Volunteer at Manu

 

Manu Biological Station Volunteer Program

Do you want to live and work where the Amazon meets the Andes? 

Do you want to gain practical skills in biodiversity monitoring, reforestation, and regenerative agriculture?

Do you want to contribute to science and conservation in one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, we want you for our volunteer program at Manu Biological Station!

Nestled within a 3,000+ hectare property in the world-renowned Manu Biosphere Reserve, Manu Biological Station is dedicated to discovering, understanding and protecting the spectacular ecosystems that stretch from the mystical cloud forests of the Andes to the pristine lowland jungles of the Amazon.

The volunteer program has been designed as a dynamic, mutually beneficial experience, providing a variety of unique experiential learning opportunities for participants, as they contribute to the station’s biodiversity monitoring, reforestation and regenerative agriculture programs.

This is the perfect opportunity for anyone with love of nature and a passion for protecting the planet, and no prior skills are required to participate. Discounts apply for longer visits, and all proceeds from the volunteer program are reinvested directly back into science and conservation here at Manu Biological Station.

Are you ready to register? Fill out our application form here.

Love Birds?

Check out our Bird Volunteer Program as well!

Create a Bird Haven
Bioacoustics
Surveying
Science Communication

Program Overview

The volunteer program at Manu Biological Station is centred around three key focus areas: climate change and biodiversity monitoring, reforestation, and regenerative agriculture. Here’s an overview of just some of the activities that you’ll be involved in…

Climate Change & Biodiversity Monitoring

Manu Biological Station represents a crucial location for the study of biological and ecological sciences in the neotropics. With the rugged, snowy peaks of the Andes to the west, and the dense, sprawling jungles of the Amazon to the east, this ‘altitudinal gradient’ constitutes one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, and Manu is right in the middle of it. The station is the perfect place to investigate how biodiversity changes across the altitudinal gradient, and also how species are responding to the impacts of climate change.

With a key focus on entomology, Manu Biological Station is monitoring wildlife populations in a variety of ways, and tracking those which are moving up the altitudinal gradient in search of cooler temperatures on a warming planet.

As part of our Climate Change and Biodiversity Monitoring program, you’ll be involved in a wide variety of activities, including…

  • Collection and analysis of camera traps and acoustic recorders for monitoring of mammals, birds and amphibians.
  • Assisting with field work on altitudinal transects along the Manu Road, between Manu Biological Station (500masl) and Wayqecha Biological Station (3000masl).
  • Collection and processing of malaise traps for monitoring of insect populations, with possibility of training in advanced tree-climbing for long-term volunteers.
  • Point counts of birds, reptiles and amphibians, including recording on citizen science apps such as iNaturalist and eBird.
  • Ultraviolet light-trapping for monitoring of butterfly and moth populations.
  • Curation of entomological collections, including pinning of insects.
  • Monitoring of rescued and rehabilitated animals that have been released at Manu.

We also run a field training fellowship program for young Latin American biologists, and at certain times of the year, you’ll be able to join their field courses and contribute as a research assistant for their projects. Previous field courses have included training in the use of drones for conservation and an introduction to botany, while research projects have been conducted on everything from bats to beetles!

Reforestation

Manu Biological Station has its origins as a coca-growing region for the Inca Empire, before becoming an agricultural operation over the course of the 20th century. Amongst huge areas of relatively healthy forest, there are a number of old plantations, and even a disused airstrip.

Consequently, while the vast majority of the 3000+ hectare property has been well-preserved, there are large sections that require intervention, and interestingly, one of the key threats to the station’s overall biodiversity comes from a surprising source – bamboo.

When gaps are created in a healthy forest, whether through agriculture or selective logging, these vulnerabilities are often exploited by invasive bamboo species. The bamboo moves in quickly and suffocates native vegetation, ultimately reducing the diversity of both flora and fauna within a region. Once bamboo has taken hold in a wild space, it can be very difficult to bring back under control.

In addition to rewilding the patches of old agricultural land at the station, our goal with the Reforestation program is to better understand the process by which bamboo takes over a forest, and learn how to reverse it. It’s hoped that in doing so, we can develop a model that can be employed by other locations experiencing similar challenges.

As part of our Reforestation program, you’ll work alongside our resident botanist and be involved in the following activities:

  • Assisting in the construction of a greenhouse where the seed bank will be developed.
  • Cultivation of a variety of native plant saplings in preparation for reforestation.
  • Surveying of the property and identification of key target areas for bamboo management and reforestation.
  • Active control, removal and monitoring of bamboo patches.
  • Packing and planting of trees.
  • Ongoing care and maintenance of reforested areas.

What separates us from similar programs is the ability to make a positive contribution to the jungles of the Amazon. Simply protecting the rainforests we have left is no longer enough. That’s why our volunteer program is designed to actively restore and rehabilitate degraded forests, in order to maximise the overall biodiversity of Manu Biological Station’s unique and vibrant ecosystems.

Regenerative Agriculture

Here at Manu, in addition to studying biodiversity and fostering healthy forests, our goal is to achieve a fully self-sufficient food program for the station that works with, rather than against, the surrounding environment. Our Regenerative Agriculture program is designed to secure food access and progressively improve agricultural ecosystems by cultivating fertile and healthy soils, diversifying cropping systems, and collaborating with local and Indigenous communities in the region.

This is currently being achieved through a combination of agroforestry systems, including aquaculture (native Paco fish farming), permaculture using Peruvian native crops, composting, meliponiculture (native bee farming), and a medicinal garden. There are also additional plans for a fungi cultivation program, a more diverse vegetable garden, a transition to vermicomposting (worm composting), and the introduction of chickens later in the year.

