IPBio - Biodiversity Research Institute

IPBio is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that develops and supports projects in environmental education and scientific research on biodiversity, ecology as well as on the behavior of species of fauna and flora of Brazilian ecosystems. 

In 2009, we recieved accreditation as an advanced outpost of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.


Volunteer Research and Non-Research Roles at IPBio:

1) Bioluminescent Mushroom Program: There are approximately 71 species of bioluminescent mushrooms in the world and Iporanga holds 12 species making it the region the highest concentration of bioluminescent mushrooms in the world. IPBio wishes to develop a protocol that allows us to grow them in the lab under controlled conditions. Our cultivation program conducts experiments on: substrate compositions, sterilization method, inoculation method, and fruiting techniques to optimize the process of cultivation.

2) Amphibian Researcher: IPBio conducts research on amphibian reproductive habits and embryology. Volunteer accompany the development of tadpoles and frogs in captivity. In addition, we conduct regular inventories of amphibians using pitfalls that are distributed throughout the reserve.

3) Tree Inventory and Monitoring: Volunteers can support our tree inventory program by conducting field collections of leaves/flowers and fruits/seeds on our trails. In addition, literature research is conducted to gather information on morphological characteristics, occurrence, wood, utility, ecological information, phenology, seeds description and seedling production for each species. Once all our trails have been inventories, we can begin to monitor the growth and well-being of the reserves forest and compare different areas of the reserve.

4) Aquarium Research and Maintenance: IPBio conducts research on native species of fish in an attempt to reduce the dependence on exotic fish in local fish farms. This is important as exotic fish are often introduced into our ecosystem and compete with our native species causing species extinction. The volunteer would be in charge of accompanying this experiment with a native species called Lambari. In addition, the volunteer is in charge of feeding the fish, cleaning the aquariums and monitoring water conditions of the aquarium.

5) Bioacoustics Research: IPBio received a grant from Wildlife Acoustics whereby they donated 2 bioacoustics recorders and software to analyze the data. We are attempting to understand peak activity times for different species throughout the 24 hours in a day. This study will be conducted over the years to develop monthly/seasonal peak activity period for species. In addition, IPBio wishes to create a `sound bank´ of all the species on the reserve.

6) Biodiversity Research Assistant: The Biodiversity Research Assistant role can take many forms. Either you will be assigned to: a specific research project as an assistant; split your time between a couple of projects; or assist in all research projects where needed. This role allows volunteers to get a feel for all the research that IPBio conducts.

7) Photographers and Movie Producers: IPBio uses cameras for research on wildlife and as a result our biologists developed a passion for photography and filmmaking. Our interest in the interplay of photography, research and education lead to the creation of OBBIO – Observatory for Biodiversity, which captures footage aimed at producing eBooks, documentaries, and educational videos as well as using the images for research purposes. For example, our videos have been sold to Discovery Channel. Videos about the volunteer program are also needed every month as well as great photos for the website.

8) Reserve Maintenance and Gardening: Our gardener, Rafael, always needs help maintaining the grounds, trails, animal enclosures, vegetable patch and microclimate greenhouse so if you are interested in getting your hands dirty then we always have a job for you. Moreover, we have many gardens so planting flowers and tree as well as watering them and keeping their patches weed-free is essential. This job requires volunteers who are willing to conduct heavy physical activity.

9) Communications: Help raise awareness about the Institute and its projects. Support our communications by: improving our website and social media; creating informative videos; setting up material to inform students and universities about courses we offer; writing grant and fundraising; seeking partners for our Institution.

10) Volunteer Coordinator: IPBio currently has a full-time staff member dedicated to the management of the volunteer program, however, with this increase in capacity we are looking for a Volunteer Coordinator who can support the Volunteer Manager in organizing the daily tasks of volunteers. The volunteer coordinator must be able to learn about the various projects quickly and have leadership qualities. The volunteer coordinator is in a position our authority and thus must accept the responsibility that comes with this role.


Life at IPBio

Volunteers will stay at the Darwin House, situated on the reserve itself, which accommodates up to 8 people in 2 rooms. This house has a bathroom with a hot shower and has a fully equipped kitchen where volunteers can cook.

Every day you will wake up to the sound of birds, monkeys and frogs and can explore the reserves grounds. Our town is called the Cave Capital of Brazil so volunteers often visit our state parks to explore the caves.  Hike into the dense forest and visits to waterfalls are also common activities. Bouy cross, big balloons, are used to drift down the rivers, some of the river route are 3 hours long! After work volunteers can swim on the reserve deck, organize dinners, watch movies, read and go wildlife watching. On the weekend we often have a barbeque or organize dinner at a restaurant. Often there are social events or parties in the community that volunteers can go to.



1) that you are over 18; 2) that you speak either English or Portuguese at a high level and 3) you stay for a minimum of two weeks; 4) Have travel and medical insurance



Volunteers at IPBio are required to pay 425 reais a week (approx. 136 US dollars a week). This covers your accommodation, full access to the reserve, internet access and the use of any equipment we have. Volunteers will pay for their own food and cook for themselves. Volunteers are also responsible for paying for any extra costs such as travel costs, visa costs or etc.


How to Apply

Send an enquiry and express which project(s) you are interested in.

Contact / Enquiry

IPBio - Biodiversity Research Institute Reviews

Easily the best volunteering experience of my life

After graduating from the University of Bath with an Economics degree and working in London for a couple years, I decided it was time to travel and do something radically different that is actually worth doing. Whilst I have been interested in environmental research and conservation for some time, I had not taken any real steps in that direction until coming to IPBio. And I am very glad I did.
As a Volunteer Coordinator, I guided volunteers and supported the team here on several projects ranging flora and fauna as well as diverse settings. This allowed me to gain experience in many different tasks, from monitoring animal pitfalls and recovering the precious bioacoustics recording deep in the forest to working in the lab looking for signs of BD disease in tadpoles and testing bioluminescent mushroom substrates. One of my favourite activities (understandably I think!) was searching for these glowing mushrooms at night in the forest, which we did a couple times. I also really enjoyed being responsible for the daily feeding of animals (yes, by the end I felt like we had developed some sort of relationship, although to what extent that was a one-way thing I am not sure) and occasionally supporting the Volunteer Programme Manager with his research and other ad hoc tasks.
Apart from the work, there are many opportunities to visit the surrounding region and all it has to offer (magnificent caves and waterfalls instantly spring to mind) as well as the small but charming town of Iporanga. As if that’s not enough, the reserve is well-run by some very friendly people (most of which are local) and there is even a beautiful, tranquil swimming spot one minute away from the volunteer house. So make sure you get some insect repellent and come along!

By: Miguel Almeida
Nationality: Portuguese
Age: 25

Volunteering in the Atlantic Rainforest

During a trip through South America, I set aside a month long period to volunteer at an NGO. I could not have chosen a more suitable location than the IPBio Reserve, situated in the diminishing Atlantic Rainforest. The reserve is situated in a very unique position, in that it is an unparalleled nature sanctuary, but also just a short drive from the town of Iporanga. This offers the opportunity to not only be immersed in the conservation projects occurring at IPBio but also near enough to civilization to grab essentials (great for long-stay individuals) and make the most of free time.
Given the variety of projects ongoing at IPBio, there is the opportunity to partake in a wide range of projects and also to be placed in an area of personal interest. Given my professional background, I was able to assist in a number of research projects, but also help in volunteer coordination and various administrative tasks.
The staff at IPBio allowed for my time spent at the reserve to be the most memorable. At other NGOs, I have experienced a lack of organization and general discoordination amongst the staff. This could not be further from the reality at IPBio. From the carefully prepared volunteer package; outlining everything necessary for your stay, including how to get to the reserve with ease, what to expect, what projects are ongoing, etc. to the daily involvement from the volunteer coordinators and research staff.
Overall I would recommend the volunteer program at IPBio to everyone looking to become further involved in an NGO on the forefront of biodiversity conservation. Given the breadth of the projects, there are opportunities for people with a science background looking to become involved in a leading research institution but also those with less experience hoping to become grow their conservationist perspective.

By: Mac
Nationality: Canadian
Age: 26

Living in the wonderful Mata Atlantica!

