johanna Barahona Rivera (USA) 2012

 jyb3(at)humboldt(dot)edu

 I spent about 4 months volunteering at the Wayquecha station.  This experience turned out to be way more than what I expected, I knew it was going to change my life but some of the hardships most definitely caught me by surprise.  It was both mentally and physically demanding and challenging. It’s an experience that will help you grow in personality, knowledge, socially, and professionally.  Here goes some advice to volunteers in general:

-study the Latin names of the birds found in your work station before you volunteer
-read some of the scientific journals written by Gustavo, Jill and others of Manu Bird Project to familiarize yourself with the field work you will be aiding
-pack lots of comfort foods, trail mix is cheaper in the USA
-focus on a hobby such as birding, plant/insect identification, reading, photography, crafts, etc to get through the days
-pack a wrist watch with alarm, water filter can come in handy, pack all electronics in waterproof bags
-pack PeptoBismol, expect stomach discomforts, diarrhea, etc . If you can get ahold of Giardia antibiotics do it just in case you get it, I had Giardia for most of my stay in the volunteer and fully recovered once I left Wayquecha. Health food stores or herb stores sell organic herbal parasite cleansing pills.

Have fun, enjoy the beauty of Peru. The birds are amazing, there is a lot to learn from the environment you will be surrounded by. It is a very special place. You will be working with a diverse group of people, be sensitive to others, it is essential that people try to get along and maintain an overall positive level of energy within the group to reduce work and living stress.

 Advice to volunteers in Wayquecha:

-pack thermal wear, Wayquecha is COLD!!! One sleeping back was not enough for some of us, we had to put blankets inside our sleeping bags

-Although the closest town to Wayquecha is Paucartambo, there is not reliable transportation back and forth to that town in one day.  On your day off expect an 8-10 hour roundtrip ride to Pilcopata, passing the San Pedro station. In Pilcopata you will buy groceries, use internet and telephone.

Nik Aspey (UK) 2012

nik_aspey(at)hotmail(dot)com

If you have worked in the tropics before but never in the cloud forest, this is a fantastic opportunity to appreciate it's distinctive nature. 
 
Above all it is NOT the tropical sweat-bath of the lowlands, it's more a weird temperate tropical mix with sunny Spring mornings, Summer days, Autumn late afternoons and early Winter nights. If you bring a little kit and clothing to cover these colder daily periods (Grade 2/3 sleeping bag with liners, a few fleece tops and bottoms and even a pair of gloves if you like) you will be super comfortable and ready to ditch them quickly to enjoy the dry sunny heat of the average day. Another advantage of the climate is the reduced level of things that bite and mould your kit and sometimes yourself, makes fieldwork just that bit more comfortable. 
 
The tropical wildlife may be at a reduced density to the lowlands but compared to temperate areas it's still plentiful, and being at the intersection of montane forest, elfin forest and high Puna grasslands the diversity of flora and fauna is pretty special. If you want to test your nest searching skills or learn in the most challenging of habitats then this place is certainly it, about as extreme as you can get. The views are stunning with forest clad valleys rolling down to the lowlands below you and the grass clad Andean peaks above. 
 
It is definitely a once in a lifetime location to do fieldwork in and I was pretty happy that I did.

Jessica Thompson (Mexico) 2012

upis_22(at)hotmail(dot)com

San Pedro es un bosque de niebla hermoso, y aunque llueve todo el tiempo el clima es perfecto, este lugar esta lleno de cascadas, arroyos y riachuelos, todo esta cubierto de musgos y otras epifitas, es un lugar increíble para buscar nidos..., buscar nidos es la parte mas divertida y difícil del asunto ¡la mayoría están tan bien escondidos! salir a buscar nidos es una de las mejores experiencias que he tenido, encontrarlos,  monitorearlos, los nidos, los huevos, y ver como van cambiando los pollos día a día es muy interesante y bonito, aun cuando no encuentres muchos es muy padre ver lo que los demás están encontrando, es motivante, encontrar nidos es todo un reto. 

Esta experiencia fue positiva en muchos sentidos por que estas aprendiendo todo el tiempo, ya sea sobre aves, sobre sus hábitos, ecología, comportamiento, reproducción, distribución, alimentación … pero no solo eso, sino que en realidad aprendes de todo, aprendes sobre el bosque, aprendes a cocinar, a reparar, a cacharrear, aprendes de ti mismo, aprendes a ser responsable, aprendes de los demás, los chicos de San Pedro estaban muy motivados y comprometidos con su trabajo, hacían todo con muchas ganas y lo mejor posible, además de que fue muy divertido cambiaron mi manera de trabajar y también de ver las cosas.

Kirstie Hazelwood  (UK)  2012

Hazelwoodkj(at)googlemail(dot)com

Working in Pantiacolla was one of the most rewarding experiences of working with wildlife I have had! The rainforest is an endlessly beautiful and interesting place and there are always new birds, plants and insects to see. This project gave me the unique opportunity to wander into the forest and spend all day looking at interesting things, and to bathe in the biggest bath I’ve ever used (the Manu river). I have also left with some unexpected and valuable skills and knowledge that I am still using now and I can’t stop telling people about the amazing birds and people I was working with.

There are of course aspects to this lifestyle that can be hard, living conditions are basic, contact with the rest of the world is few and far between, and the work can be difficult and tiring. Metabolic experiments are invasive, lengthy and not very interesting, and until you start to find nests, nest searching can be frustrating, but as long as you can appreciate your surroundings as you go these things need not be a problem.  

I would recommend that future assistants include a large amounts of socks, a Spanish dictionary, and if you think you’re into metabolics; some hardcore night-time entertainment! Be open minded and appreciate the diversity of the people you meet, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Paul Preston (Canada) 2012

paul.preston(at)alumni(dot)ubc(dot)ca

I worked at the Pantiacolla field station in the fall of 2012 and all I can say is that it was quite the experience. The biggest thing I would say to prepare yourself for working in the Amazon is that go in with no expectations and your mind will be blown, go in with expectations of what you will see and what the project will be like and you will be disappointed. The thing I had to wrap my head around while I was there was that Pantiacolla is so remote that it really is a different world. All the things we take for granted like food, comfort and communication are in short supply in Pantiacolla and in a way, I felt very much like I was a contestant on the show Survivor, but there was no million dollar prize, the prize was getting to experience something that very few people will ever get a chance to experience. The Amazon rainforest. I was on the mist-netting team and it was amazing to be able to hold birds like toucans, hawks, manakins and euphonias in your hands. I had done bird banding before but it was nothing compared to this. The project was a lot of work and at times it was very difficult and stressful, but you have to remember that all the organization of the project goes on from thousands of miles away and in that part of Peru, it’s very easy for things to get lost along the way. Overall, I had an amazing experience, the only thing I would like to have done differently was to come into the project not expecting anything. I came into it thinking there would be internet in the nearby town, that town would be easily accessible, we’d have no problem with getting food and water and that our basic comforts would not be so infringed on, but in that respect I was wrong. That’s all part of the adventure. That’s what Pantiacolla was, an endless source of adventure, and you won’t regret it for a second.

Katharine Fielding (USA) 2012

 Krfield(at)rams(dot)colostate(dot)edu

 Working for the project was challenging, but definitely worth it.  By the end, you will be way more self- sufficient with cooking and laundry.  The station leaders are awesome, and will help you learn all the basics of banding and mist netting, even if you have limited birding experience.  Working in such isolated conditions can be difficult, but as long as you are willing to be adaptable and positive, you will have a great experience.  

Carolina Granthon (Peru) 2012

c.granthon(at)tcu(dot)edu

El proyecto en general es bien interesante y completo, hay muchas tareas por hacer y abarca los gustos de diferentes personas. Participar en un proyecto como este no es nada fácil, hay poca comunicación con el exterior, se vive en condiciones difíciles, y se trabaja duro por 4 meses. Sin embargo, es difícil llamar lo que hacemos trabajo, ya que cada día es diferente e increíble. La emoción de encontrar un nido, o atrapar una especie nueva en las redes, y hasta sobrevivir a los experimentos de tazas metabólicas sin que se te escape ningún ave, es todo un logro. Yo estuve en San Pedro y es una gran estación, con muchísima diversidad de aves, grandes paisajes, aventuras, lugares nuevos e inexplorados, la verdad que es meterte al bosque de verdad; entre las plantas y lejos de las trochas. También tuve la suerte de trabajar con un grupo de gente increíble, conocer gente nueva, y hacer nuevos amigos. Finalmente, trabajar con Jill y Gustavo es genial, siempre dispuestos a responder tus preguntas y enseñarte algo nuevo cada vez que hablas con ellos, además de ser tan buenos amigos.
Clifton Avery (USA) 2012

cliftonkavery(at)gmail(dot)com

I worked in Peru from September through December 2012.  The majority of this time I worked as a member of the mobile team.  For the last month I split my time between San Pedro and Wayqecha nest searching. Working on the mobile team was an incredible experience that gave me the opportunity to see many different ecosystems within Manu National Park.  We worked at elevations ranging from nearly 12,000 feet down to1,000 feet.  The mobile team primarily mist-netted which was a valuable learning opportunity for me to learn many aspects of mist netting.  Due to all the different elevations we worked at, I held and saw a large range of the avian diversity of Manu National Park.  However, being a part of the mobile team is not an easy task.  One must be in good physical condition, be willing to camp in very remote locations for up to two weeks at a time, not mind the weather of the eastern Andes, be able to withstand the bugs, and simply like being outside in the rainforest all of the time!  The experiences I had during those two and a half months with the mobile team were unforgettable and some of the best moments of my life. This work experience has only furthered my love, interest, and curiosity for working in the field of tropical ecology. I also spent a month nest searching which is a difficult task that requires patience and awareness of your surroundings at all times while in the field. It is a wonderful feeling when you do find a nest that is active and well disguised within the monstrous biomass of the Peruvian Cloud Forest. 

