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Page 1: PUERTO RICO’S RAINFOREST - Earthwatch | Non …earthwatch.org/briefings/web-earthwatch-puerto-ricos...DEAR EARTHWATCHER, Welcome to the Puerto Rico’s Rainforest expedition, part



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Welcome to the Puerto Rico’s Rainforest expedition, part of the Las Casas de la Selva tropical rainforest enrichment and sustainable forestry project on the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. When you join us this year, you will be carrying out herpetological surveys. All studies help the project staff assess the results of 30 years of research in the sustainable use of tropical rainforest land, and the impact of our forestry work on rainforest ecology. The data collected will help us plan for the future, decide how to best expand our research, choose what to try next, and become better stewards of our rainforest biome.

You’ll participate in physically demanding research: hiking through beautiful tropical rainforests, sometimes climbing up steep hillsides and sometimes following fast-flowing rivers. You will also have the chance to join a night expedition into the forest to help count coquí frogs. In your recreational time, you will be able to enjoy hikes, take part in some forest-related craft activities, use the project library to learn more about the ecology of the area, or just relax and enjoy an area of the rainforest that very few other people have had a chance to visit (our site is well off the beaten track).

In the afternoons you’ll return to comfortable accommodations, a hot shower, some presentations, fun and games, great meals, and magical evenings listening to the coquís calling throughout the night.

We very much look forward to welcoming you here,

Thrity (“3t”) Vakil, Mark Nelson, Norman Greenhawk, Earthwatch scientists Andrés Rúa and Magha Garcia Medina, Staff at Las Casas de la Selva






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GENERAL INFORMATION .............................. 2

TRIP PLANNER ..............................................3

THE RESEARCH ............................................ 4

DAILY LIFE IN THE FIELD .............................. 6

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD ...................... 8

PROJECT CONDITIONS ................................. 10

SAFETY .......................................................14

TRAVEL TIPS ............................................... 15


PROJECT STAFF .......................................... 18

RECOMMENDED READING ........................... 19

EMERGENCY NUMBERS ...............................20

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Thrity (“3t”) Vakil

Mark Nelson

Norman Greenhawk


Las Casas de la Selva, Patillas, Puerto Rico


Team 1: Jun. 5– Jun. 14, 2016


Complete travel information is not available in this version of the briefing.

Please contact Earthwatch with any questions.

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Read this expedition briefing thoroughly. It provides the most accurate information available at the time of your Earthwatch scientist’s project planning, and will likely answer any questions you have about the project. However, please also keep in mind that research requires improvisation, and you may need to be flexible. Research plans evolve in response to new findings, as well as to unpredictable factors such as weather, equipment failure, and travel challenges. To enjoy your expedition to the fullest, remember to expect the unexpected, be tolerant of repetitive tasks, and try to find humor in difficult situations. If there are any major changes in the research plan or field logistics, Earthwatch will make every effort to keep you well informed before you go into the field


IMMEDIATELYq Make sure you understand and agree to Earthwatch’s

Terms and Conditions and the Participant Code of Conduct.

q If you plan to purchase additional travel insurance, note that some policies require purchase when your expedition is booked.

90 DAYS PRIOR TO EXPEDITIONq Log in at earthwatch.org to complete your

volunteer forms.

q Pay any outstanding balance for your expedition.

q Book travel arrangements (see the Travel Planning section for details).

q If traveling internationally, make sure your passport is current and, if necessary, obtain a visa for your destination country.

60 DAYS PRIOR TO EXPEDITIONq Make sure you have all the necessary vaccinations for

your project site.

q Review the Packing Checklist to make sure you have all the clothing, personal supplies and equipment needed.

30 DAYS PRIOR TO EXPEDITIONq Leave the Earthwatch 24-hour helpline number with

a relative or friend.

q Leave copies of your passport, visa, and airline tickets with a relative or friend.


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THE STORYEach year, people cut down between three and six billion trees from the world’s forests, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization—roughly the same as annually removing an area of trees the size of Ireland. We rely on these trees for timber, paper, and other wood products and the space they leave behind for raising livestock and cultivating crops. Humans have extensively disturbed most of Puerto Rico’s forests over the last few centuries, traditionally by using them for agriculture, coffee plantations, and pastures. As standards of living have risen and reliance on farming has lessened, wood has increasingly been harvested for fires and charcoal. Most recently, as more people move to cities, urban sprawl threatens forest landscapes. The most marginal of already harvested lands have reverted to secondary forest—that is, they have grown over with a second generation of trees—and remain untended and unmanaged until it proves profitable to exploit them again for timber, fuel, or agriculture.

If we want to keep using forests in Puerto Rico and globally, we must understand their ecology—in other words, how all of the organisms that live within them coexist. Ecological research can lead to the development of smart management plans, which will help us preserve the forests for the future even as we continue to harvest trees and use the cleared land. In the case of Puerto Rico, ecologically sound management plans can also contribute significantly to the island’s economy.


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RESEARCH AIMSThis project takes place on 409 hectares (about 1.5 square miles) of rainforest, which contain some of the steepest slopes and most diverse ecology in the mountains of southeastern Puerto Rico. You’ll mostly work in old secondary forest dominated by the tabonuco tree, a majestic species with smooth, pale bark that can grow up to about 100 feet (30 meters) tall. As an Earthwatch participant, you’ll join up with the Las Casas de la Selva program, established in 1983 as an experimental research project. We at Las Casas have created an approach to profiting from a rainforest environment without diminishing its species richness, biological diversity, or total biomass (the mass of all living organisms in the forest). Most other rainforest researchers work in mature rainforests, so our focus on secondary growth forest is especially important.

The area around our base is particularly well suited for studying these questions because it has been dramatically impacted by humans. People have cleared much secondary rainforest to accommodate agriculture and livestock grazing, and because much of the land slopes steeply, it erodes severely once cleared of plants. Unless local farmers heavily apply chemical fertilizers to this nutrient-depleted land, their crop yield is poor. At this project, we’re testing the viability of line-planting enrichment (interplanting tree species in already growing forest) on this same land, which is clearly unfit for long-term agricultural use. We’re looking not just at the health of the enriched forest, but also at how this planting impacts the diversity and abundance of local reptiles and amphibians, in particular the coquí, a nocturnal frog. If our results prove successful, we hope to encourage similar forest-regenerating practices throughout Puerto Rico.

New research components began in 2013, including planting tree species native to Puerto Rico as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife program to enhance the habitat for endangered flora and fauna. Already, the data collected with the help of Earthwatch volunteers has led us to implement new land- management plans and figure out how to direct our future research studies. The Las Casas project, with the contribution Earthwatchers like you have made, has become a living demonstration of new models for forest management in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

HOW YOU WILL HELPYou will generally get to work on four or five different studies during your stay, which may include:

• Surveying for anole lizards

• Surveying for several endemic species of Eleutherodactylus frogs

• Take swab samples of frogs to test for the presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), an amphibian pathogen

• Conducting general herpetological surveys in Icaco and Hormiga valleys

For the 2016 field season, volunteers should be prepared to focus almost exclusively on herpetological field studies, specifically the chytrid monitoring of the remote valleys at Las Casas de la Selva. Upon arrival, volunteers will be given an introductory lecture on the reptiles and amphibians of Puerto Rico, with emphasis on those species found at Las Casas de la Selva. Volunteers will be taught how to identify target species, as well as how to collect samples from frogs to test for the presence of chytrid. Field work will be intense, and volunteers should be prepared to hike over terrain with a 1,000 ft difference in elevation, and spend long hours in the field after dark. On nights where field work keeps the group out late, adequate recovery time will be given the following morning to allow the group to rest.

We can usually accommodate volunteers with a range of physical abilities and stamina, but at minimum, you must be able to walk or hike often muddy and rugged terrain without difficulty or assistance. Selecting this expedition means that you are able to negotiate long hikes on terrain that is often steep, muddy and dangerous. If you don’t feel comfortable hiking at night, you can participate in other aspects of the study. Inclement weather conditions can make certain activities hazardous and, in some cases, prevent proper data from being collected. In this challenging research environment, we take pleasure when our volunteers overcome challenges and open themselves up to the joy of the outdoor life.

We look forward to welcoming you into the ranks of our volunteers and introducing you the truly stunning Puerto Rican rainforest.

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When you arrive, the Earthwatch scientists will present on the history of the project, rainforest ecology, the effects of human intervention on the ecosystem, and the global importance of rainforests. You will also get a site orientation and safety talk.

During the week, staff members will introduce you to the most common plant, lizard, amphibian, and bird species in our forest, and teach you about biodiversity in Puerto Rico. We’ll also train you on taking measurements, recording data, and identifying various species. For the lizard, and frog studies, you’ll learn about the following aspects of the species:

General characteristics and how to distinguish species

• Ecological and cultural importance

• Natural history (e.g., their calls, reproductive habits, predators, prey, and habitat)

• Why some are endangered, threatened, or declining, and how we can help them

• Field methods for monitoring animals and data collection

Staff members will give evening presentations on topics related to the project and their other ecological research. We also encourage you to present on subjects you feel will interest the team (e.g., interesting work or hobbies, other field experiences).

RECREATIONAL TIME: We’ll organize an afternoon excursion (when possible) to our local beach in Patillas and a dinner in the mountains, or a local town, Guavate, for barbecue, music, and dancing. We try to support community based businesses, and dinner will be at a place of our choice to ensure a great experience. Be prepared to spend between US$25 to $50 on this afternoon and evening excursion.

On one day, we’ll plan a trip to one of the major cultural centers in Puerto Rico, be it Old San Juan, Ponce, Luquillo, Fajardo, or another destination. Depending on the destination and weather, there will be time for the beach and shopping, as well as opportunities to visit museums, bars, and restaurants. Please prepare to pay approximately US$150 to cover entrance fees or day passes and meals out during the day.

At the end of a work period, you can relax, enjoy our library, take a walk to a river, and generally take in the ambiance of the forest.

SMOKING AND DRINKING: We do not allow smoking in any of the buildings at the homestead, nor do we allow it in the open-air dining area. If you’re a smoker, be prepared to smoke outside. We do allow the sensible use of alcohol, like wine at dinner, but reserve the right to make the expedition “dry” if its presence becomes a problem. Missing out on a day in the field because you are hungover is not only a loss to you, but is disrespectful to our staff and your fellow team members.



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Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.


DAY 1Afternoon/Evening

Arrival, settle into accommodations and safety briefing

DAYS 2–47:30 a.m. Rise, eat breakfast, and prepare a packed lunch

8:30 a.m. Depart for the research site by foot

8:30 a.m.–noon Fieldwork and data recording

Noon Break for lunch

12:30–3 p.m. Fieldwork and data recording

3 p.m. Return to house; input data and recreational time

6:30 p.m. Dinner, followed by staff or volunteer presentations

DAY 5Recreational day: excursion day

DAYS 6–9The schedule will be the same as on Days 2–4, with an added closing celebration and bonfire at 7:30 p.m. on Day 9 (subject to weather)

DAY 10Depart in the morning for the airport.

* At least one day during the expedition, there will be a long hike into the valleys on the property to conduct both daytime lizard surveys and nighttime frog surveys. Because it is a long day, there will be a later start to the day.

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SLEEPINGYou’ll stay in our bunkhouses or in large tents on platforms, protected by roofs that keep the camping area dry; both bunkhouses and tents are on the main homestead. The bunkhouses accommodate ten each. If sleeping in a tent, you’ll either stay alone or with another person of the same gender, depending on the number of volunteers. It may be possible to accommodate couples in private tents. If you have a preference for one or the other sleeping area, we’ll do our best to accommodate you, but arrangements will depend on the number and gender of volunteers.

We provide mattresses, sheets, and pillows for both the tents and the bunkhouse; however, please bring your own lightweight sleeping bag, as the evenings can get chilly (although it is in the tropics, the project site is in the mountains and can be considerably cooler at night than at lower elevations). Although we provide tents, you may bring and pitch your own if you wish.

BATHROOMSThere is a shower block with four showers that have hot and cold running water, along with two toilets.

ELECTRICITYThe area has frequent power failure during heavy rains, and we have a small generator for essential use only on site. Candlelight dinners are a frequent occurrence. Unless you absolutely must bring electronic devices, we don’t recommend that you do; if you do, please remember that humidity can damage your electronic equipment and that the power is irregular.



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PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONSWe do not have WI-FI. There may be some limited cell phone reception but please be prepared to do without phones and email during your stay. ATT has signal areas on our homestead. We discourage volunteers from bringing their own laptops, as the humidity and rain create a high risk of damage. