About the Amazon Photography Project
Technology is increasingly being used to answer biological research questions and to help overcome threats to wildlife and biodiversity conservation areas. High on the list of technology-based techniques is digital photography and videography. This Amazon Photography project in the Peruvian Amazon uses digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, GoPros, high definition camera traps, in combination with a lot of sweat and perseverance to answer difficult research questions and to assist conservation biologist teams. The project provides accurate species identification and exposes the conservation activities to a broader audience via social media outlets and the internet at large.
The photography professionals and biologists leading this project in the Peruvian Amazon have opened their doors to amateur photographers and videographers from around the world with the basic equipment and passion required to contribute in a meaningful way to this initiative. Below are the projects that you could be engaged with and contribute to during your internship.
Wildlife Photo Guides
The diversity in species form and colour in the Amazon rainforest means that correct identification of wildlife to species level can be problematic. Most existing published guides to the species of this region only contain one or two images of a species, and may rely on textual descriptions for other colour morphs. Our long-term aim is to document (with HD macro imagery) the diversity of colour morphs and body shapes for numerous taxa in the Madre de Dios and Cusco region of the Peruvian Amazon. We place an emphasis on amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, moths, dung-beetles, mushroom-eating beetles, grasshoppers, ants, stink bugs, and snails. Close contact with taxonomists will ensure quality identification of live specimens. Photography volunteers and interns will use their own cameras in combination with project equipment (such as white-boxes, black-boxes, flashes, and tripods), to capture the required imagery, with training and photo-editing assistance provided by the experienced professional photography team leaders. Collecting additional background ecological information on species will be an additional activity, requiring access to published material and communicating with specialists.
Photography-based biological research
Photography techniques are now commonly used to study wildlife and ecological processes, particularly as stills and video allow for detailed and repeatable examination of wildlife encounters and more accurate identification of species and their behaviours. The types of photography-based research that volunteers and interns will be involved with includes:
- Wildlife abundance and home range size – Using camera traps placed in a grid to determine relative abundance levels, area occupancy rates and home range size of identifiable individuals (such as spotted cats that have unique coat patterns). A selection of camera traps will be used for this task, with volunteers placing cameras out into the field, and periodically changing batteries, reviewing imagery, and transferring data to databases. Walking long distances through jungle following GPS points will be required.
- Predation and Herbivory studies – Capturing photo and video evidence of predation and herbivore events on focal species. In the case of predation, we are interested in understanding which species feed upon caterpillars (of butterfly and moths), grasshoppers, termites, ants, and certain types of beetle. In terms of herbivores, we are researching which insects consume the leaves of tree seedlings and flowers of multiple plant species, as well as mushrooms, in addition to the rodent species that consume the fallen seeds and fruit of Brazil nut trees, Astrocaryum palms, and Dipteryx trees.
- Pollination studies – Imagery showing what types of insect and bird pollinators (butterflies, hummingbirds, hawkmoths) visit certain species of flower is required in order to identify key-stone pollinators for these flowering plants. Temporary capture of some insects may be required in order to take high-definition macro images.
Documenting research and forest conservation activities
Volunteers and interns are based at sites with active research and conservation biology teams. These teams frequently need photo and video diaries to help document their activities and biological discoveries. This will involve following these teams around the forest as they undertake their research activities and taking representative images and video of their activities. Some formal interviews of members of these research teams may be required. The teams that require the most photographic documentation tend to be those studying birds, frogs, insects, and plants. Some teams also spend time researching native communities, and so short expeditions to visit these communities and to document their activities may be required.
Assisting professional nature photographers with training workshops and photography expeditions
A group of independent wildlife photographers based in the Peruvian rainforest are frequently in need of field assistants who are keen on photography in order to help them with planning (recce expeditions) and executing training workshops aimed at up-and-coming amateur and professional nature photographers and film-makers.
Mirror-Image Stimulation Study
A long-term study at multiple sites, focusing on mammal and bird behaviour, using the “mirror image stimulation” technique. The main objectives of this study are to identify which terrestrial and arboreal species respond to their own reflection using large and small mirrors, what forms of behaviour they show as a consequence, whether or not recognisable individuals quickly habituate to the mirrors or not, and to understand what factors may help explain certain behavioural traits observed.
Educational Film Projects
If interns stay for a longer term at the project, it is possible to create a short video with a focus on a particular topic. It will be put together by the intern alongside the wildlife photographer, and the topics can range from insects, frogs and snakes to monkeys and claylick cats including camera trapping. As it takes time to get all pieces together, it requires that the intern stays for more than 1 month. Just let us know in advance if you would like to create an educational film on a particular topic.