Overall this was a life changing experience that a semester of college can simply not replace. My colleagues were all wonderful people and were from many different places around the world.  Manu National Park is the largest and most pristine piece of rainforest I have been to. The flora and fauna are dazzling. Working with and beside Jill Jankowski was an extremely rewarding experience.  I hope to work with Jill and this project in the near future.
Jaime Garizabal (Colombia) 2008, 2010, 2012

jgarizabal(at)gmail(dot)com

2008:  Será siempre poco lo que yo diga; estar allí y entonces fue una grandiosa experiencia de vida, desde innumerables puntos de vista. Como persona encontré un refugio interno que me permitió conocerme de maneras impredecibles, tuve mucho tiempo para estar solo acompañado de mi mismo, es algo único y muy enriquecedor. Como estudiante  y  biólogo  aprendí dos cosas muy importantes, a trabajar solo y a trabajar acompañado, aprendí a ser independiente y a la vez ser parte de algo más, a confiar en mi mismo y en el otro. Además, aprendí labores de campo de todo tipo, la experiencia es bastante completa, desde montar un campamento, reparar y preparar sensores y dataloggers, instalarlos en campo, luego analizar los datos, realizar experimentos con nidos, entre muchas otras cosas. Además, me familiaricé bastante con la vida en la selva; escuché, vi y tuve indicios de gran cantidad de organismos vivos de toda clase, dormí en carpa más de 100 noches, aprendí a cocinar varias cosas y a valorar lo que otros cocinaban, supe lo que es lavar ropa en un río, bañarme allí mismo, lavar la loza y recoger agua para tomar y cocinar, pasé semanas enteras viendo tan sólo tres o cuatro rostros. Aprendí a ser aún más paciente, pues me tocó soportar muchos eventos que merecieron paciencia, como nubes de insectos, humedad, lluvia, soledad, en fin. Supe que si se es atento, se aprende mucho de si mismo, de la naturaleza, de los compañeros y de la vida, se da uno cuenta de que todo problema tiene solución y que nada hay tan majestuoso que el disfrute de la vida que se desnuda ante uno cuando se tiene la oportunidad de vivir una experiencia como estas. Agradezco inmensamente el haber estado allí, pues sin duda, fue una de esas vivencias que recordamos con cariño hasta el final de nuestros días y que nunca terminan de enseñarnos, al recapitular y recapitular. A quien le guste trabajar fuerte sin perder la conciencia, escuchar y ser escuchado, estar en contacto directo con la vida y la naturaleza, sin máscaras, tomarse la vida como una lucha constante pero divertida, aprender inmensamente, sentir y pensar cosas nuevas, sin importar el reto que supongan, seguramente ha de fascinarle, como a mi, participar en un proyecto como el de Gustavo, quien además de ser excelente en lo que hace, es una maravillosa persona. Buscar nidos no es difícil, lo difícil es encontrarlos. Perseverancia, paciencia, método, control mental, concentración e incluso suerte, hacen la diferencia entre el que encuentra y el que no, cada día.

2010: En mi segunda vez en el proyecto de Gustavo me divertí mucho más que en la primera, indudablemente, y no sólo porque, como la primera vez, fue esta una experiencia reveladora, llena de momentos inolvidables, en lugares indescriptibles, sino porque definitivamente las personas que trabajan en él y la forma como se desenvuelve el trabajo de campo, te permite crecer mucho, no solo a nivel académico y laboral, sino a nivel personal. Yo siempre me sentiré un privilegiado por participar en el proyecto y para mi, sin duda, es una de las experiencias más bonitas, completas e importantes que he tenido en la vida. Estoy eternamente agradecido con Gustavo y los compañeros de proyecto, con cada momento, cada lugar y cada cosa que viví tanto en 2008 como en 2010

2012: Definitivamente el Manu tiene algo mágico que hace que cada vez que regreses te enamores más. Este año, mi tercero, tuve el placer de visitar durante la temporada de verano a las tres estaciones del proyecto, cada una espectacular a su modo. Como siempre, ser parte de este proyecto representa una experiencia única donde las palabras nunca alcanzan. Quizás por eso, cada vez que escribo para esta sección soy más breve. Y es que la única forma de entender lo que significa estar allá y entonces, es vivirlo en carne y alma propia!! Solo elogios para este proyecto, siempre! Me siento inmensamente afortunado por ser parte de esta familia, donde se mezcla la ciencia, la amistad, la biología y la vida misma!
Andres Chinome (Colombia) 2010, 2011

andchinome(at)gmail(dot)com


2010: No podría catalogar esta experiencia como un paso más en mi vida, porque realmente fue un momento determinante y trascendental tanto en lo personal como en lo profesional. La exigencia del trabajo me ayudo a conocer más de mis habilidades y defectos, a abordar de manera más positiva y paciente las cosas que se demoran en llegar. A conocerme en diferentes circunstancias. Aprender a confiar en personas que inicialmente eran totalmente desconocidos, reír, sufrir y celebrar con ellos hizo que San Pedro tuviera el ambiente más propicio para el aprendizaje, no solo de aspectos personales sino también en la Investigación Biológica. Encontrar en Gustavo un maestro dispuesto a compartir lo que sabe, hizo de la plataforma no solo una familia sino una constante Escuela. En lo académico, no solo se tiene la oportunidad de relacionarnos con rasgos morfológicos de una especie en particular, sino de aprender sobre características fisiológicas, comportamentales, de la ecología e Historia de vida.     El ver dia a dia ejemplificado lo que se aprende de manera teórica, en los nidos a monitorear, en inesperados pero maravillosos encuentros con la fauna y flora Tropical, son conocimientos que de ninguna otra manera podrían ser asimilados con igual realismo. Es definitivamente un ejercicio que todo Biólogo
debería experimentar.

2011: Al igual que la temporada 2010, el 2011 estuvo lleno de grandes enseñanzas académicas y personales. Es una excelente experiencia para las personas que quieran aprender y prepararse en la investigación de la Avifauna, desde el manejo y procesamiento de datos con redes de niebla Y Biología Reproductiva, hasta experimentos metabólicos. El aprendizaje es diario, proviene del arduo trabajo en campo y la interacción con los demás asistentes. Gracias a las enseñanzas de Gustavo, Jill y de los compañeros del proyecto 2011, mi participación fue una experiencia anecdótica.



David Ocampo Rincon (Colombia) 2008, 2009, 2011

algorab2(at)gmail(dot)com

2011: Tener la sensación de regresar a un hogar al comenzar a descender desde la Puna, pasando por los bosques densos de Wayqecha, atravesando el valle al lado del río Kcosñipata, para luego internarse donde se pierde la montaña en la Amazonía a las orillas de río Alto Madre de Dios, para mi siempre será un privilegio. El tercer año de participación en el proyecto estuvo cargado de cosas nuevas. Nuevas metodologías y dinámicas de trabajo, y como siempre  nuevas aves y amigos.  Trabajar junto a Gustavo y a Jill en este proyecto es una experiencia realmente enriquecedora, en la que he tenido la oportunidad de interactuar con muchas facetas de las vidas de las aves, a través de interesantes y complementarias metodologías. Este año, mi función en el proyecto me llevó a visitar constantemente las tres estaciones en el gradiente, trabajando con comunidades de aves muy diferentes pero igualmente apasionantes. ¿Cual estación? Difícil escoger, como siempre, depende de preferencias personales, pero seguro sin importar cual, se tendrá un experiencia llena de aventuras, amigos, aves, bichos de toda clase y mucho nuevo conocimiento, en uno de los Parques mas increíbles que se puede visitar.

2009: Llegar a conocer la biología de las aves de forma tan directa, pienso, solo es posible internándose un buen tiempo, en un buen sitio. Un sitio alejado y conservado, el tiempo suficiente para empezar a aprender no solo a ver las aves y demás organismos en él, sino  a interpretar (a veces acertadamente) las señales que nos dan. Basta tener los sentidos sensibles para empezar a reconocer esos distintos sitios donde podría estar un nido. ¿De que tipo de nido? copa, domo..., los huevos ¿con que patrón de coloración?, ¿y los pichones?, son tantas las variaciones en formas, colores y comportamientos de anidación, que no es difícil interesarse profundamente en la biología reproductiva de las aves y seguirle el paso a la metodología del proyecto. Para mí, eso fueron las dos temporadas reproductivas que pase en el proyecto: una excelente experiencia que definió lo que quiero seguir haciendo, sumada a la oportunidad de conocer gente nueva, diferente e interesante en un increíble e inusual lugar.

2008: La inmersión de forma tan directa con lo que estudiamos y más en un sitio como este, lleno de vida, que permite acercarse a especies conocidas, otras no tanto y otras que incluso ignorábamos, todas con fascinantes comportamientos y estrategias, es única (brutal); y si además tenemos en cuenta que se tiene la oportunidad de trabajar, con diferentes técnicas de campo, en un aspecto tan decisivo en la historia de vida de cualquier especie como es la reproducción, no cabe duda que participar de este proyecto es una gran oportunidad. Buscar nidos no es fácil, y compartir con gente de tan diferentes mundos puede ser en ocasiones difícil, pero de igual forma es un reto, un aprendizaje diario, ya sea académica, social, cultural o interior. Una experiencia llena de aventura, amigos y conocimiento.


Jennifer Bailey (USA) 2011

jenn.bailey9595(at)gmail(dot)com

Working in Peru with Gustavo was perhaps one of the most challenging and rewarding field experiences I have had thus far.  As you will read from the other field assistants, there is nothing quite like the frustration you will feel after spending a 10 hour (or more) day out in the field searching for nests and finding absolutely nothing.  In the beginning of the field season, this can be very discouraging.  However, if you keep walking and enjoying the forest around you while staying alert, you will find them.  I will never forget the excitement I felt each time I came upon a new nest.  