I have really enjoyed my time at ipbio; working as a Biological Research assistant for the Bioluminescent Mushroom Project has been so interesting. I have had so many opportunities to do things that I never normally would have been able to do, from designing the new mushroom project logo to searching for undiscovered species in the forest. As the work is so varied, I never found it was too repetitive and felt like I was making a valuable contribution to the reserve and to the conservation of the natural area. Ipbio’s location in the amazing Mata Atlantica also adds to the volunteer experience, a day doesn’t go by when you haven’t seen something new or strange!

By: Jane
Nationality: United Kingdom
Age: 25

IPBio through the lens of my camera

I spent three weeks as a volunteer photographer at IPBio. My main task was to take pictures of the life of the other volunteers. Which means their personal volunteer projects (tree inventory, bioacoustics, bioluminescent mushrooms, tadpoles, birds, gardening,…) and free time activities. For every project and weekend activity I took a couple of representative pictures which will be used at the website and in the volunteer package. In addition I produced and edited some video clips. The reserve is located in the middle of the atlantic rainforest and there are many awesome weekend activities to do, for example Boia Cross, hiking, visiting waterfalls and caves (the region is called the capital of caves), BBQ and many other cool stuff. I enjoyed every day at IPBio and would recommend everybody to come to this amazing place. Come as soon as possible and stay as long as possible, you won’t regret it! ;)

By: Karen
Nationality: german
Age: 27

A Unique Experience in a Unique Place

My name is Alex and I have an obsession with stories . I'm not sure when this obsession started, but my close friends know that I intentionally get myself into situations, both good and bad, where I find myself thinking, "Well this will make for a good story to tell later". It was this obsession that lead me to apply to IPBio.

I worked at IPBio for two months as the 2nd volunteer to work on the Bioacoustics Research project. As an Electrical and Computer Engineer with a love of the outdoors, I wanted to work on something technical, but also something I would find meaningful and this project absolutely met these two requirements.

On a day-to-day basis I would hike to collect audio files, listen to and annotate the sounds I collected, work with a field biologist to identify different animal species by their vocalizations, and teach a computer how to recognize patterns and vocalizations in the future. The ultimate goal of this project is to track the incredible biodiversity in the North Atlantic Forest by tracking the sounds of the forest, and my day to day work alone would have given me enough stories to bring back home to make this volunteer program worth joining.

However amazing my job was here, the real stories came from my interactions with the other volunteers, the locals from Iporanga, and with the forest itself. I now have stories to bring home of catching frogs at night and searching for bioluminescent mushrooms with volunteers from around the world, who I've already made plans to visit. I have stories of drinking water from freshly cut shoots of bamboo with the staff of IPBio as I struggled through conversations with my limited Portuguese vocabulary. I have stories of climbing behind waterfalls and seeing the world's largest cave mouth. I have stories of dancing all night at a Quilombo religious festival, while not understanding the song being sung and not particularly caring.

There are also the smaller, less photo-worthy but still memorable stories that only this remote program and those like it can provide. Stories of three volunteers desperately trying to download the Game of Thrones season finale, and running out of the bathroom after finding a deadly spider, and hitchhiking to town in the back of pickup trucks that, for some reason, is blasting Miley Cyrus.

The last two months have been some of the most unique and story-worthy in my life, and if you have the chance, I would 100% recommend volunteering with IPBio. You will find yourself well out of your comfort zone, in an interesting place with interesting people, and there is no better place for a story to happen.

By: Alex
Nationality: United States
Age: 27

Four Golden Weeks

I spent four weeks volunteering at IPBio during my semester vacations. The atmosphere at the reserve is very warm and welcoming. Everyone is very supportive and it seems like everyone here at the reserve really enjoys what they are doing! I worked with the communications program and created a newsletter for IPBio. I had a lot of freedom realising my own ideas and giving a personal note to the newsletter which I really enjoyed! The nature that surrounds the reserve is very impressing, hills covered in jungle, many caves and waterfalls and a lot more to discover! Therefore, every weekend was fully booked with trips exploring nature’s treasures. Every person that I met here, if it was another volunteer, a staff member or one of the locals, was very open and extremely nice! During the day, I was working on the newsletter, which required me sitting in front of my computer all the time, but sometimes I did help with the tree inventory as well so that I had the possibility to get out in the field! All in all, I would definitely come back to IPBio! I felt really welcomed and I think it’s a great opportunity to contribute to a really good cause and at the same time collecting personal experiences, if it is new language skills, insights in research work, making new friends, exploring new cultures and Mother Earth herself!

