Volunteer Placement: Peruvian Amazon Biodiversity Research


A unique opportunity to stay aboard the floating Rio Amazonas Research Station while studying the incredible biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon.

This volunteer placement is for students looking to gain experience in field biology, conduct dissertation research, or volunteer on a sustainable research station; the trip is extremely customizable to your needs. Join a team of experienced researchers and conservationists led by Professor Richard Bodmer, who has worked in the Peruvian Amazon for 35+ years, to participate in research on dolphins, primates, macaws, wading birds, fish, bats, caimans, and otters, as well as working with indigenous communities who protect the forest. The field station offers training, research support, and/or a base camp for students interested in studying wildlife conservation and biology, impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems, and wildlife trade and recovery of endangered species. If you are interested in a specific research focus outside of what is mentioned here, please get in touch to discuss with our team.

Over the past three decades, this research team has hosted hundreds of international students from universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, University of Chicago, Cornell, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, and more, resulting in over 120 scientific publications. The Rio Amazonas Research Station is also used by Earthwatch Institute (US), Operation Wallacea (UK), and Operation Earth (China) for research throughout the year.

The Research Station uses international health and safety protocols, including Covid protocols, risk assessments, and emergency response plans.



The research station is aimed at different levels of student and scientist participation.

1. Student research projects: Students can conduct BSc, MSc, and PhD research at the research station. Students can either become involved in ongoing research projects or develop their own projects around their individual interests. Students conducting research use the data they collected for their projects. In addition, research students can use data from previous years for comparisons and multi-year analyses. This is especially important for people working on climate change and projects that show change over time.

2. Student volunteering: Students can join the research station and help with data collection on the existing wildlife surveys and with work in local communities. This is an opportunity to gain experience in tropical research, community work, and Amazon conservation. During your time at the station, you will learn how to conduct research on a variety of animals and plants, including dolphins, macaws, caimans, primates, terrestrial mammals, large forest birds, understory birds, bats, frogs, and fish, among others. Students will also learn about sustainable hunting and fishing by Indigenous people, and community-based and protected area conservation.

3. Student Internships: The internship program at the Rio Amazonas Research Station is focused on BSc students considering a post-graduate degree involving tropical field research. Interns learn about all aspects of conducting field research in tropical forests, including developing academic research questions and hypotheses, implementing field methods, data collection, input and analyses, report, proposal and publication writing, logistics of running field research (such as staff, food, water, energy, communications, transport, scheduling, and other services), health and safety of tropical field research, working with local communities, indigenous territories and community reserves.

4. Structured field courses: Field courses are available on a variety of topics including Amazon Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; Dolphin Ecology and Behaviour; Ecology of Terrestrial and Arboreal Mammals; Avifauna Ecology; Ecology of Reptiles and Amphibians; and Fish Ecology and Fisheries. Tailored field courses can be organized, and courses can be taught at secondary school level, and college and university levels. Please inquire if you are interested in traveling with a group for a field course.

5. Fellowships: A limited number of fellowships are available each year. Fellowships usually contribute towards a part of the research station fees. The fellowship categories are:

• The Fundamazonia Research Student Fellowships
• The Doris Zerbe Student Volunteer Fellowship
• The Mike Walkey Aquatic Biology Fellowship
• The Fundamazonia Intern Fellowship

Please inquire for more information on how to apply for specific fellowships.



The research is conducted in the Yarapa River field site of the Samiria-Yavari protected area landscape in the Peruvian Amazon of Loreto. The Yarapa River basin is a flooded forest ecosystem that has abundant wilderness and some of the greatest diversity of animals and plants on Earth. These forests are a continuum between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that form a unique and important part of the Amazon. Your participation in this research plays an important part in helping to conserve this area, and the information you collect will be used by the protected areas and Indigenous people to improve their conservation strategies.

The Yarapa River site is situated between the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Community Reserve in one of the largest protected area complexes in Peru. The Yarapa site has an abundance of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife; it has healthy dolphin densities, abundant wading birds and fish, recovering otters and caimans, and healthy populations of primates and other mammals and birds. The local Indigenous people are involved with the conservation activities and play a major role in helping to conserve these rainforests.



The daily student rate is $115 (US) per person per day. The minimum stay is 7 days.

Please note: this rate guarantees a comfortable room on the research boat but this room may be shared with other students or volunteer participants. Private accommodation can be added to your booking for a fee.

We offer the following discounts for longer stays and for internships:

1 month: $2,070

2 months: $3,450

3 months: $4,600

4 months: $5,520

These prices include transfers from Iquitos-Research Station-Iquitos; all meals on site – breakfast, lunch, and dinner; single bed in comfortable shared cabin, lectures and briefings, and all wildlife research and surveys and local community work run by research staff.

Vegetarian meals are available. Vegans work with the cook in the preparation of their meals.

A note on sustainability: The Rio Amazonas Research Station prides itself on its eco-friendly site and sustainable research methods. The station uses solar-hybrid energy, solar hot water, ecological solid and water waste recycling, among other eco-friendly services. The research methods that are used at the station are observational and capture-release. Care is taken during research to have a minimum footprint and minimize invasive methods.




To book your place on the research ship, please fill out the form to the right with the dates (minimum 7 days) when you plan to travel and pay the €100 deposit to secure your place. Our cancellation policy allows you to make one change to your tour dates within 12 months of your original booking at no additional cost, in case your travel plans are interrupted by Covid-19 regulations or other unforeseen circumstances. Please note: we do not offer refunds of deposits for cancellations due to changes in Covid policy.

