Volunteers required to assist with field data collection on a mammal monitoring project in the cloud forest and mountains of Ecuador, home to the spectacled bear, Tremarctus ornatus, also known as the Andean bear, and Tapirus pinchaque, the mountain tapir. Both are considered Endangered Species in Ecuador by the IUCN Red List.
This scientific research project is using camera traps and other observational methods (scat, hair, footprints, direct observation) to understand more about Andean bears and their interactions with their habitat and with other mammals, especially mountain tapirs. Habitat loss is threatening the survival of the spectacled bears, and leading to increased human-bear conflict as cattle encroach onto bear habitat.
In addition to checking camera traps and analyzing the photos and videos from them, volunteers may also be involved in collecting hair samples for genetic analysis. The genetic diversity of the bears is believed to be worryingly low. Volunteers also search the forest for bear paths and tapir tunnels and check for footprints, scat and half-eaten plants, for more clues about the mammals.
By understanding more about the bears and tapirs, and the habitat they share and how they use it, we plan to develop conservation strategies to reduce conflict with farmers.
The project site is in an unspoilt area in the north of Ecuador, in Imbabura Province, in a private reserve bordering a national park.
This is an ideal opportunity for environmental studies or biology students / graduates to gain practical field experience in the tropics tracking these endangered mammals. Helping on this internationally-respected project will provide valuable data collection experience for those wanting a career in wildlife research and conservation biology.
Volunteers must be fit and able to walk at altitude (3,000 to 4,000m.a.s.l.) in sometimes adverse weather conditions in the beautiful Andes Mountains. You need patience, enthusiasm and the flexibility to cope with changing plans.