By focusing on regenerative strategies and conservation, the program serves as an alternative model that increases biodiversity, fosters economic self-reliance, and provides capacity-building and training to local communities and the station’s visitors.

As part of the Regenerative Agriculture program, you may be involved in the following activities:

  • Cultivation and harvesting of plantains, yuca, cacao, uncucha (native potatoes), sweet potatoes, beans, pineapples, watermelons, eggplant, tomatoes and more.
  • Assistance in fortnightly harvesting of native Paco fish from the station’s aquaculture system.
  • Maintenance of colonies and collection of honey from the hives of native Meliponini stingless bees.
  • Activities associated with caring for the station’s chickens.
  • Composting and soil regeneration projects in conjunction with the Reforestation program.
  • General maintenance of the station’s gardens and crops.
  • Assistance with the development of forthcoming expansions to the station’s agroforestry systems.

A maximum of five hectares of our 3,000+ hectare property will be dedicated to food production, and these areas will be integrated with the surrounding forests through permaculture-based practices. The remaining 99.9% of the land is cared for and protected through both active and passive forest management strategies.

Other Activities

Other general activities you may be involved in:

  • Assisting with the maintenance of hiking trails around the station.
  • Wildlife photography and other content production for the station’s social media.
  • Morning replenishment of hummingbird feeders and fruit supplies for birds.

Are we missing something? Don’t forget to tell us about your skills and how you can best contribute to Manu Biological Station during your time as a volunteer. Register now!

Free Time

Manu Biological Station is a nature-lover’s paradise, and we want to make sure our volunteers get every opportunity to soak up all the amazing experiences on offer here in this pristine pocket of the Peruvian Amazon.

Volunteers will be expected to work approximately eight hours per day, five days per week, but the rest of the time is yours to spend as you like, and there’s no shortage of fun activities to take part in at the station. These include:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Mountain biking
  • Kayaking
  • Birdwatching
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Sunsets on the cable car
  • Night walks
  • Language swaps
  • Movie nights
  • Board games
  • Bonfires
  • Nights out in the local town of Pillcopata

Additionally, we aim to offer at least one optional expedition every week. Some of these will be free, such as camping, while others will incur a small fee to cover the cost of transport.

These could include:

  • Hikes to waterfalls/lookouts
  • Overnight camping trips
  • Mirador Pico de Hoz hummingbird garden
  • Sunrise at Tres Cruces lookout
  • Visit to Wayqecha Biological Station
  • Visits to local communities

Let us know what your interests are and we’ll do our best to accommodate them during your free time.

Sample Itinerary

Who Are You?

Manu Biological Station’s volunteer program is open to anyone over the age of 18 with a love of nature and a passion for protecting the planet. Perhaps you’re a biology student on a gap year, a science teacher on your school holidays, a long-term traveller wanting to give back, or a retired professional looking for a change of pace. Whoever you are, if you’ve got a positive attitude and a desire to make a difference, you’ll be a great addition to the team here at Manu Biological Station.

Manual labour will be involved in the program, and temperatures are often hot and humid, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. Accommodation is comfortable and mosquito nets are provided, but remember that you’re just one of the many creatures that will be calling Manu Biological Station home. Insects, spiders and snakes are not uncommon, but they’re generally harmless, and if you respect them, they’ll respect you.

Although Spanish is not a requirement for the program, basic proficiency will allow you to gain more out of your experience.

If you have a particular set of skills that you think would be beneficial during your stay as a volunteer, don’t hesitate to let us know at manubiostation@gmail.com

Pricing

Manu Biological Station is part of the not-for-profit organisation Conservación Amazónica. After covering food and accommodation costs during your stay, additional proceeds will go directly towards maintaining our conservation projects, and providing research opportunities for the next generation of Latin American scientists.

The volunteer program has a minimum length of 2 weeks, and a maximum stay of 2 months, with discounts the longer you stay.

2 weeks: US$900
3 weeks: US$1260
4 weeks: US$1500
6 weeks: US$2000
8 weeks: US$2400

Bring a friend and receive a 5% discount per person!

Includes:

  • Three delicious meals from locally-sourced supplies per day
  • Tea, coffee and drinkable water at all times
  • Accommodation in shared cabins, including mosquito nets
  • Transport to and from Cusco along the world-renowned Manu Road
  • Training in a variety of conservation, reforestation and regenerative agriculture techniques
  • Rubber boots for field work
  • Activities and expeditions within the station

Excludes:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal supplies (insect repellent, sunscreen, shampoo, etc.)
  • Activities and expeditions outside of the station
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance

 Are you ready to contribute to science and conservation where the Amazon meets the Andes? 

Izaiah's Review

During my time at Manu, I was exposed to numerous activities and skills I had never been exposed to or had relatively little experience in. I learned to drive a tractor, collected camera trap and recorder data, worked in the field of agriculture (beekeeping, fish nursing/collection, replanting, etc), and got to work with many others in different areas of Neotropical ecology. I was also exposed to different cultures whether it be an indigenous community or talking with the many people who work at Manu. All activities gave me a well rounded experience and taught me so much. I wish I could have stayed longer! I’m very happy to have been a part of this program and help in any way I could. Thank you.

Rodrigo's Review

It was a unique experience filled with a lot of work and knowledge acquired. It’s a program that I would definitely recommend to every person who is interested and loves nature. It does not matter if you are a biologist, or an economist like me, what you are going to get out of it is life changing. It’s a program that gives you a bigger sense of reality and how anyone can imagine and help change what we have damaged previously.

Fiona's Review

Very nice and pleasant experience. I got the chance to learn from different people.

Register

Complete the form below to register your interest for the program or click here to open the form in a new window.