By: Ann-Kristin
Nationality: German
Age: 20

A plethora of 'first times'

Hey, my name is Tim. I am a biology undergraduate from Cardiff, Wales, in the U.K. I study at the University of Bristol and have just finished my second year. I noticed a lot of friends were doing exciting projects abroad, and I wanted to do something productive with my summer, which would mix my love of science and nature, with opportunity for leisure, making new friends, and exploring this beautiful part of the world. It is the first time I have volunteered in any form, and my first time this far away from home, and so I thought a one-month stay would be a safe time to book for my first adventure. With one week remaining, I begin to wonder if one month was too short a stay... it has flown by. My answer to this, and thus my advice for first-timers would be to seriously consider at least a 2 month stay. A month sounds long, especially if it’s your first time volunteering, but once you have settled in, been trained in your work activities, and are comfortable with life at the reserve, all of a sudden it is time to go home. It’s worth noting that big excursions are only possible on the weekends, and in a month, that leaves only 8 days to properly explore. It’s not enough. It’s also worth noting that it’s only a small reserve which may have only a few volunteers upon your arrival, many of whom may be long term volunteers who have already seen the sights you would like to see and wouldn’t want go again (as they cost money) and so a longer stay will allow you to come into contact with more volunteers who haven’t yet been where you want to go. Another piece of advice is if you want to visit Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or any other far-away places, consider visiting on your way in or out of the country, as they are not near or easy to visit on a weekend.
Logistics aside, my stay at both ipBIO and Rio de Janeiro has been so exciting, character-forming, and eye opening. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but you will realise looking back on you experience here you have been put in a very privileged position to visit such an awesome environment. I worked here on several projects, and if you’re not sure what you want to do here but know you just want to help, this is a good position as you get a taster of all the work going on at the reserve. I looked at food preference using camera footage to analyse the behaviour of our Lepidodactylus flavopictus frog. I carried out maintenance tasks at the reserve; feeding the fish, turtles, testing the water quality of the tanks etc. I then studied the progression of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the causative agent of chytridiomycosis in amphibians, in an isolated population of tadpoles. This is a long term study being done for a professor at a local university, and so it was good to know I was solely responsible for data collection that has real scientific significance. It also allowed me to be exposed to real science... repetition, repetition, repetition, which allowed me to realise what a career in research will really be like.
I have made great friends here, and certainly had memories which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Cananeia is definitely worth visiting (but preferably when it is good weather). It is absolutely beautiful, see as many of the islands as you can! And enjoy the boat rides. The caves here are awesome, and the hikes through the state park are unlike any organised trials you’ll ever see… prepare to get wet and have a lot of laughs! The town is very cute and there is everything you need here for a great stay. Prepare for slow internet at the reserve, but at the same time don’t rely on it... come prepared with any videos, software, literature etc. that you think you will need as downloads will take a long time. Look at it as something to look forward to - I am glad I had limited exposure to the internet as I was able to experience Brazil with my eyes rather than through a social media app, and focus on what I was doing here and the fun I was having rather than what other people who I don’t really care about were having for dinner on the other side of the globe. One thing I will definitely take away with me, and is a lesson to be learned for the Western world, is that collectivist culture is awesome. For example, the town is 5 km down the road, and a nice walk, however if someone drives past there’s a good chance they will offer you a free lift. If you need a lift back from the town after a night out, plan ahead as Taxi’s stop at 11, but when we got into this problem we asked around the bars and someone was kind enough to drop us home free of charge. Everyone is friendly here, and is so interested in you as a foreigner or ‘gringro’ as they call it, so prepare to feel welcomed. Personally, I think you will get more from your volunteer experience here if you come with a set project or research question in mind that you can fully focus on and also (preferably finish) so you have a product to come away with knowing you made an impact. You’ll make an impact regardless, but it’s nice to be around to see through the culmination of your project. You will indisputably get more from your experience if you come knowing at least the basics of Portuguese so you can get around by yourself, and converse with the locals. I came knowing zilch and wish I knew more… it’s an element of any trip that you cannot pay for to experience. The staff at ipBIO are really helpful, friendly, and well organised, and any questions before or during your stay at ipBIO, Imran has the answer!!!! Come with an open mind and heart, and embrace Brazil! Finally, if you like your stay, which I know you will, tell your friends! Some of the most powerful recommendations can from word-of-mouth, and ipBIO is expanding both here in Iporanga, and in the amazon with a new reserve, so there is space for your friends too! Good luck and I wish you fantastic experience here at ipBIO.