Gustavo's project provides an incredible opportunity to mix an amazing group of people with a beautiful ecosystem and very cool research.  It will not be easy.  Living conditions are very basic, the work is both physically and mentally challenging, and at least at the Pantiacolla field station, you will have very little if any contact with home.  If you are up to the challenge though, you will not regret it.  I came into the project with absolutely no avian experience.  The amount that I learned both about the birds themselves and the neotropical zone is truly unbelievable and has led to great future job opportunities.

For future field assistants, I would highly recommend that you bring more socks than you could possibly imagine, large amounts of anti-itch cream, several good books, an open mind, and a sense of adventure.  You will get to see things and places that most people can't even dream about.  Enjoy and please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Santiago David Rivera (Colombia) 2008, 2009, 2011

sdrrock(at)gmail(dot)com

La mejor experiencia de campo en el Neotrópico!

2011: Si usted está interesado en la historia natural de las aves Neotropicales, si usted pretende continuar un programa graduado con investigación en campo, si usted desea aprender del mundo natural en uno de los lugares más diversos del planeta, si usted es capaz de vivir en condiciones totalmente diferentes a las que está acostumbrado, si le interesa la ecología, comportamiento, evolución y fisiología, si usted es ordenado, curioso, entusiasta, trabaja en equipo y tienes paciencia, interés y ganas de aprender… entonces definitivamente tiene que considerar participar de este impresionante proyecto!   No es sólo buscar y encontrar nidos, es ser persistente y curioso en campo, es ser ordenado con los datos, es ayudar a mantener un buen ambiente con su equipo de trabajo, es levantarse y disfrutar la experiencia, es aprovechar cada segundo de cada día. En 2011 participe por tercera vez del proyecto con Gustavo y puedo simplemente resumirlo como la mejor experiencia de campo en el Neotrópico para un biólogo en formación.

2009: Como si la primera vez no hubiera sido perfecta, agradezco la oportunidad de vivir una segunda.  Este fue un segundo año lleno de nuevas aves, nidos, amigos y buenas experiencias,  de nuevo Tono es uno de los hogares en que más he disfrutado vivir y unos de esos lugares a los que siempre esperare volver.  Un proyecto lleno de satisfacciones, desde el encontrar los nidos hasta el colocar sensores. Hacer parte de esto, el proyecto de nidos en Manu, es sin duda la mejor experiencia de campo de mi vida!!! 

Rachel Grey (USA) 2011

rachel.grey4(at)gmail(dot)com

While working for Gustavo I absolutely fell in love with Peru. It is a beautiful country and living in San Pedro was amazing. The forest is beautiful and full of crazy insects, huge trees, beautiful flowers and scenery that I'll probably never see again. The work itself is frustrating but very rewarding. It's basically like a scavenger hunt all day every day, and I definitely found more old nests than active nests. That being said the mist netting is also a great aspect of the job. Holding birds like the Cock of the Rock, Rocket-Tailed Hummingbirds, Motmots, Tanagers, and everything in between was awesome. I never thought I'd be holding a hummingbird that was as big as my thumb. The birds that you get to work with really are amazing. I feel like I learned so much about different types of sampling and bird handling techniques. Day to day life at the platform was super rewarding; and you definitely learn to not mind the little things. I definitely had to get more creative with my cooking, and getting used to doing laundry by hand took a little getting used to. I used waaaay less clothes per week by the end of the season. Another great part of the job was getting to know people from all over the states, Peru, Colombia and Canada. I still keep in touch with many of them. My Spanish was way better by December. Finally working for Gustavo was great; I couldn't have asked for a better boss. He was always cheerful, energetic, positive, and handled everything very well. He gives great advice regarding graduate school and everything else. He's very patient and understanding and a great leader. I really enjoyed working for him, as well as my time in Peru.
 
Tim Forrester (USA) 2011

forrestertr(at)gmail(dot)com

I spent one month at San Pedro and three months at Wayqecha. The diversity between these stations is astounding, I only counted 7 species of birds seen at both of these stations. The forest at San Pedro is spectacular and the rivers are very fun to explore. The monkeys, snakes, frogs, and birds are all very entertaining. Wayqecha is almost completely different. It is much colder but usually a very comfortable temperature during the day. Nest searching up and down the steep hills will turn you into a mountain goat, and playing soccer at 3000m will get you in shape. Spending a lot of time at this station, there are many rare species of birds that you will get to see that most tourists miss.  As others have said, it is undeniably frustrating spending many hours a day searching for nests and not finding anything.  And when you do find a nest, you need to exercise even more patience, so as to safely take measurements so the bird does not abandon the nest. But there are very few things more satisfying than finding a beautiful hidden nest and collecting data that maybe no one else in the world has collected before. Mist-netting here is also a thrill, as you never know what you may catch. Be prepared to lose weight, as the constant walking and fairly regulated diet make it inevitable. This job is perfect for people who love birds, love being outdoors, and most importantly, have a lot of patience. This job is also great for biologists looking to see if they want to pursue more work in the tropics, as you will meet many experts in tropical ornithology. Gustavo is also an amazing and truly unique person to work with. There are very few people in the world who have such a deep well of knowledge about tropical avian ecology, and it is truly a adventure to work with him. I have no doubt that the experience of this job was a great help in myself getting accepted to graduate school. I hope to work on this project again at Pantiacolla in a few years.

Jenny Muñoz (Colombia) 2011

juanita027(at)gmail(dot)com

La mayoría de las personas no van a la selva porque suponen que extrañaran miles de cosas, en mi caso la selva me dio cada día algo de que enamorarme y por supuesto algo que extrañar el resto de mi vida. Manu es ese increíble sitio en donde puedes despertarte en la mañana con el canto de una hermosa ave tropical que se ha perchado sobre tu carpa, o tras el llamado de un amigo que encontró una impresionante serpiente.  Manu es caminar a donde te lleven los pies pero tambien tu pasión y tu curiosidad, el Proyecto Manu no es solo buscar nidos o capturar aves es enamorarte de la historia natural de las aves, de su ecología, su comportamiento, su fisiología. Nunca olvidare esa estremecedora sensación al encontrar el primer nido o al tener un pequeno colibrí en torpor entre mis  manos y luego gastar horas en decenas de preguntas que nos surgian cada día.

Este proyecto fue un reto para aprender sobre ecología y fisiología, pero sobretodo para  disfrutar la experiencia de vivir bajo condiciones exigentes en una selva tropical y aprender de un diverso equipo de trabajo en donde encontré maravillosos amigos. No todo es fácil, pero lo unico que usted necesita para estar bien en este paraiso es paciencia y buena actitud.  Esta temporada en Manu es la primera de muchas que quiero pasar.

Gracias a Jill y Gustavo por ser unos investigadores magníficos y unos amigos preciosos.

Callum Kingwell (Canada) 2011

callumkingwell(at)gmail(dot)com

Prospecting for birds nests in fairly remote areas of Peru may seem like an odd task to devote oneself to for 5 months, but I personally can't recommend it highly enough.  At the outset you will be assigned a large patch of forest where you will spend almost half of every day (i.e. 10-12 hours), 6 days a week for the duration of the field season searching for birds nests on your own.  (This cycle is broken, however, by bouts of mist-netting and metabolic rate measurements).  Consequently, you will appreciate the natural history of your patch to an extent that nobody living life at a normal tempo really could;  which, If you're into that kind of stuff, is pretty neat.  At the same time, you are contributing to a data set which is being used to answer interesting and important ecological questions which are listed elsewhere on this site.  The realities of life in the field:  1) the food may be different both in nature and occasionally in quantity from what you are used to at home (this mostly goes out to fellow North American omnivores), 2) you will suffer the minor discomforts of living in a tent for months at a time, and 3) as previously mentioned you will find yourself spending a lot of time alone.  If these conditions sound unbearable to you, you are probably wrong and you should come for the job in order to test your physical and mental character.  If you feel that you are comfortable with these circumstances, you should definitely consider coming to Peru to work on the project.  Gustavo and Jill are both great people to work with/for, and both their scientific contributions to neotropical ornithology and the energy they have invested in building up this Manu project are truly impressive.  Working alongside interesting people from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds is another hugely rewarding component of this work.  Bonus Tips: 1) try to pick up as much Spanish as you can before you head down and 2) don't let your binoculars fall out of your pack in the forest - you will never find them.

Eric Fishel (USA) 2011

efishel2(at)gmail(dot)com

Working on this project was one the most exciting and enjoyable experiences in my life.  Wandering the rain forest I was able to see so many amazing things that I know very few people ever get to see.  Finding something new and incredible every day was defiantly the best part of my time there.  Though my time there was very enjoyable, it did not lack for hardships.  Looking for nests can be very difficult and extremely frustrating, and because of this it can be hard to stay motivated sometimes.  But this just makes finding nests all the more exciting and rewarding. Working at the lower elevations the insects are a constant and relentless nuisance. Sometimes there is little you wouldn't give for anything cold, a clean shower or a soft bed, but all of these factors just made the experience that much more rewarding.  But with all of this said, if you can deal with all of the hardships, this is an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.  The people I worked with will be friends for life.  The wildlife you will see is hard to match anywhere else in the world.  And the experience you will gain in tons of field research methods is great for helping you along in this field.  
Jesse Vooz (USA) 2011

jvooz(at)yahoo(dot)com

From August to December of 2011 I worked at Pantiacolla in the foothills of the Andes on the Madre de Dios. It is by far the most remote site on the project and being located in the lowlands at the beginning of the Amazon Basin, the biological diversity is absolutely teeming and completely overwhelming to one accustomed to more northern latitudes.

Looking at the other previous field assistants accounts echoes the fact that the work is not easy. The days are long, most of the time is spent alone walking the jungle searching for things that are designed not to be found. At times you may not find a nest for a long period of time. Many times I returned to camp frustrated, soaking wet, and tired only to lay down to rest upon a damp sleeping bag. But I can tell you that every such moment was never in vain. Often I would be walking my plot, beams of sunshine coming down through the canopy, Red howler monkey calling, Screaming pihas singing on their lek, and there it would be, a beautifully constructed nest with 2 beautiful pearl-like eggs inside. It fills one with such joy and a sense of accomplishment to find such a sight and know that you are quite possibly among the first to ever have observed such a sight. There is no comparison.  

