Working with the Tambopata Macaw Project is physically and
mentally demanding but it is also highly rewarding. The chance to
live and work in this remote rainforest location is a wonderful
learning experience for all those interested in biology and
The thousands of hours of observations that have been conducted
over the years would not have been possible without the help of the
many volunteers and assistants who have offered their time and
energy for the cause of science and conservation. Volunteers are
one of the most important aspects to the project. There are no
qualification limitations, although most volunteers come from a
biological or environmental background. All applicants are welcome,
as we can find a role for almost any type of volunteer.
As this is an on-going project we accept volunteers throughout
A brief description of the field work
Training information will be sent to the volunteers once they
are accepted. Volunteers will be expected to have read this
training material before they arrive in Peru.
The first 2 weeks are spent learning the parrot
calls, the trail system, data entry and clay lick data collection.
monitoring is fairly easy work, although observers need to
be able to visually identify birds. The blinds and beaches from
where monitoring is conducted provide a good environment during
quiet times to read and study. After early mornings, most
monitoring is done alone. Clay lick monitoring is conducted in 3 to
6 hour shifts.
After the first 2 weeks, training begins on
for observers who have shown they can identify basic calls. The aim
of this work is to document the relative numbers of parrots of each
species in the forest to determine how this changes throughout the
year and among different years.
The last week of the month is spent studying tree phenology, looking
at trees to see if they have any fruit or flower. We have over 1000
trees marked and each need to be checked for flowers or fruit. This
team exercise normally takes several days to complete.
During the wet season (Nov - Mar) volunteers
will learn how to climb using single rope
techniques (SRT) using mechanical ascenders. This is done to check
the macaw nests in the areas around Tambopata Research Center.
The daily work schedule often starts early with
4 AM trips to monitor the parrots at the clay lick or 5 AM nest
climbs or walks to look for foraging parrots. Breakfast is at 7:30
AM followed by more activities from about 9 AM until lunch (about
1:30 PM). Then at about 3 PM you will usually be back out in the
forest conducting parrot counts, climbing nests, looking foraging
parrots, etc. As a result 10 - 12 hour days are fairly common. On
rainy days we start later and usually spend the day working on data
entry, cleaning and gear maintenance in the house.
General requirements: Self-disciplined, responsible,
enthusiastic and patient. Tolerate insects and hot weather well, be
able to get along well with others in remote field setting.
We have two different types of positions which are available
General requirements for both positions: Volunteers should be
self-disciplined, responsible, enthusiastic, and patient. You
should also be able to tolerate moderate insect levels, and hot
weather (85-90F/30-33C with high humidity). You must also be able
to get along well with others in a remote field setting.
Position #1: Long term volunteer assistant (8
weeks minimum, 3 month stay preferred)
- Additional requirements: Good physical condition, able to carry
a 40 lb (18 kg) pack over moderate terrain for up to 2 km, no fear
of heights (Nov – Mar).
- Volunteer activities: Volunteers will participate in all
activities mentioned above. You will be trained to identify all
parrots by sight and sound, climb trees to check macaw nests (Nov –
Mar), monitor the clay lick, conduct parrot censuses, locate
foraging parrots and enter data.
Position # 2: Short term volunteer assistant
(12 to 42 day stay preferred)
- Additional requirements: Average physical condition, able to
walk 2 km over moderate terrain, good sense of observing animals,
ability to stay seated for long periods of time, some background
knowledge of birds in general.
- Volunteer activities: These assistants will be quickly trained
to identify all the local parrots by sight and become experts at
clay lick monitoring and macaw nest observation with video camera
systems (Nov – Mar). Due to the short length of stay, volunteers
will have only minimal involvement in activities requiring higher
training levels like parrot censuses and tree climbing. Assistants
will also help with data entry.
Facilities – Food and Accommodation
Project members eat with the lodge staff. Breakfast is usually
around 7:30 AM. Lunch and the evening meal are generally Peruvian
fare – chicken and rice. Lunch is around 13:30, after lodge guests
have eaten, and dinner at 19:30. Food is prepared by the staff,
although we wash up our own cutlery, and help clean the staff
dining quarters. Tea and coffee are available all day, as is
treated drinking water. Bottled water, beer, mixed drinks and soda
(coke, sprite etc.) are available for purchase. Vegetarian meals
are offered, but food diversity is lower. Flexibility is greatly
Accommodation is in the researcher area in TRC. These are shared
rooms with up to 2-3 people per room. Room walls are made from cane
and offer no sound protection, so if you are a light sleeper, ear
plugs are useful. Bathroom facilities are communal, with separate
male and female facilities. There is running water, flush toilets
and warm water showers.
Applicants should apply 4+ months before intended travel
as we need to get volunteers on the research permits. Most
of the work we do takes place in the Tambopata National Reserve,
and our activities are closely monitored by the Peruvian government
(SERNANP). If you do not provide your paperwork in time, your
permit may not be ready and you may not be allowed to go up to the
The Tambopata Macaw Project is a relatively low budget research
program and unfortunately we are not able to cover the expenses of
flights or other expenses incurred by volunteers. We recognise that
our strength lies in supporting and maintaining long term Peruvian
participants, and most funding that we receive goes towards that
Assistants should arrive in Puerto Maldonado on a Friday or a
Tuesday as direct boats from Puerto Maldonado to Tambopata Research
Center normally (but not always) leave on Saturday and
Participants will need to fly from their home country to Lima (the
capital of Peru) and then from Lima to Puerto Maldonado. Lima is
served by a wide variety of airlines. The costs of the flight to
Lima vary from season to season from airline to airline and country
to country so we cannot give good advice on which airline is the
cheapest. There are three airlines that currently fly from Lima to
Puerto Maldonado: LAN (www.lan.com), Star Peru (www.starperu.com) and
Taca/Avianca (www.taca.com). Lan is a larger and more
reliable airline with more flights and usually charges more. You
can book flights on Lan as part of your international itinerary or
buy your flight directly over the web. Price differences can be
substantial so check all options before buying.
Bus: The option
now exists to take commercial bus service to Puerto Maldonado.
However, the total trip is over 32 hours. If you plan to do this
route, you can take a bus from Lima to Cusco (~22 hours and ~160
Soles). Cuzco is nice and it is worth spending a day or two here if
you have the time. From Cusco you will need to take a different bus
from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado (~10 hours over the Andes, ~60
Soles). One company that offers this service is Movil Tours (www.moviltours.com.pe).
Volunteers need to pay a daily fee according to
the position and experience:
- Position #1: 20 USD/day
- Position #2: 40 USD/day
*A onetime processing fee of $30 will be added for all
This rate covers food, non-bar beverages, unlimited tea and
coffee, accommodation (bedding is provided by the company),
transport to the lodge from Puerto Maldonado. Once a volunteer was
accepted they will be sent an invoice by email from Texas A&M
University. Upon receipt, the volunteer needs to pay 20% of the
total cost of their stay. This non-refundable payment is required
to holds the reservation for the researcher. The remaining 80% of
the payment should be made at least two weeks before the assistant
arrives at TRC. Arrangements can be made if assistants wish to pay
in cash in Peru. However, prior permission from the coordinator is
needed. Changes to the daily fee may apply according to
availability and season. For the actual prices please contact the
project coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
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How to apply
To apply please send an email to email@example.com
This email should contain the following:
- A letter of interest explaining why you are want to work on the
- Your CV or resume
- Email addresses for at least 3 references
- The range of dates when you will be available and how long you
can participate. For example you may say something like “any 20 day
period between March and July 2015”.