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Environment & Wildlife, From the Field

A Special Place Where They Go To Eat Special Dirt: Peru Week 1

November 5th 2023

Tagged: Amazon rainforest, Conservation, Ethical Tourism, Travel, Volunteering Abroad

After deliberating between re-downloading Instagram and embracing BeReal, I’ve chosen instead to write an informal blog to document my adventures in South America.

Over the upcoming ten weeks, I’ll be living in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest at the remote Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme research station. During this time, I will be involved in a variety of research projects and even undertake a personal research project. In an effort to simplify the ongoing research at the Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme, I’ve enlisted the help of Chat GPT to describe the projects in layman’s (and at some points rather humorous) terms.


Felid Occupancy and Spatiotemporal Partitioning:

In this project, scientists are studying different kinds of wild cats that live together in the southern Peruvian Amazon. They’re especially interested in the cats with spots because they can tell them apart. The main goal is to figure out what things in the environment and human activities affect where these cats live. They want to understand how these cats use their homes and how they deal with changes in their surroundings. To do this, they’re using cameras to watch the cats, looking at pictures of the land from far away, and collecting data from the actual places. With all this information, they’re creating a special map that shows where the cats live and how many of them there are. They’re also doing some tricky math to figure out how different things impact the cats.

Caiman Occupancy, Demography, and Niche Partitioning:

This study is about two types of caimans, which are like small alligators. The scientists want to know how many of these caimans there are in certain areas and where they like to hang out. They’re also interested in how these two types of caimans share their living spaces and food. The researchers are going out at night to count and mark the caimans so they can find them again. They’re also checking out where the caimans live and using special pictures to understand the big areas they live in. They’re using some special math and maps to figure out all these things.

Tapir Density and Reproductive Ecology:

This project is about big, cool animals called tapirs. Scientists want to know how many tapirs are in an area and how they have babies and take care of them. They’re using cameras to take pictures of the tapirs and watch what they’re doing. They’re looking at the pictures to find out how many tapirs there are and how they act when they’re having babies and raising them. It’s like a secret camera show for tapirs!

MacawsVolunteer in Peru | WorkingAbroadMacaw Ethology and Population Dynamics:

This study is about colourful birds called macaws. Scientists are watching these birds at a special place where they go to eat special dirt. They want to learn how the birds act when they’re together and how they’re affected by things like people and the time of year. They’re also trying to guess how many of these birds there are in that area by looking at their pictures and seeing who’s who. It’s like watching a bird party and trying to understand what’s happening and how many birds are coming.

“…using observational surveys at a unique habitat feature called a clay lick where Macaws gather daily to feed on mineral-rich clays…”
– Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme

“Scientists are watching these birds at a special place where they go to eat special dirt.” – Chat GPT

After my ten weeks in the rainforest are up, I intend to backpack across South America for a few more months, hopefully with some people I meet along the way.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this (I hope you have) you can follow my blog so that you get a notification each time a new post is up, I think I’ll aim to post weekly. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about my preparations for the trip!

(And then after that I’ll be in South America so things should start to get more exciting…)

Written by Holly Fortune

About the Author

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