Pantiacolla is not for those who rely upon, or need, conveniences of the modern world. You will sleep in your tent, you will cook, bathe in a muddy river, and you may or may not be able to use the internet for a month at a time. To me, these are among its greatest attributes. Working in Pantiacolla, I not only learned volumes about the natural history of the lowland jungle but had one of the most enlightening experiences of my life that in the end turned out to teach me so much about myself and this world. Despite its hardships I would undoubtedly recommend the experience to any adventuresome, hardworking individual looking for the experience of a lifetime under the guidance of the most wonderful and knowledgeable bosses one can imagine. Do it!   


Erin Johnston (USA) 2011

joheri08(at)evergreen(dot)edu

I spent four months working on Gustavo's project, stationed in the lowlands at Pantiacolla.  I have always fantasized about visiting or working in the Amazon Rainforest, and am so relieved to find that the reality of it is even better than all of my day dreams. Pantiacolla is the most primitive of the field sites, so if  you are keen on living closely with the animals, then it is paradise. Throughout the four months, I had to accept that none of my possessions I brought with me would remain mine. My tent was claimed by ants, the food, by weevils, and my body, by various parasites. My hearing belonged to every insect and bird in the forest, and there was no guarantee that anywhere was a safe place to sit, stand, or lean. However, this is a wonderfully humbling experience that is the greatest cure for the boredoms, or an itch for adventure. Anyone can do it, you just have to want to! Nest searching was another great challenge for many of us. The nests are everywhere, but the goal for every bird is to hide their nest, and lead you away from it. The feeling of finding a nest never gets old. In fact, it only gets more exciting as you become acquainted with all the shapes, sizes, materials, and hiding spots. I feel that I can truly appreciate the detail, precision and the craftsmanship that goes into building a nest. It is important to keep a positive attitude towards field work, long hours, living conditions, and your field mates. Living with 12 random people for several months is a great way to practice finding positive qualities in everyone, as it is always possible. Taking this position was the best decision I have made thus far in my life, as I have been inspired to further my study of ornithology, and will certainly return to the jungle!
Samuel Flake (USA) 2011

sflake(at)gmail(dot)com

Despite the occasional hardships of last field season, spending four months in Pantiacolla was a great experience which benefited me as a person and as an aspiring scientist. It was a unique opportunity, I think, in terms of the potential of the project, the remoteness of the landscape, and the autonomy granted the field techs. You really have to learn how to work on your own, but then you are also rewarded by knowing that the nests you find and monitor are truly the results of your effort, and you certainly get invested in the project. I also learned much about how data are gathered to answer a particular problem. Gustavo and Jill are looking at a complex problem from so many different angles that one can't help but see the merit in the work as well as the difficulties of designing a project to answer such a question. This job was challenging but rewarding in many ways, and I would think that any lover of natural history should benefit from the experience even if one isn't particularly interested in tropical ecology. I found the remoteness and the amount of independent work to be meditative and personally fulfilling. I came home with a lifetime of stories to tell. I also got to know the folks I was working with very well, and I've stayed in contact with several of them. Plus, you get to see tons of really awesome birds (you know, if you're into that sort of thing).

Sabrina Van Remoortere (Spain) 2011
 
sabrinavr81(at)gmail(dot)com

Yo estuve durante esta temporada en Pantiacolla, en Alto Madre de Dios, y ha sido una experiencia increíble. Pantiacolla es un sitio impresionante, a mí personalmente me gustó mucho la cantidad de especies diferentes que se pueden encontrar que estaban especializadas en diferentes ecosistemas, como el bambú y tierra firme. Rebosa biodiversidad en aves, pero también en mamíferos y  en insectos (y esto tiene, aunque no lo parezca, un lado interesantísimo y positivo). Así que una vez uno sabe los trucos para que le piquen lo menos posible (o se resigna), esto es el paraíso. 
Trabajamos duro, y a veces es frustrante no encontrar tantos nidos como otra gente, pero lo mejor es no desesperar, disfrutar y dar lo mejor de uno para que la experiencia de todo el grupo sea lo más productiva posible. Al final, es un trabajo de grupo y todos tenemos cosas que aportar...y que aprender. Pasas mucho tiempo solo buscando nidos, pero también compartes cosas básicas cada día con un grupo grande de gente; para mí las dos cosas me hicieron aprender y disfrutar de muchos buenos momentos, pero hay que ser consciente de que somos humanos y todos tenemos días bajos. Yo estoy muy agradecida de haber tenido la oportunidad de participar en este proyecto, de haber aprendido tantísimo y no dudaría en volver. Si tienen cualquier pregunta, estoy más que encantada de responderles.

Brandon McLaughlin (USA) 2011

bmclaug1(at)ycp(dot)edu

Working with Gustavo and the rest of the crew in San Pedro, Peru was exhilarating. It was by for the most magnificent place I have ever visited. The work was difficult and sometimes frustrating, but completely worth it. Finding nests, monitoring their juveniles from birth until fledge, and handling adult birds is an interesting and rewarding experience. Coming from a non-ornithologist, having the chance to explore the jungle and see sights like none-other while nest searching was incredible.  When going on this trip, expect nothing and absorb everything. Don’t stress too much about equipment. Just keep your wits about you and take in what’s around you.

Laura Southcott (Canada) 2011

lsouthco(at)zoology(dot)ubc(dot)ca

Living and working at San Pedro was an incredible experience. It's a much more engaging way to see Peru than the average tourist experience. Be prepared for long hours, many insect bites, and lots of rain. But also be prepared to be constantly astonished by the wildlife, the landscape, and the people around the field site. I learned a lot about tropical field work and birding in general in the two months I was there, but I think the best part was constantly seeing something new - weird insect, strange plants, the occasional monkey - around every corner.

Dano Grayson (USA) 2011

danograyson(at)gmail(dot)com

Working in the East Andean slopes of Peru with Gustavo Londono I was able to experience unique and beautiful bird species as well as many other inhabitants to the cloud forest. My days were filled with activities from hiking the High Andeas to hands on encounters with amazing wildlife. The views at Wayqecha were awe inspiring and when the clouds and the fog cleared you couldn't help but to stare out, down the Koosnipata Valley into the mighty Amazon. I met some interesting people along the way, made some new memories I hope to not soon forget and learned that some momma birds will defend
their nests with honor. I thank the team I was able to work with for the great experience and would recommend this position to others.

Chris Smith (USA) 2010, 2011

cscjsmith805(at)gmail(dot)com

2010: This project was one of my favorite and most intense field experiences.  I have worked in Utah, Alaska, Utah, Jamiaca, and several other places, and this position was the hardest I have had to work (12 hr days of walking at 10000ft elevation, plus 2 hours of data entry at night).  Discovering never-described nests of species is an amazing feeling, as is working with and observing birds such as fruit-eaters, swallow-tailed nightjars, Oropendula, and Cock-of-the-rocks (to name a few).  My field site (Wayqecha) provided good food, usually in ample quantities, and hot water on irregular evenings.  The other field sites are possibly a bit more intense, living off rice and beans for lunch and dinner 6 days a week, and having only a tent platform to retreat to in inclement weather (we had an enclosed eating/lab area).  The opportunity to travel 1 week during and potentially after the season was amazing, and for me included Machu Pichu, Lake TIticaca, and Colca Canyon.  Gustavo is an amazing boss to work for, although very busy at times.  The research deals largely with natural history (focusing on nesting ecology), in large part because so little is known about the species there, which is slightly different than many conservation-driven, hypothesis-testing science in the US.  Be prepared for a few new diseases, sometimes-sketchy rides in the backs of large trucks, and living conditions that will at times test your mental toughness.

2011: Pantiacolla was the most intense and wild place I have worked out of 12 field jobs now to date.  The place is located on the edge of a huge area filled only with uncontacted tribes and a small nearby town (15 min away) of 200, which occasionally has internet.  I have worked in the tropics, and the frequency you see rare animals here like Jagarundi, tapir tracks, Jaguar tracks, and Giant Anteaters, and 6 sp. of monkey speaks of how wild this place is compared to others.  The experience matches the place.  Food comes every week, and vegetables and bread by the end of 1 week without refrigeration need to be picked through for mold/bruises.  The diet is very simple (mostly dried rice, beans, lentils, and pasta) but will usually leave you filled.  Come prepared to bath in a river, drink chlorinated water, wash dishes and clothes in a river, be mobbed by sweat bees, work 12 hour days (or 24 hrs if you are doing metabolic work), and be stung by bullet ants, all for 4 months.  The experience was worth it though.  The nests are amazing, the birding spectacular, our crew was like our own little family, and soccer on Saturdays in town made for a welcome break in life.  Gustavo is a great, easy going boss to work for, and his enthusiasm makes you excited to go look for nests.


Camilo Flórez (Colombia) 2010, 2011


kmilofv(at)gmail(dot)com

2010: Es impresionante poder haber visto la casi infinita diversidad de la naturaleza y también haber visto tantas historias de vida diferentes . Esta experiencia, sin duda, define lo que me gusta del trabajo en la biología y en verdad lo que me gusta de la vida: caminar largamente en campo. Es bueno haber aprendido a ver una parte más de los ecosistemas, los nidos son algo que antes nunca había puesto atención. Estar en el bosque tanto tiempo y haber aprendido de tantos compañeros y buenos amigos fue definitavemente una experiencia enriquecedora.