By: Tim Dodd
Nationality: Welsh
Age: 20

Highly Recommended!

I am from the United States and volunteered on IPBio’s Betary Reserve in Brazil for 5 months in total. I highly recommend volunteering with IPBio, as I had a very positive experience and plan to continue volunteering with IPBio remotely going forward.

Prior to arriving in Brazil, Imran, the volunteer coordinator at IPBio, was very responsive and answered my many questions fully so that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into even before getting to the reserve. The other staff members at IPBio are also very friendly and helpful, and I always felt comfortable reaching out if I ever needed help with anything, whether work-related or not.

The organization itself is well-run, with clear projects and realistic plans to reach its goals. There is a very clear vision here and it is evident how each of the staff members and volunteers is individually contributing to the achievement of this vision. While at IPBio, I worked on the new Bioacoustics Project. I was responsible for learning how to use the new software and hardware donated through a grant program, developing the research protocol, and carrying out the data analysis. I greatly valued how much the organization trusted me to figure out these problems using my technical background. There is definitely never a lack of work to be done around the Reserve, but both the staff and volunteers have a very good work-life balance.

The accommodations have everything you need and are kept up quite well. The volunteer house felt cramped at times, but the Reserve is in the process of building a new, bigger volunteer house that should alleviate this issue.

Iporanga itself is a great place to spend time volunteering and immersing yourself in Brazilian culture, as the people are very warm, friendly, and welcoming. I felt safe the entire time I was in Iporanga, and felt comfortable walking around the city alone at any time of day. I came to Brazil speaking a little bit of Portuguese and highly recommend learning a little before coming. While not necessary to volunteer, knowing a bit of Portuguese enabled me to meet and get to know a lot of people here, including a lot of the staff members who do not speak English fluently.

During my free time, I was able to get to know the large number of caves and waterfalls in the nearby state park PETAR, hike the area, go to local festivals, take weekend trips to nearby towns, and many other fun activities! I stayed at IPBio for 5 months and still have a long list of things I’d like to do in the area for when I someday return.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience at an organization I respect highly with a lot of people I miss already. I definitely recommend volunteering here and look forward to continuing to volunteer with IPBio remotely from home in the United States.

By: Tess
Nationality: USA
Age: 24

An Awesome Experience!

Wow. The last two months here have been absolutely amazing. I came to IPBio eight weeks ago from the United States as a "lab assistant" to do research on one of the rare frogs here and track the progression of one of the most devastating fungal diseases affecting amphibians world-wide. I helped to design experiments with the Leptodactylus flavopictus frog to determine its activity periods and food preference because IPBio is, as far as we know, the only place in the world that has managed to raise one in captivity. A professor from UNICAMPI, Brazil asked us to start an ongoing project monitoring the progression of Bd in a population of tadpoles, so I have been helping with that as well. I picked up a couple more duties including taking care of the animals that we have on the reserve (turtles, fish, frogs, tadpoles, and lizards), hiking in the woods to collect data on bio acoustics, and sampling and testing the water quality of the aquarium. Work really doesn't feel like work most of the time - I got to take care of animals and walk through the jungle every day. The staff here are such wonderful people. Although I only speak limited Portuguese, their hospitality and kindness make working on the reserve one of my favorite parts of the day. After work, there is always something to do on the reserve. On clear nights, you can walk out to the vegetable garden and stare up at the brightest stars you have ever seen, then look over at the pond where you will see hundreds of glowing larva. It is such a surreal experience to travel from Sao Paulo, the massive city filled with lights, people, and sounds, to the middle of the Atlantic Forest where you can walk 100 meters from the house and be completely alone, surrounded by nature. On the weekends, there are literally hundreds of caves and waterfalls within driving distance which are mind-blowingly beautiful.