Once you have booked your place and received a confirmation, you will need to book your international return flights to Iquitos. Please forward your flight booking to sophia (at) friendsofwallacea (dot) org once you have made arrangements. We will be in touch prior to your travel with more information including a kit list, local emergency contacts, help with insurance and visas, and more.

Rio Amazonas Research

Rio Amazonas Research

The Amazonian forests of Loreto, Peru are situated in the western Amazon basin and harbor some of the greatest mammalian, avian, floral and fish diversity on Earth. The projects in Loreto, Peru have been running since 1984. The vision of these projects is to set up long-term biodiversity conservation using a combination of community-based, protected area, and landscape strategies based on wildlife conservation. The research and conservation activities use an interdisciplinary approach to find a balance between the needs of the indigenous people and the conservation of animals and plants. All field activities are accompanied by a scientist or biologist and local field assistants.


Wildlife Research and Surveys

We use wildlife surveys to study the population trends on different aquatic, terrestrial and arboreal wildlife communities over time. The research design is based on multiyear population analysis of species groups and protocol has been held constant for all years. Species groups are surveyed independently, and surveys are conducted during flooded, low water, and transition seasons.

Mammals: Both terrestrial and arboreal mammals are surveyed using the distance sampling method along transects of a fixed distance to calculate population densities. We also survey terrestrial mammals using a large grid of camera traps and recording capture rates across species over time.

Macaws: Macaws are surveyed through 15-minute point counts along rivers, lakes, and channels during the morning and afternoon when flocks travel between feeding and roosting sites.

Fish: Freshwater fish species are surveyed using gill nets placed in rivers, lakes, and flooded forests for an hour. All fish are released after being caught and measured. Fish abundance is also studied using side-scan sonar from a boat traveling through the river.

Birds: Neotropical bird biodiversity is surveyed through both shoreline and terrestrial transects from a boat or on foot, respectively, to study population abundance.

Dolphins: Dolphins are studied via aquatic transects in the morning and afternoon. We record sightings of dolphins breaching the water surface and further study behavior, pod size, and other data.

Herpetofauna: Caiman and amphibians are studied through river transects, largely at night. Caiman are located using eyeshine and the transect is stopped when an individual is spotted. Amphibians are surveyed by capturing or spotting individuals in floating vegetation during 15 minute search periods.

Harvest Registers: Semi-structured household interviews are conducted with local villagers to collect information on the harvesting of fish and wild meat. We use information on resource use of families to calculate the percentage of families involved in fishing and hunting activities and annual harvests.


Data Analysis: Population trends of species and species assemblages are used in the matrix models by analysing density and abundance measures. Species population trends are classified as increasing or decreasing if they have statistically significant time-series regressions and classified as stable populations if they have non-significant relationships. We use the Shapiro-Wilks test to assess data normality. Time series regressions are done on annual data sets of species and species groups.


FundAmazonia is a Peruvian-based nonprofit dedicated to conservation, capacity building, and local community empowerment. Established in 2005, FundAmazonia has received support from WWF, the G & B Moore Foundation, WCS, USAID, The Darwin Initiative, FondAm, and CIFOR.

The goal of FundAmazonia’s research is to advance wildlife conservation in the Western Amazon by studying the connection between sustainable use, climate change, and wildlife trade including taxa-specific research on animal groups. The project uses field data to drive wildlife conservation, including sustainable resource use, and community-based conservation, impacts of climate change, and wildlife trade and recovery of endangered species.

FundAmazonia’s current research areas:

1. Climate Change Research

The Amazon basin is experiencing greater climatic fluctuations with the western Amazon having larger flooding in the rainy season and droughts in the dry season. Research is being conducted on how these climate changes are impacting wildlife, biodiversity, and indigenous people. Specifically, this research is focusing on unusually high flooding levels in recent years and how these have affected both human and animal populations.

2. Community-based Conservation, Sustainable Use, and Wildlife Management Research

Indigenous people of Amazonia have been using wildlife since pre-Colombian times and animals continue to be used throughout the Amazon basin. Over the past three decades research of FundAmazonia has focused on understanding how species respond to hunting and fishing, and developing community-based management and conservation strategies for sustainable use and species recovery.

FundAmazonia’s research in the Amazon overwhelming found that community-based approaches to wildlife management and conservation were resulting in greater success than strict protection or other forms of management. Over three decades, community-based wildlife management systems have been developed through research and community participation resulting in sustainable community-based conservation. Currently around 50% of Loreto is a community/co-managed/Indigenous area where people are conserving the Amazon forests.

3. Wildlife Trade and Wild Meat Market Research

Some of the research on sustainable use programs involve regulated international wildlife trade, such as the peccary leather trade and river turtle trade involving CITES, custody chains, certification, and verification.  Research is also done on local trade in wildmeat, fish, and palms which are important resources, and many indigenous people depend on local trade for their household economy. Studies are being done on the sustainability of resource use through Indigenous management, which has shown to be sustainable in community reserves, co-managed reserves, and indigenous territories.

Iquitos has one of the largest and most active wet wild meat markets in the western Amazon and long-term research is being done on the wild meat trade. This research is particularly important after the pandemic, because of the links between wild meat markets and disease transmission.

4. Research on Animal Taxa

More details on wildlife-specific research can be found above. If you are interested in studying specific taxa, please reach out when you make your booking to discuss your research plans with our local scientists.