2011: Pantiacolla es un lugar increíble, exuberante y lleno de "extravagancias". Siempre detrás de la carpa hay sonidos espectaculares, de huanganas, ratas del bambú, bienparados, monos aulladores... Uno aprende que es demasiado pequeño en esa selva gigantesca, lejos de la familia pero demasiado cerca a la naturaleza, otra nueva familia. El bosque es un laberinto, casi todo el tiempo uno camina sin saber dónde está. Lo más importante es ser paciente para todo, para encontrar nidos, rascarse las picaduras, soportar los golpes de Gustavo en los partidos de fútbol, soportar la ropa mohosa, las hormigas en las carpas, las picaduras de las congas, el mal olor de las huanganas, de los compañeros y de uno mismo. De nuevo, otra experiencia inigualable, muchos amigos nuevos y otros ya conocidos que fue muy bueno volver a ver. De nuevo, muchas gracias Tavo.


Richard Aracil (USA) 2010, 2011

raptorara(at)hotmail(dot)com

2011: This was my second time working on Gustavo’s Project (I worked at San Pedro in 2010). This past field season, I worked at the Pantiacolla site. As was the case at San Pedro, I once again had a wonderful time. I’m so glad I decided to spend another season in Peru on Gustavo’s crew! Pantiacolla was the most beautiful, wildest, most remote place I have ever been. The forest was teeming with diversity and life; I would notice something cool and new literally every day. The fieldwork for this project is intense! Be prepared to spend your days in the field working very hard and often getting absolutely filthy and/or soaking wet in the process. Especially if you find a lot of nests, you have to be organized in order to keep track of everything and when you’re not nest searching, you will be spending much time running from nest to nest tending them like they are your children! Gustavo’s field work can be very challenging, but it’s lots fun and very rewarding as the data you will be collecting is often completely new to science. Working on Gustavo’s project is an opportunity to work at the frontier of what is known about birds! Plus, you are doing it in an incredible place few people have the opportunity to experience. For me, the “work” never really felt like work at all and because of that, I found it very easy to push myself too far and go a bit too long without taking breaks. Please make sure you are safe and that you also take care of yourself! Outside of the field, make sure you are comfortable and come prepared with lots of extra clothing to change into as well as stay warm and dry. Also make sure you eat enough! I lost a lot of weight at Pantiacolla! Exploring those amazing forests every day in search of nests and working with fascinating birds about which very little is known was a privilege and I looked forward to every day in the field with excitement. If I could do it every year, I would!

2010: After drooling over a friend's copy of Birds of Peru, reading A Parrot Without a Name, plus a four-year drought since my last tropical birding experience, I was pretty much chomping at the bit to come to Peru. About a year before I actually started my field season in San Pedro, I discovered Gustavo's project after coming across this website. Although I was really excited about the opportunity, I was leery about such an epic adventure. I had no idea at the time if I would commit to going. During the intervening months, the prospect seemed more and more feasible to me. At another field job later that year, I ended up working with one of Gustavo's former assistants. She had great stories and photos of the wonderful time she had on the project which really settled a lot of my apprehension. After hearing her enthusiastic testimonials, my decision to go was pretty much clinched. Working in San Pedro was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had and definitely something I'll never forget. The forest in this area was by far the most beautiful and biodiverse I've ever seen and the birdlife was truly spectacular. Literally every day, I saw something cool and new. The fieldwork for Gustavo's project was a ton of fun and very challenging. Every day was an adventure as I never knew what I was going to see or find. The data we collected was fascinating and working with species on which so little is known was very rewarding. It was a privilege working with these incredible birds and making often completely new contributions to science. Nest searching was surprisingly difficult as the birds are extremely cryptic and adept at cleverly concealing their nests. It was definitely unlike any nest searching experience I ever had before. Learning what to look for (i.e. getting a good "search image") with each species' nesting behavior was crucial to finding nests in those dense forests as were patience and perseverance. If you are looking for an adventure, you love birds and challenging fieldwork, and are eager to learn new things as part of a truly immersive experience, Gustavo's research is for you!

Michelle Kelly (USA) 2010

mek757(at)gmail(dot)com

I got more than I expected from my time on the Manu. Even though I turned into a little bit of a monkey, leaving preconceived notions of morals and hygiene in the States, my overall experience at San Pedro was beyond amazing. Much of what I learned on the trip was unexpected.  I was applying for Graduate school while abroad and although the limited Internet access made this complicated, I was in the most encouraging and educational environment for the process. Working for Gustavo gave me a keen insight into the challenges and rewards that lie ahead as a scientist. Gustavo’s ambitious and fun-loving personality makes it a real joy to work for him. The variety of data he accumulates in our short period in Peru is inspirational.  When I returned home, friends and family thought the challenges I faced were insects, sleeping in a tent, wearing perpetually cold wet clothes, and eating the same food day after day, however those factors were every bit of the charm of the experience. I made great friends and definitely challenged myself.  Accept the fact that there are moments that will be extremely frustrating.  You have to have to possess a positive attitude and a drive to push past it.  Life in the forest beats at a different rhythm. The true necessities are never more apparent and the journey was so spectacular I understand why people go native. The experience was addicting.  My advice to anyone that wants to join the crew is to learn some Spanish, bring only items that will dry quickly, and enjoy every moment (4 months in paradise passes swiftly).
Alejandro Montoya (Colombia) 2010

balrhog.demoria(at)gmail(dot)com

Es una interconexión de tu interior con lo que te rodea. Es devolverse en el tiempo para impregnarse de tranquilidad y felicidad. En cuanto a lo académico es la vivencia más enriquecedora en la que he participado, además las serpientes son animales excepcionales e igual de frágiles que muchos otros. En consecuencia, la mejor experiencia en todos los aspectos de la vida y la repetiría a ojos ciegos. A pesar de malos ratos, el balance siempre va a ser positivo.

Cornelio Bota Sierra (Colombia) 2010

corneliobota(at)gmail(dot)com

Las palabras que yo pueda escribir nunca lograran hacer justicia a la experiencia vivida en el proyecto. Las sensaciones, las anécdotas… Creo que nunca había aprendido tanto, y no solo de ciencias, sino de la vida, de la infinidad de formas de la vida, de la vida que respira, que corre, que lucha, que vuela!!! De mi vida, de la vida de mis compañeros… Como dije arriba las palabras se quedan cortas. Simplemente Brutal.

Papá Tavo, Parceros: ¡Muchas gracias por todo!
Jonny Echeverri (Colombia) 2010

agnuzyos(at)gmail(dot)com

Experiencias únicas te esperan a la vuelta de la esquina, me dijo un buen amigo antes de mi partida a Perú. Ahora que regreso a la cotidianidad de la ciudad me doy cuenta que esas eran sabias palabras. Agradezco al parcero Gustavo por permitirme trabajar en su proyecto de investigación, ya que gracias a esta oportunidad pude estar en el mejor sitio de trabajo al que alguien como yo puede anhelar. La sensacion de tranquilidad que se obtiene en la selva dificilmente se puede tener en la ciudad, ademas trabajar con aves es apasionante y todavia mas cuando lo que hacemos va a tener un impacto grande en el conocimiento que se tiene sobre la ecologia reproductiva de las aves. Peru es un pais con una incalculable riqueza natural y unos paisajes maravillosos que se quedan grabados en la mente y en el alma.

Loni Silver (USA) 2010

loni_ag(at)yahoo(dot)com
Working in Peru for Gustavo was an amazing experience.  Because you get to spend so much time in the field and Peru has such an abundance of wildlife, you end up getting to see something new (an animal, plant or behavior…) on almost a daily basis.  At the same time, you are also being exposed to so many different kinds of birds, nests and even habitats, that you are constantly learning and gaining experience.  Peru, itself, also has a lot to offer and this can be a jumping off point for travelling and seeing the rest of the country.
Diego Guevara Torres (Peru) 2010

dgt_1234(at)yahoo(dot)com

Participar en el proyecto fue una experiencia muy valiosa para mí, aprendí muchas cosas sobre la biología reproductiva de muchas aves pero también aprendí que soy capaz de realizar muchas cosas si me las planteo. La búsqueda de nidos es un reto que invita a ir por todas partes,  caminar entre los musgos y árboles de San Pedro o avanzar por el río Unión o Kosñipata es una experiencia única ya que el bosque nublado es uno de los ecosistemas más bonitos que hay en la Tierra. Encontrar un nido es como encontrar una caja llena de sorpresas, conforme pasan los días uno se va involucrando más con los polluelos llegando a pasar el día pensando en ellos, yendo de un nido a otro y siempre encontrando algo nuevo conforme uno camina. Le doy gracias a Gustavo por permitirme vivir mi carrera, Biología, en un contacto directo con la naturaleza. Le recomiendo la experiencia a cualquiera que esté dispuesto a aprender mucho sobre las aves y vivir una aventura cada día.
Dave Giordano "Gio" (USA) 2010

businessgio(at)yahoo(dot)com 

As a field biologist, science educator and wildlife photographer/filmmaker, I seek out new, adventurous and exciting field research opportunities. Having visited Peru and Manu National Park on vacation in the past, I knew I wanted to get back there as a researcher one day. That opportunity arrived when I worked with Gustavo on his project in 2010. I spent most of my time at the San Pedro site but also visited the other two sites. Each site is different and presents its own unique adventures and challenges. Gustavo’s project is the real deal when it comes to field research. Nest searching in the cloud forest takes practice, skill, luck and a lot of patience. You must be physically and mentally prepared to work in these ecosystems. There are days when you might feel that the rain, mud and biting insects are going to drive you completely insane. Then there are days when you might find a nest of an incredible bird, come across a troop of woolly monkeys or discover a beautiful insect and remember that you are lucky to be working in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.

Living and working in the Peruvian Andes will present endless adventures and challenges. Not only within the wilderness but also with the local cultures. You must be open minded and prepared for the unexpected. A one-hour ride to town in the back of a cargo truck (with a bunch of farm animals) might end up taking two days to get back because the rains picked up and the road washed out. In the end, it’s all part of the adventure.