My time here has been truly transformative. The relationships that I have made, the science that I have done, and the awareness of the natural world that I have gained will stay with me forever. I hope to build on my experience here and become a biologist working in the same kind of environment eventually. I would recommend this experience to anyone who loves science, conservation, nature, and is ready for a stay full of adventures!

By: Jesse
Nationality: United States
Age: 20

Chill experience with mushrooms in a forest

I came to IPBio for six months to work in the bioluminescent mushroom program. It was overall a wonderful experience. The reserve is in a great location, surrounded by lush forest full of animals and birds, so for anyone that likes nature it is glorious. The area the reserve is in is full of caves and waterfalls, so there is never lack of weekend activities. The staff are extremely supportive and welcoming, but I would recommend learning a bit of portuguese before coming as it will help with communicating with some members that don't speak english, and other locals. The mushroom program itself is very interesting. It is really unique to be in an area that still has many things to be discovered, plus seeing the mushrooms glowing at night is a real trip! The lab side of the work is also really rewarding as the research that is being done at the reserve is quite novel and complex. If you are interested in mushrooms or want to learn more about them, this is the perfect opportunity. The mushroom program is relatively young, but has so much potential! Can't recommend IPBio enough.

By: Grant
Nationality: United States
Age: 25

Great experience !

I have the best time ever during my stay, all of the employees are super nice and so are the volunteers. Iporanga will stay in my heart forever since is a very special place with a lot of stuff to visit and adventure activities to do, plus the locals are very kind and generous people. I could only stay at IPbio for two weeks but I am definetly willing to return, it is a very enthusiastic and forward thinking organization with a lot of projects and passion for what they do. I will definetly recomend it.

By: Marta
Nationality: Sapnish
Age: 23

Forest inventory with IPBio

Together with my boyfriend, we worked on tree inventory project at IPBio. Our stay was rather short (only 2 weeks) but it was an interesting and overall happy experience. First of all, the place is beautiful, on the edge of Atlantic rainforest, therefore every day you spend in proximity to incredibly rich nature. We were lucky to observe various birds (imagine colorful hummingbird buzzing and flying as close as 50 cm to you), insects, fish, to enjoy exploring various trees and flowering plants just a few steps out of the door.
For the project, we had to perform trees bark photographing and measurements. This is “field” work which is quite enjoyable (unless it rains :)). The goal of the project was to identify trees in the area in order to prepare this location for birds release.
There are numerous ways to enjoy your free time here: swimming in the nearby river, hiking or visiting marvelous caves in the PETAR natural park, getting to know local life in Iporanga.
We had great support from IPBio in organizing weekend activities and in preparation for the trip.
I would recommend volunteering with IPBio to anyone interested in nature. Few words of advice though are: try to learn as much Portuguese as possible. The majority of people do not speak English, and though they are super friendly and cooperative, Portuguese will definitely help to get around and to enjoy the country more. Also if you travel during Brazilian winter months (June, July), bring some warm clothes, tropical winter can still be quite chilly.

By: Maryna
Nationality: Ukraine
Age: 34

Awesome place

I was doing a tree inventory project at IpBio Iporanga for two weeks with my girlfriend and was very satisfied.
The facility itself is located in the very beautiful reserve in the forest, which was very refreshing after Sao Paolo.
There are various projects for people with various backgrounds, however, some projects require longer stay.
Our project involved marking, measuring and preparing data for identification of the trees, so we were able to spend a lot of time in nature (which is amazing!!)
We were also able to see projects which other volunteers were working on - like researching local frogs, tadpoles, luminescent mushrooms ( they are super cool! ) and audio monitoring of the forest.
Since reserve is located in nature - get ready for the local birds, you will really see and hear them a lot!
One thing that I can definitely recommend is learning some Portuguese beforehand. While some members of IpBio staff speak English, so there's no problem during the stay, you will feel quite limited in communication on the way to reserve, as well as during traveling around on your own.
The kitchen they currently have is a bit small if you have other volunteers around, however they are constructing new building right now so it should improve soon.
The staff is very helpful - they helped us to arrange interesting activities (hiking, going to caves etc) for the weekends, as well as figuring out transportation afterward and other practical questions.
If you are coming in winter definitely grab some warm clothes, it can be really cold at night.

