As our time in the Amazon draws to a close it becomes apparent that we have achieved a great deal here in the last six years and it seems fitting that out final report should summarise some of the great things to come out of all the hard work done by volunteers and staff at our little jungle base and through our partnership with the Yachana Foundation.
Our project partners Yachana did not have a definite scientific aim in mind for GVI when they were approached in 2006; they wanted to know more about the rainforest land they were committed to protecting, and asked GVI – in the words of the founder of the Yachana Foundation, Douglas McMeekin – to “just go out there and see what you can find”. And that we did. Six years later we have a species list of over 785 different species including 298 bird species, 248 butterflies, 78 frog and toad species, 62 mammals and various snakes, salamanders and other fascinating creatures. We didn’t even start on the plants! What is so amazing is that we keep adding to this list. Even now we are finding new species every week.
However, the scientific contribution did not end there. At the time of writing, GVI Amazon has a published paper on glass frogs and is in the process of publishing a second on the edge effects of the road through the reserve. Additionally, the current staff team are putting together a follow-up road study since the dramatic widening of the road that will be compared with the previous study, to see how disturbance along the road affects biodiversity levels within the reserve. Alongside this, a monitoring system was put in place using the international PPBio grid methodology to allow for long-term monitoring of the reserve and comparison to other rainforest sites around the world. As part of our handover to our partners at Yachana, GVI has prepared monitoring methodology tailored to Yachana’s high school students so that the reserve can be used as part of their science lessons, allowing the students themselves the chance to monitor and protect their own reserve.
GVI Amazon has also produced the only frog and reptile guide for the area, which is currently being distributed to universities, museums, scientists, lodges and professional jungle guides. An online version of our guides can be found here.
It is thus that we leave the Yachana Reserve with both joy and sadness; joy that we have had the privilege to live and work in such a place, and sadness that our parting will be hard for some. We will greatly miss our time with the students from the Yachana Technical High School; over the years, as part of GVI’s National Scholarship Program, more than 60 Ecuadorian students have come to us from the Yachana school, initially arriving with plans to learn English, but often leaving with even more: an understanding of our science, our love of nature and our culture. Those who stayed for months rather than days have gone on to speak English at advanced levels and some have even received scholarships in the United States, later returning to become bilingual jungle guides. We are proud of them and will follow their careers with interest, and are excited for the opportunities for new students once the handover to our partners at Yachana is completed.
While it is tough to leave the jungle home that has provided us with so much, we look forward to our base camp’s new future as Yachana’s hands-on science education center for high school students from the Amazon. Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last few years!