There is much to learn about the birds living and migrating in the Eastern Andes of Peru and Gustavo is trying to answer several important questions. He is cheerful; dedicated to his work and willing to help you learn and improve your field research skills. Whether you are new to field biology or a have been at it for many years, I recommend this project for the adventure of a lifetime.
Alejandro Campuzano (Colombia) 2010

kampu420(at)gmail(dot)com

Trabajar en el proyecto fue una experiencia muy satisfactoria a nivel personal y profesional. El trabajo de campo en la biología es de gran importancia, y es en este que nos acercamos a lo que de verdad estamos estudiando, y es aquí donde se nos generan las preguntas y inquietudes que como biólogos nos debemos hacer. La oportunidad de hacer parte de un proyecto así, y de poder estar toda la fase de campo en lugares como Tono y Pantiacolla fue de gran importancia y fue una temporada de mucho aprendizaje sobre biología y sobre cómo vivir la vida. El trabajo de buscar nidos no es nada fácil, pero no hay mayor satisfacción que cuando uno encuentra un nido en medio del bosque, y cuando logra ver el proceso de este en cuanto a la construcción, incubación, y posterior crianza de los pichones.

Corey Shake (USA) 2010

corey.s.shake(at)gmail(dot)com

I spent two months on Gustavo's project at the Wayquecha Biological Station, my first field work and visit to the tropics.  The habitats surrounding Wayquecha are an enchanting and often a challenging work environment, thanks to the cool and damp weather, steep terrain, and sometimes thick vegetation.  The fascinating and unique ecology of this cloud forest-puna grassland ecotone make the conditions much easier to deal with.  Because of the nature of the job--spending hours searching for nests of any and every species you can find--I had the opportunity to make intriguing observations of many different and colorful birds.  I also had the luck of observing some pretty interesting mammals and butterflies at the lower elevations of the Wayquecha study area, including  wooly monkeys, oso andino, and a tayra.  Another highlight of my work at Wayquecha was the opportunity to interact with the Peruvian staff of the station, with whom I made friends, played futbol, and visited their homes in a nearby village after the season.  The work itself was demanding, as volunteers were asked to work long days (~10 hrs; 6 days a week) with a relatively large workload (especially towards the end when collected nests were analyzed and data entered).  The research seemed to be mostly directed at answering physiological, evolutionary, and basic ecology questions, with only a small component of direct conservation-related questions. Volunteers were asked to sacrifice some eggs and frequently handle nestlings to collect physiological data.  With these things in mind, I would suggest that volunteers have a high level of enthusiasm for this type of research.  For the project's leader, Gustavo Londono, I have much respect and enjoyed working with him.  He is an enthusiastic and understanding supervisor from whom a budding tropical ecologist could learn a lot.  Overall, I am very happy to have spent the time I did on this project in such an awesome place.
Sebastian Camilo Pérez Peña (Colombia) 2009, 2010

biosebas_021(at)hotmail(dot)com
 
2009: El trabajo de campo es primordial en la formación de un biólogo, es allí donde se aplica todo lo aprendido en la teoría y en donde realmente comprendemos lo que nos han enseñado; para mi trabajar en el Proyecto con Gustavo fue sin duda alguna una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida no solo por la gran cantidad de cosas que aprendí y la cantidad de bichos que observe sino porque fue la oportunidad para darme cuenta de que esto es lo que realmente quiero hacer el resto de mi vida, la interacción con el ecosistema en el que vivimos fue fascinante... el PNN Manu es uno de los lugares mas hermosos de Latinoamérica y haber vivido alli es todo un privilegio del cual estoy muy orgulloso,tambien la oportunidad de conocer nuevas culturas y hacer nuevas amistades fue una experiencia inolvidable...

2010: Cuando en 2009 decidi que volveria para la temporada 2010 del proyecto de Gustavo, jamas me imaginé que iba a ser tan bueno regresar... fue una oportunidad inmensa para aprender muchismas cosas nuevas, tanto de aves del neotropico así como tambien de otros animales como los herpetos y los insectos... gracias al buen grupo de trabajo que se formo.. fue una temporada excelente en la que se nos exigio mucho pero al final el buen trabajo se vio reflejado en la calidad de los datos obtenidos... haber tenido la oportunidad de conocer un bosque de tierras bajas en ese estado de conservación fue muy emocionante.... la cantidad de especies de aves, herpetos, mamiferos e insectos que observamos y con las que convivimos fue fantastica y no hay palabras, cada dia era una aventura... siempre habia algo nuevo y una historia para contar... la convivencia fue entre hermanos... muchas gracias a Gustavo y a cada uno de los parceros de la temporada 2010... por lejos la mejor temporada de campo de mi vida!!!! 

Anthony Miller (Canada) 2009, 2010

Kestrel7(at)surfbirder(dot)com

2009: Working in the Peruvian rainforest with Gustavo was the single greatest experience of my life. Working in the rainforest forever changed my look on the natural world and the things around me. I was able to spend time at all three sites with the majority of that at Wayqecha and Tono. All three sites are unique and present different challenges at each Tono being the most rugged. You must be willing to experience a new adventure every single day while on this project. Nest searching in the rainforest presents a totally different challenge from that of nest searching in North America. Birds are very unique in the placement of there nests and the materials they choose.  You can go days without finding a nest where others around you may find 3 in a day. With each day the forest grows on you and you become familiar with movements, flocks, and the placement of birds in certain areas. Nest searching is a struggle but when you find one it's an amazing feeling!!

2010: This was my second field season with Gustavo Londono in Peru. Working with Gustavo was one of the most important pieces as my development to a career in biology and avian research for that matter. I had the opportunity to learn and work with people from many different biological backgrounds, giving insight into there techniques and styles of research as well as offering my own advices and experiences in avian biology. Your going to get dirty, your going to get wet, your going to stink, your going to be riddled with scrapes, cuts, bug bites, bruises and many other things – So if this doesn't sound like fun this type of field work isn't for you. One of the most important things as well, if you have any problems when it comes to eating. If you are a very picky eater you may not have the greatest of times. I highly suggest you bring your own foods from Cuzco the big city or one of the local mountain or lowland jungle towns. Things you may want to consider are peanut butter, or chocolates anything that you might find comforting while out doing the research. If you have never been to South America. Be open minded to trying new foods, hoping in taxis whizzing down the backroads, people trying to sell you everything and anything from a pigs head, to massages and anything in between!

We work long hours, very early mornings and lot's of walking. Bring the best field equipment you can afford. Most importantly good quality rain gear and boots like hiking boots are important to this field work. I had my boots fall apart within a few weeks of being in Peru. I had to wait a month for my new ones to arrive so it's KEY to have quality foot wear. Your job depends on your ability to walk around searching for birds.

Aside from the rougher parts of field work life. Your in Peru hello ! This is one the greatest places on planet earth to watch birds hands down. No where on earth will you find the diversity in plants, animals, and bird species ! It's incredible and the things I was able to witness I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Gustavo is one of the most amazing people I have yet to work with in my life. He's a great friend, an excellent teacher and a person I look up to proving to me that with a little hard work anything is possible in avian research. So get out there and Find Nests !!!!

  

Rachel Hanauer (USA) 2009

rachel.hanauer(at)gmail(dot)com

Working for Gustavo was both the most difficult and the most rewarding job I've ever had.  This is not like studying abroad or being a tourist -- nobody will be holding your hand or preparing you ahead of time for every experience.  You'll be hitchhiking like the locals do, wearing wet, muddy clothing every day, and occasionally scraping mold off your food.  But getting used to this is part of what makes it a worthwhile experience.  I was at San Pedro, which is next to a tourist lodge, and I felt so lucky compared to the tourists.  The forest is full of huge strangler fig trees, monkeys, psychedelic caterpillars, and incredible birds, and it was a privilege to call it home for a few months.  Every day I saw something new and beautiful.  I learned so much from my Colombian and Peruvian crewmates, both about science and the jungle and about South America.  You have to want to learn Spanish; it's okay if you don't speak much, but if you don't make an effort to learn, you will be isolated from everyone around you.  The nest searching can be very frustrating -- you can go days or even weeks without finding a nest.  But the nests are so intricate and beautiful that it's all worth it when you finally find them.  I learned so much about natural history and ecology, and I feel much better prepared for grad school.  Gustavo is great -- he's cheerful, energetic, driven to do a good job on his project, and committed to helping you develop as a scientist.


Julio Cesar Bermudez
 (Colombia) 2009


juliobicho(at)hotmail(dot)com

La temporada que pase en San Pedro buscando nidos es una gran experiencia de vida, es una forma de ver las aves desde otro punto de vista muy enriquecedor, se aprende mucho sobre la biología reproductiva de las aves, la gran variedad de tamaños y colores de los huevos, sobre los periodos de incubación, la forma y ubicación de los nidos, los materiales de construcción, sus predadores y los diferentes comportamientos que las aves realizan para construir sus nidos y defenderlos. La búsqueda de nidos activos en una tarea ardua pero satisfactoria, que necesita paciencia y estar todo el tiempo dentro de la trocha en continuo movimiento,  muy atento y pendiente de cualquier movimiento y sonido, ya que esto puede representar encontrar un nido con huevos o pichones, o también puede representar observar un despliegue de un ave muy hermosa, escuchar un canto muy elaborado, encontrar algún mamífero, insecto, rana, culebra, flor, fruto, o ver caer algún árbol, ver crecido el rio, o cualquier espectáculo de la vida que solo se tiene la oportunidad de ver en ese instante. Aprovecho la oportunidad para agradecerles por los buenos momentos a todos los que estuvimos esta temporada en el Manu, especialmente a Manuel, Gustavo, David, Santiago, Adam, Rachel y Alex, las personas con las que tire caja (risa)  y pase  más tiempo en San Pedro.

Jenny Hazlehurst (USA) 2009

jhazlehu(at)gmail(dot)com

Working with Gustavo in Parque Nacional Manu is the best way to figure out if field work in the tropics is right for you.  If you can learn to go with the flow you will gain the ability to be confident and efficient working in challenging conditions, to navigate the jungle by yourself and the courage to stick your hands into things you wouldn't have before. You may even be allowed to use a machete. If you can get mentally past the challenging physical conditions of the work the rewards are beyond value and the memories and stories will last a long, long time. Work in Tono is especially demanding physically as it is the most isolated of the stations, but that in itself makes it an experience unlike any other. After this position you will be ready for anything. My time in Peru has provided me with an incredible set of skills, experiences, and friendships to start my career as a tropical biologist. Get your feet muddy and get out there!