I can definitely recommend this place, and I'm looking forward to checking out some other centers they plan to open in Brazil ( especially in Amazonia).

By: Oleh
Nationality: Ukraine
Age: 34

3 weeks at Reserva Betary

My stay here at the Reserva Betary has been thoroughly enjoyable, throughout my stay I was working on the forest inventory program which has given me a huge insight into how practical research is undertaken. It also allowed me to further understand why a reserve like this one is so important to biodiversity, and helped me to gain a perspective on what actually working in this field would be like. The weekend trips to caves and boya crossing across the various rivers in Iporanaga have been another highlight, and you definitely need to stay a minimum of a month to be able to explore the various sites within and around the area. If we didn’t have major exploring plans for the weekend a BBQ was always happening, as well as learning how to make Caprihanas to perfection! Staying on the reserve itself has been a whole different experience, being surrounded by the forest gives you the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and after the practical work of the day, being able to sit in a hammock for hours on end in the middle of the Atlantic forest is something I have taken for granted! I have been here with two other volunteers throughout my stay and whilst it is sometimes nice to not be surrounded by people, I maybe would have like a few more volunteers to have been here too, they are building more housing for future volunteers so is just a question on the time of year you choose to stay. I would completely recommend the reserve to anyone who wants to do something completely different whilst helping the environment at the same time, and getting a feel for a place which has been relatively untouched by mainstream tourism!

By: Annie
Nationality: English
Age: 22

Nothing short of amazing.

Overall, my experience here at IPBio so far has been nothing short of amazing. I have made some great friends, explored the picturesque landscape, and learned so much through the amazing work we are all doing. The town of Iporanga is quaint and equipped with all the essentials, and the reserve is a jungle paradise.

By: Matthew Dunlop
Nationality: Canada
Age: 24

Glowing mushrooms!

When I started looking for volunteer programs abroad focusing on research, there weren't many to find, if at all (with no professional experience on my side). I was very lucky to find the Bioluminescent Mushroom Researching Program and it sounded really cool (I mean glowing mushrooms!). After I applied everything happened fast, their volunteer coordinator replied the next day, I got all the necessary information and we skyped shortly afterwards. All in all I had a great time, I was able to meet awesome knew people, learn more about mushrooms and the atlantic rainforest.

By: Antonia Binder
Nationality: Germany
Age: 19

Come and Volunteer!

I had a wonderful time at Reserva Betary!
You cross a hanging bridge over the river and suddenly you realize you are in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by nothing but nature. It was amazing. Every morning I woke up and started my work with Rafael. My choice to help him in the garden worked out great for me! Even though it was definitely the hardest I have ever physically worked, I was very happy to prove to myself that I can do this kind of work.
Of course gardening is repetitive, but since the environment here is so different to what I am used to and there is so much to see, I did not mind. Plus, it gives you a lot of time and space to think, so I never got bored.
Rafael is the most patient and kind person, so even with my terrible Portuguese skills, we got along really well! In general, the people I worked (and also spent my free time) with are all together extraordinary and make you feel like you are at home here. They seem like one big family, happy to welcome you. Living with the other volunteers was also very cool. Since it was my first time volunteering, I expected there to be more difficulties, but excepting some food-related issues (which definitely occur every time one lives with a lot of people), we had a great time!
Summing it all up, I definitely recommend a stay here. I am sure you will enjoy the time!

By: Charlotte Uhlig
Nationality: Germany
Age: 18

Close to best in the world!

