Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Volunteer Project, Ecuador

1-12 Weeks from

minimum age

  • Live in a nature reserve in the beautiful Ecuadorian cloud forest
  • Learn about sustainable food production, building and farming techniques
  • Gain hands-on forest conservation experience and help to preserve this important ecosystem
  • Opportunities for long term research internships with capuchin monkeys and large mammals

About the Cloud Forest Conservation Project

Conservation volunteer collecting data in Ecuador forestConservation and Sustainability Volunteers can join this programme all year round from 1 week up to 3 months in duration. We also offer weekly lectures, bi-weekly hikes, the opportunity for cultural exchange with the Ecuadorian staff, and friendships with other volunteers from around the world. Typical volunteer activities include:

  • Planting 150 native trees per person within the group (groups of 4-8 usually)
  • Designing and opening a new trail in the reserve
  • Maintaining existing trails
  • Collecting data for the station’s research projects
  • Monitoring large mammals using camera traps
  • Working in the organic vegetable and medicinal garden
  • Alternative animal production
  • Coffee, banana and citric production
  • Bio-food production
  • Eco-construction
  • Sustainable wood production

Iguana in EcuadorPlease note that we are also able to arrange for volunteers to conduct independent research projects during their stay on this programme, a particularly good option for university students doing dissertations or those wishing to undertake scientific research at a nature reserve (see more details below).

As part of your volunteer experience, you can also conduct an independent research project on a topic of your interest. With ten years of experience in supervising research projects, we will give you ideas and supervision during your project. You can study different subjects at the reserve ranging from wildlife to agriculture. This opportunity will contribute to your personal and professional skills, by learning new self-directed skills and research techniques, in addition, your work will help us to increase our knowledge and research data at the reserve itself.

Please state your interest in this option in your application form or tell us during your first days at the reserve and we can assist you with arranging a research project.

5-day Family Volunteer Experience Package

Volunteer sliding down waterfall in EcuadorAn authentic and worthwhile short-term experience for Families with children of all ages, this project is designed for families who may only have a limited time to travel in Ecuador and want to maximise their experience. Activities available are condensed into a 5-day package, however, if visitors want to extend or reduce their stay they are more than welcome to do so. The programme has 3 key features:

  • Participants will be immersed in Ecuadorean culture and history and explore the tropical natural environment
  • The program features hands-on volunteer activities such as organic farming and reforestation.
  • The experience is inherently educational, as participants will learn about cloud forests and conservation, organic farming and sustainable development, and Ecuadorean culture and history. At the reserve we have over twenty years of experience in formal and informal educational activities for children and adults and our staff will ensure a significant learning experience.

Besides enjoying a family-friendly, peaceful atmosphere, visitors can taste our homemade food prepared with ingredients mostly from the farm, which families and volunteers help to grow and harvest. Also if you are interested you can learn to make traditional dishes, such as empanadas, patacones, yucca bread, muchines, quinoa tortillas and hot chocolate prepared from cocoa beans.

For more details on family volunteering options, costs or a more detailed itinerary, please email Vicky at info@workingabroad.com 

Travelling, Volunteering and Learning Programme (TVL)

Volunteer collecting bananas in cloud forest EcuadorThis is a Summer programme which is ideal for groups of volunteers who do not have much time to travel (one or two weeks) but still want to do something worthwhile. This project is only available for group bookings (minimum 5 participants). It includes:

  • reforestation, forest conservation and planting native and endangered species,
  • hiking in the cloud forest,
  • trip and overnight stay with a local indigenous community,
  • opportunity to learn about medicinal plants,
  • eco-construction workshops,
  • ecological research techniques,
  • sustainability – organic agriculture as well as bio food production, (ie cheese, yoghourt, pasta, coffee etc)
  • conservation lectures and practices,
  • camping and learning about survival techniques, shelter building, finding edible foods,
  • visiting local school and nursery.

There is the option to include Spanish classes as well. The TVL programme is suitable for groups of students, friends, families etc. The TVL programme requires a group of at least 5 participants, and any dates would be fine, as we can create a specific programme for your group.

Capuchin Monkey Long-term Research & Conservation Project

Capuchin Monkey in EcuadorVolunteers can participate on a long term research and conservation project of the White-Fronted Capuchin Monkey (Cebus albifrons aequatorialis), which is endemic to the Ecuadorian coast and it is in danger of extinction. The programme starts with a technical workshop with a primatologist, who will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to primates of the world
  • Primates in Ecuador
  • Field techniques and data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Trail exploration

After the workshop, volunteers have the responsibility to follow groups of monkeys and to collect data, especially in regards to behaviour and food preferences; this information will be recorded into a specific data sheet (in paper and online). In addition to the fieldwork, volunteers will be responsible for the Reforestation program for monkeys, this includes collecting seeds, planting and transplanting seedlings and maintaining the plants in the tree nursery. Volunteers will also help with our educational programmes. This work may involve designing educational materials to assist children from local schools during field trips. During the programme you will work alongside professionals, local guides and independently.

volunteers investigating in the forestRequirements for the Primate Programme:

  • Open-minded
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Capable to work in the tropical forest (in groups or alone)
  • Good physical condition
  • Basic knowledge of field techniques would be useful
  • Passionate about fauna especially monkeys
  • Capable to work individually and in groups
  • Basic spoken Spanish level
  • Minimum commitment of 10 weeks, ideally 12 weeks

NOTE: This program is ideal for students who need to conduct an overseas internship or to conduct a research project for a dissertation. However, everybody is welcome to join. For more details, please email Vicky at info@workingabroad.com 

Puma volunteer researchMonitoring Large Mammals using Camera Traps

Large mammals are threatened by the loss of their natural habitat. This Cloudforest Reserve has become their refuge and to protect them, we need to keep track of them and monitor their behaviour. Therefore, we have started a new project that will allow us to develop more accurate conservation strategies.

Biological monitoring enables us to obtain information that enables us to evaluate and identify changes in the environment and how human action affects the ecosystem. Generating these conservation strategies will not only protect these large mammals, but will also help all the species under them, since these are considered Umbrella Species.

Volunteers can join the project as part of the general volunteering activities or they can focus on this topic and conduct an Independent project or Dissertation.  Please contact us for more details if you are interested.

Mammal research in Ecuador

Independent Research Internship Programme

This programme is ideal for students who need to conduct a research internship abroad, a research project or a dissertation. The programme starts before your arrival, through communication with your on-site supervisor, who will help you with your project proposal and the logistics involved. After your arrival, you will join an introductory tour and during the first week your supervisor and a local guide will show you the reserve and all you need to start your project. You can have the assistance of our volunteers or of a local guide (extra cost depending on the number of hours). During the research you will receive technical support and at the end of your stay your supervisor will check your final report and fill out any necessary forms from your university (if needed).

Research Topics

All the research projects conducted should use non-invasive methods.

Camera trap research on large mammalsOngoing Projects

• Mammal monitoring using camera traps
• Capuchin monkey demography, behaviour and feeding patterns
• Phenology of native hard wood species
• Frequency of use of a mineral lick in the Cloud Forest using camera traps

Independent Project Areas

• Comparative studies of wildlife diversity and abundance according to different altitude levels and land uses
• Studies of bioindicator species
• Topics related to organic agriculture and permaculture
• Social studies related with conservation

For more details, please email Vicky at info@workingabroad.com 

Further Details on Conservation Volunteering in Ecuador

We recommend that volunteers work on a variety of the different activities offered in the programme, in order to have a better understanding of the “whole picture” at the reserve, however volunteers can focus their time on a particular selection of activities if they prefer, but it is necessary that you mention it in advance in your application or during your orientation.

  • Volunteers making coffee in nature reserveForestry Programme: Restoring Degraded Areas – The station is working to restore several areas through natural regeneration and by reforesting them with tree species important to the natural environment. Volunteers assist in collecting and planting seeds, maintaining the nursery, transplanting seedlings, tree care, opening reforestation lines and conducting forestry inventories of planted trees to evaluate their growth and survival.
  • Sustainable Wood Production – Due to the worldwide demand for hardwood it is important to plant trees for sustainable use, instead of cutting old-growth trees that belong to the natural forests. Since the steep geography of the region does not permit intensive agriculture and cattle farming, the best economic alternative is wood production. In addition to trying to resolve poverty, forestry also contributes to the fight against global warming; an average of twenty tonnes of carbon dioxide is absorbed per year by one hectare of trees in growth. At the station, we are planting several species of trees for sustainable use, including mahogany, cedar, colorado and tangaré among others. As we research the best methods for sustainable development, we will share our knowledge of agroforestry with local communities to encourage and enable them to adopt a similar approach.
  • Wildlife Programme – Birds inventory (volunteers with expertise in bird-watching). Volunteers are in charge to plant botanical species that will provide food for the wild animals. Also they will report any mammal sightings, for the Mammal sight-frequency research, and will monitor nests when found.
  • Research – Volunteers will collect and analyse data from the different research areas, such as hardwood trees’ phenology, germination success of important species etc. In addition, volunteers will collect basic weather information such as temperature and rainfall.
  • Organic Vegetable Garden – Preparing soil, planting seeds, weeding, harvesting and general maintenance.
  • Trail Maintenance – Volunteers will maintain or create the trails of the reserve with a machete.
  • Organic Agriculture: – Maintenance of banana, coffee, sugar cane, citric fields (clearing with a machete, weeding, fertilising, pruning, harvesting mature products).
  • Alternative Animal Production – At the reserve we have we have goats, sheep, chickens, one pig, one llama, horses and cows. Volunteers will participate in activities like: feeding these animals, planting the crops to feed them, maintenance of pastures, fencing, and milking.
  • Bio-food Production – Volunteers will participate in the process of preparation of home-made cheese, butter, yogurt, chocolate, coffee, pasta, bread, pizza, dry fruits and vinegar.
  • Eco-construction – Construction with COB, bamboo and wood depending on the time of the year. If at the time of your stay there is not a current construction project, if volunteers are interested the staff will conduct a COB workshop.
  • Alternative Energy – We will continue with the evaluation of possible energy projects, consulting experts and making agreements with relevant institutions.
  • New Ideas – Any volunteers with the relevant experience may contribute by helping to write grant proposals and other communications on behalf of the reserve.

Volunteers will rotate their work schedule doing the above tasks, working about 6 hours each day Monday to Thursday. Friday is either a group hike or a free day.

“Seeing the passion and dedication that volunteers put into their work, gives us the motivation and the energy to continue with our mission of conservation and education.” – Quote from Project Manager

Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Volunteer Project, Ecuador

You may also be interested in these projects