Michael Fuss
(USA) 2009


mambangan(at)hotmail(dot)com

I worked for Gustavo for 3 1/2 months at the Wayqecha field station.  Gustavo is a great motivator.  He is very passionate about his work and inspires everyone around him with his enthusiasm.  The project requires a lot of hard work and perseverance, it is challenging and tiring, but the rewards of knowledge and experience are well worth the effort.  I have never felt physically stronger than when I left Wayqecha, I felt incredible.  Working at Wayqecha includes working with the two swift species zonaris and rutila, both my favorites and incredible birds to work with.

Audrey Adams
(USA) 2009

ilikewildflowers(at)gmail(dot)com

Working at Wayqecha was a great experience. There is so much to learn through Gustavo's project that it is never boring. My favorite part of the project was holding and measuring the nestlings. Also, all the physical exercise made me feel very strong. At first I worried about not finding enough nests, but I shoud not have. Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you're not, and you get better as you go. Gustavo is a good person to work for because he is patient and relaxed even though there is a lot to do. There were quite a few tourists at Wayqecha, which could be really fun sometimes, but once in a while I would have preferred to be alone. The meals there are fantastic, though. Overall, it was a great chance to see parts of Peru that most wouldn't. I had a fantastic time.

Alex Nina Quispe
(Peru) 2009


alexphyto(at)hotmail(dot)com

Bien el tiempo en que participe en el proyecto sobre nidos,  fue una experiencia inolvidable no solo por haber compartido y conocido nuevas personas (los parceros, los paisas y el wuero) sino no también por el conocimiento que pude adquirir sobre la gran biodiversidad de aves que se hallan y las metodologías que se emplean para realizar su estudio con el uso de equipos y aparatos modernos. Los momentos que pase en la estación de San Pedro son momentos que jamás serán olvidados, son muchas las experiencias, entre ellas la búsqueda de nidos en mi opinión muy personal pensé que jamás hallaría algún nido pero con la paciencia y buenos ojos si PUDE, (gracias a las Euphonias). La experiencia que se siente de ver: huevos entre pequeños y grandes de diferentes colores, pichones calatos recién nacidos y verlos crecer  y abandonar el nido y con  ello confirmar que dicha especie aun se sigue reproduciendo en los bosques lluviosos del Manú, me colma de mucha alegría y felicidad. Los patas con los que estuve y los nuevos parceros que llegaron de Tono hicieron el ambiente entretenimiento y muy familiar, siempre y cuando con el debido respeto. Es todo a grandes rasgos, las experiencias que pase, lastimosamente en el poco tiempo que estuve.

Rebecca Brunner
(USA) 2009


rmb57(at)cornell(dot)edu

Living in the Tono rainforest was like walking through a dream, a dream I’d been having for almost 20 years. So, needless to say, truly describing my experience can be a struggle, but I can confidently say that every day held at least one detail that kept me in perpetual awe of the wonderful hidden world in which we were working. The majority of our days were spent off the trails, out there in the wild, the true wild. Every day at lunch time we would all trickle in, dirty, sometimes with ripped clothes, and ask each other the same question: “see anything amazing today?” The answer was always yes.
Since so little is known about the nesting behavior of tropical bird species, it was tremendously rewarding to know that every active nest we found was an important contribution to the project and the behavioral ecology field in general. That having been said, being an integral part of Gustavo’s research team is not for the faint of heart or those without a sense of adventure. Researching at the Tono field site requires strenuous hiking, a very flexible palate, a tolerance for bugs, and, most of all, patience. Searching for nests can be incredibly discouraging—entire weeks can go by without so much as a trace of one in your plot, even while other assistants consistently find them in theirs. Nest searching is an art—one that necessitates careful observation, focus, and luck. Gustavo is extremely understanding and helpful, so as long as you don’t give up easily and are passionate about working in such a spectacular and mysterious ecosystem, you’re sure to have the time of your life. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Simon Octavio Valdez
(Mexico) 2009

simon.octavio.valdez(at)gmail(dot)com

Describir el tiempo en Tono es difícil... tratar de describirlo no haria justicia a el asombro diario al encontrar algo nuevo todos los dias. Al caminar buscando nidos uno encuentra sorpresas a cada paso.  Trabajar en el Manu es algo incomparable, vi especies y animales que ni siquiera me imaginaba que existían,  La exuberancia y "excentricidad" de la vida es increíble. Pero lo mejor del voluntariado fue aprender tantas cosas nuevas, en 6 anos de experiencia que tengo trabajando como biólogo de campo esta ha sido una de las mejores experiencias que he tenido. Todos los días aprendía algo nuevo, ya sea de la biología de las aves, de el nido, de la metodología, de el porque de la metodologia, de ecologia, de mi mismo. Todos los días aprendes algo nuevo en Tono, Y Gustavo es una excelente persona para la que es muy grato trabajar, Gustavo tiene mucho conocimiento y le gusta compartirlo, es el Mejor coordinador de campo que yo haya conocido. Y aun mejor es la convivencia en Tono, entramos como desconocidos y salimos como hermanos. Reímos, sufrimos, nos enojamos, nos contentamos, nos ayudamos mutuamente, nos cuidábamos. Los amigos de Tono son amigos de por vida. Pero no todo es rosa. Definitivamente Tono no es para todos. hay muchas limitaciones e incomodidades, la recompenza es mas grande de lo que puedes imaginar, pero hay que estar dispuesto a pagar el precio, Considera Tono solo si no te importa:
-Que se moje toda tu ropa seca y andar todo el dia o toda la semana mojado hasta los huesos.
-Comer pan con hongos.
-Comer  Yuca y Arroz todos los días, (les quedaba muy bueno, a mi en lo personal me gusto todos los dias)
-Insectos hasta en la sopa (literalmente)
-Picaduras de todo tipo.
-Hay que tener paciencia, no todos pensamos igual y hay desacuerdos, y como en Tono solo eramos 7 pelados viéndonos las caras mutuamente por 3 meses, hay que saber como convivir todos en paz. Hay que saber ESCUCHAR y hablar. Debo decir que a mi no me podría haber tocado mejor equipo de trabajo, aprendí mucho de los amigos de Tono.
-No tener Email, internet, telfono.
En Resumen, Tono es increíble y superara todas tus expectativas, pero ve preparado, es en serio, ve preparado para pasar incomodidades, porque va a haber muchas, pero Tono las vale.

Adam Carter
(USA) 2009


adjc2585(at)aol(dot)com

My experience with nest searching was challenging but extremely rewarding.  In the first several weeks I was unable to find many nests.  But, as time pasted I became more accustomed to searching in the forest and in turn, a more productive searcher.  I became most attached to the nestlings and found the nesting process to be very intimate.  I gained many new field skills and met loads of new people; all in all, a truly enriching experience.
Peter Marting (USA) 2009
 
peterrmarting(at)gmail(dot)com

Waking before the sun rises to a chorus of tropical avian courtships and eating breakfast in a shelter you built out of small trees and tarps is how every morning begins at the Tono field station.  Miles from the nearest village, you set out, off the trails, deep into the pristine, dripping rainforest in search of the product of the avian courtships happening all around you; nests and eggs.  The vastness and complexity of this great unknown land inspires endless emotions of curiosity, perplexity, fear, frustration, exploration, and triumph.  The forest gives its beauty, secrets, and strength, teaching strange lessons and specialized techniques.  However, the forest doesn’t offer its wisdom and beauty for free.  For this job, one needs a strong body to hike across trailless hills all day and haul pack-loads of food for miles.  Perhaps even more important, however, one needs a strong mind.  Aside from clouds of mosquitoes, biting flies, bamboo spikes, and wasp stings, it can be very frustrating spending weeks without finding what you search for all day long.  But when you finally find one of these perfectly constructed nests with eggs inside, it is a true celebration.  If anything, these mere hardships only enhanced my experience, teaching me patience, appreciation, and courage.  This experience was invaluable for my development as a biologist, sharpening my problem solving skills in the field as I absorbed Gustavo’s passion.  I can say with confidence that this experience in the rainforest was the most influential experience of my life.  I can only hope that you too can, as Gustavo always said to me, “Enjoy the forest.”

Sinead Borchert (USA) 2008

sineadborchert(at)umail(dot)ucsb(dot)edu

I had a great time working in Peru. Nest searching can be very difficult and sometimes frustrating. There are many days when you may not find nests, but on the other hand, you get to spend all day in the field observing birds. Each station has its pros and its cons but all are beautiful and have really cool species. The style of nest searching changes for each one, probably because of differences in habitats and the selection pressures the birds have faced. I spent the longest time at Wayqecha. Initially, I didn't want to go to Wayqecha, but I ended up really enjoying it because the habitat was unlike any I had ever been exposed to. The research itself on incubation behavior is interesting and I liked how Gustavo also focused on collecting natural history data.


Nestor Arilio Peralta (Colombia) 2008

nestorpera(at)gmail(dot)com

El buen paisaje y la relativa facilidad para observar aves son unas de las cosas que caracterizan a Wayqecha, la estadía se me hizo acogedora ya que en el lugar donde me encontraba sentía bastante tranquilidad  y  la gente que estaba alrededor siempre fue amigable. En general el trabajo es un poco difícil, pero es divertido, siempre tienes que estar atento al comportamiento de las aves, como también a  los lugares de posible anidación de estas. Finalmente cuando logras encontrar un nido tener mucha concentración es fundamental para que el esfuerzo valga la pena.  Es una buena experiencia para convivir con la naturaleza, y conocer toda la belleza que esta nos brinda, además que empiezas a conocer muy de cerca características de vida de las aves sorprendentes y propias de este proyecto.