Staying for a month at IPBio Reserve was the perfect opportunity to learn about a wide range of paramount fields within the International volunteering actions. From the fascinating scientific research projects of the Institute to the discovery of the amazing World Natural Heritage that the Atlantic Forest represents, there is so much that has caught my interests.
I enjoyed every hour of the gardening and outdoor maintenance I did in the Reserve, just like all the little jobs I was given to help here and there, like assisting the biologists or taking part to local events with the school.
Working also with the partners of the Institute for the development of a community-based tourism was definitely an honour and priviledge for me, and definitely made me socially and environmentally aware of the urge to protect the gold nugget that this area embodies.
IPBio Institute is key to the conservation of the biodiversity, and volunteering there will truly make you feel part of the protection of our Future.

By: Marie Boudouard
Nationality: France
Age: 26

Great place to discover the Rainforest

I'll never forget my 8 weeks in Ipbio, this was a great experience of life, very different from the industrial world I'm coming from.
While I was a volunteer here, I got the opportunity to work in different area of the reserve, from data collect to maintenance, and assistance to the researchers. This gave me the possibility to work with everyone, to learn from everyone. People working in the reserve are all very helpful, always ready to share with you there knowledge and their happiness.
Volunteering here will give you the possibility to discover the Rainforest, to visit PETAR and his caves, or the welcoming communities of the quilombos around.
Don't hesitate more and apply now !

By: Aurelien Bernard
Nationality: France
Age: 25

IPBio is a little paradise!

IPBio is a little paradise! I’ve been working there for 3 weeks and I really love it. My job was to develop the methodology of sampling trees for forest inventories. Then I could start the first inventory in one of the trails of the reserve. Inventories includes measurement and recognition of species, which is very useful for monitoring forest growth, and reveals the useful characteristics of the species to be used by the community.
IPBio is characterized by an excellent working environment and is very comfortable to live in the Darwin house, surrounded by wildlife. Another factor that I loved was the multiple attractions of Iporanga valley, such as caves, waterfalls, forests, animals, communities and rivers.
It was an incredible experience that certainly left a deep impression on me.

By: Claudio Guevara
Nationality: Chile
Age: 25

IPBio is great!

First arriving to the Vale do Ribeira is an experience in itself: beautiful rolling hills covered with the Mata Atlantica forest are led through by tough roads announcing the remoteness of the region. Villagers on donkeys give you a thumbs up as you drive by and people on foot nod their head in sign of welcome. The IP Bio reserve is well off the beaten path, and can only be accessed by crossing a rope bridge over the crystal clear Betary stream.
My experience as a volunteer was great and I highly recommend it. The staff is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and guided me as much in my work as in my understanding of local culture. As a tip to future volunteers I would say to have a clear focus of the project to be completed at the reserve. This made my experience more gratifying and helped me enjoy the escapades to forests, rivers and caves all the more.

By: Federico Pestilli
Nationality: Italian
Age: 30


I arrived at IPBio 4 months ago and since then, I have worked on a research on mammals that occur on the Betary Reserve. This included a lot of hiking which I loved because the nature on and around the reserve is beautiful. I found some really cool mammals during this research (for example: capuchin monkeys and an oncilla). The people here are also really friendly and always willing to help you. In the weekends, we always plan fun stuff like hiking, visiting caves, buoy cross and much more.

I am very thankful for my experience at IPBio and I would recommend it to everyone else!

By: Marleen Duindam
Nationality: Netherlands
Age: 21

Very Glad I Came!

For the past month I have been working at the Betary Reserve with IPBio. In my time here, I have found a wonderfully supportive organization that is doing incredible work and staying true to its mission. For the past month I have been helping with the Communications aspect of IPBio, as well helping with some research on tourism and different activities on the grounds of the reserve. Twice a week I am also taking Portuguese lessons and my skills are really starting to improve.

If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll find plenty to do on the weekends. The reserve is located in the middle of the Atlantic Forest with all of its biodiversity. In the area there are tons of hikes, caves, camping sites, state parks, rural communities, and of course the town of Iporanga. Keeping entertained on the weekends is not going to be an issue, though I do recommend bringing some books for the down time. IPBio is very committed to its mission and also to supporting its volunteers. I’m quite glad I came and would wholeheartedly recommend the experience to anyone else.

By: Matthew Barber
Nationality: US
Age: 22

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