Katie Becraft
(USA) 2008

kbecraf(at)clemson(dot)edu

I was stationed at Tono.  The forest there is beautiful and I felt like I was lucky to be able to experience it.  Over four months I saw a lot of amazing birds and other wildlife, and although the nest searching was difficult there at times, I felt like I really improved my skills by the end of the season, which was really rewarding.  I can’t lie and say that getting to and living at Tono was easy; it was very challenging at times! But I actually enjoyed the physical challenges and problem-solving that I encountered each day, that’s just part of the Tono experience!  A positive attitude is definitely key, but that’s true of any field situation.  All in all, working at Tono was very worthwhile and probably the best field experience I’ve had.  I loved working with everyone on the Tono team, and it was great to get to know people from other countries and to see so many beautiful places that so few people get to experience.


Josh Brown
(USA) 2008

joshbrown_81(at)hotmail(dot)com

Working at the Wayqecha Research Station for Gustavo was the greatest field experience of my life.  During my four months there I very rarely felt like I was “working.”  Instead I was wandering around the Andes looking for bird’s nests, but often finding much more.  To find birds’ nests you must go slowly, which also allows you to truly appreciate all that the area has to offer.  At first, things were slow, and I became frustrated by finding few or no nests.  But don’t despair!  In time I found nests, sometimes wishing I hadn’t found so many.  Soon, I had more than enough to do, the days flying by as I tried to finish all of my work each day.  But throughout, there were always the great nest searchers I worked with, and the amazing staff at Wayqecha.  I will never forget waking up to the sun rising over the mountains at breakfast, finding my first nest, or my heart skipping a beat every time I saw a bird with nesting material in its bill.  And the truck rides!

Maria Camila Estrada Florez (Colombia) 2008  

steinacleit(at)gmail(dot)com

Para mi esta experiencia fue única en muchos sentidos, mas allá del profesional, el conocimiento ganado sobrepasó todas mis expectativas. Mejore muchas habilidades que ya tenia, aprendí otras, todos los días estaba la oportunidad de descubrir cosas nuevas. 

San Pedro es una estación hermosa, las montañas, el río, el musgo que viste a los arboles, es un lugar mágico. Pero buscar nidos es una tarea ardua, que requiere un gran esfuerzo constante, no darse por vencido a pesar de las dificultades, seguir buscando todos los días con la misma intensidad, con la esperanza de encontrarlos, que es la mejor parte, ya sean nuevos, con huevos o con pichones es maravilloso, son recuerdos que nunca se olvidan!!!


Elkin Tenorio (Colombia) 2008

elkint456(at)hotmail(dot)com

Una de las etapas en la que más se puede aprender sobre la historia natural de las aves es en su reproducción. O por lo menos esta es mi conclusión después de haber estado en campo durante cuatro meses continuos estudiando las aves del Manu y sus comportamientos reproductivos. Observar todos sus comportamientos desde la construcción de nidos hasta el éxodo de los polluelos, me permitió comprender mejor algunos aspectos reproductivos de las aves y sobre la diversidad de estrategias de vida, lo cual sólo puede lograrse con estudios a largo plazo como éste y monitoreos constantes de individuos. La toma de datos aunque en algunos momentos es agotadora, es muy enriquecedora tanto a nivel personal como profesional, además de conocer nuevas técnicas y compartir conocimiento con personas de diferentes escuelas. El buscar nidos es una habilidad difícil de aprender, de mucha observación y paciencia,  pero cuando se logra,  se entra a una nueva perspectiva de estudio y manera de ver las aves.


Sarah Thornton (England) 2008

Sarahthornton40(at)hotmail(dot)com

My time in Peru gave me many opportunities such as learning new skills, meeting new and interesting people and experiencing such a beautiful part of the world.  I found nest searching difficult however I thoroughly enjoyed other aspects of the project for instance handling the nestlings – you really get attached to them.  I stayed at San Pedro and found the living conditions very comfortable once I settled down, the platform became like a home from home and I never got tired of the view!  It is a stunning area and I feel very privileged to have spent time there.

William Minehart (USA) 2008

sylvandream(at)gmail(dot)com

Assisting Gustavo's research is like being part of the ultimate Easter Egg Hunt.  Searching for nests is very challenging and very rewarding work.  When else will you have ten hour work days that consist of wandering around in the forest witnessing some of the most pristine, exotic, diverse ecosystems the world has to offer?  Searching for nests can be very difficult as well.  Searching for something that can be anywhere around you, but in most cases will remain hidden from you can be enraging work.  Combing through the same areas day after day looking for nests that just didn't seem to be there changed my previous definition of patience for sure, but when you do happen upon a nest with several little eggs shining back at you, you feel like you have just found a hidden treasure, and indeed you have. So, to anyone out there interested in doing this type of research and field work, come equipped with a true love for alone time and nature, as well as an open definition of what true patience is.

Aside from the actual nest-searching, working with and for Gustavo is a great experience.  His love for this work is apparent in his untiring demeanor.  It is rare to find people in this field who can be so successful in such a large project, yet also sit down and have a nice conversation over the far-reaching importance of their research outside of their immediate project.  Compared to all of the field research projects I have taken part in, the two months I spent searching for nests in the Peruvian Andes with Gustavo was the most rewarding and challenging field work I have yet to do.


Giovanny Valencia
(Colombia) 2008, 2010

gvalenciac(at)gmail(dot)com

2008: Fue una experiencia enormemente enriquecedora a nivel personal como profesional, gracias al trabajo conjunto con Gustavo Londoño y los demas asistentes del proyecto. Estos meses en Tono fueron un acercamiento profundo a la naturaleza que me ayudaron a comprender un poco la compleja interacción entre las aves y su entorno.

2010: De nuevo una gran experiencia!!!  

La temporada 2010 estuvo saturada de todo tipo de situaciones y pruebas que gracias al buen equipo de trabajo se superaron. Al principio de esta en la estacion Tono simplemente era como regresar a casa, recordar historias y momentos vividos en el 2008, construir de nuevo el campamento, conocer a los nuevos compañeros y regresar a la busqueda de nidos hasta septiembre mes en el que cambiamos de estación por Pantiacolla un sitio unico, con una cantidad asombrosa de vida, mas de 400 especies de aves registradas, un sin número de mamiferos vistos, desde grandes bandadas de pecaríes y monos todos los dias hasta dantas, ciervos y pumas. El tiempo de adaptacion fue corto y en unos pocos dias ya se echaba a Tono de menos, Agradezco a todos los compañeros por la compañia y enseñanzas en campo en estos meses y en especial a "Papá Tavo" por la oportunidad de asistir y sobre todo por las enseñanzas de vida!

Jameson Brennan (USA) 2008

jmebrn(at)gmail(dot)com

It is quite a rare experience to work in one of the most remote and beautiful places on the planet.  Waking up every day to the sun rising in the kosnipata valley is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.  Among the most memorable experiences would be the fascianation of seeing something new in the jungle everyday that I hadn't see before.  Be it a new flower, type of bird, insects, or what have you, ever day was surely full of exploration at something new.  The trips to town were always exciting with unforeseen twists and turns, quiet literally, while riding high on a camion to get a few fresh veggies, a cold soda, and a hour use of slow internet.  While the accomodations and food may be basic at the field sites, something that everyone can take away is learning what is really necessary and important in life.

Judit Ungvari-Martin (Hungary) 2007

jungvari(at)gmail(dot)com

Finding nests was challenging at all of these stations. You need to keep your eyes open, and check out everything that looks suspicious. Don’t get discouraged, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I could not find nests for a long time…but then I found some, which made it all worth it. I really learned to enjoy the forest and to appreciate the fact that I got to spend time at these magnificent places. It was the best field experience of my life; I learned a lot about fieldwork and about my limitations both physically and mentally too. Bring an open mind and the best gear you can afford, being well equipped will ensure your comfort, and a good night’s sleep at all times!
Kyle Elliot (Canada) 2007

haliaeetus(at)gmail(dot)com

I spent two months helping Gustavo in 2007. All three sites are beautiful and very different. I had often read or heard from other researchers that Manu is the most diverse place on Earth, and it lived up to its reputation. Between the two months I spent with Gustavo and two weeks I spent afterwards around Cuzco and Pilcopata, I saw over 600 bird species in Cuzco Province alone. The experience is definitely worth it, although it can be frustrating and difficult finding nests. I will never forget going up the Manu Road at night on top of a load of yuccas.
Cynthia Zurita Cervera (Chiclayo, Peru) 2007

atiseret301(at)gmail(dot)com

Participar en el proyecto fue una experiencia muy satisfactoria tanto en el plano personal como en el profesional. Conocer profesionales que permitieron ampliar mis conocimientos en aves, aprender y sobre todo compartir muchas cosas y momentos en el campo que hacen que una ame mas lo que esta investigando.  A veces, hay cosas que incomodan pero no depende de factores internos sino mas bien externos como son tal ves el clima,  la disponibilidad de comunicacion pero eso no desmerece lo maravilloso de esta experiencia, al contrario te hacen aprender mas sobre el campo y como son las cosas en el area de trabajo. Estoy muy satisfecha con esta temporada de trabajo y espero tener muchas mas aplicando lo aprendido.

Previous Field Assistants (2005-2008)


Rosalbina Butrón Loayza
(Cusco, Peru) 2005-2008

Roxanna Cruz Quispe

(Cusco, Peru) 2008

Luz Maritza Cabrera Durand

(Cusco, Peru) 2008

S. Jacob Socolar
(USA) 2007

Maura Angélica Jurado Zevallos
(Lima, Peru) 2007



Tatiana Erika Boza Espinoza
(Cusco, Peru) 2007

Vicky Huamán
(Cusco, Peru) 2007



Zachariah Peterson
(Tanzania) 2006

Philip Koch

(Germany) 2005-2006

Michael Libsch
(USA) 2006

Juanita Olano Marín

(Colombia) 2006


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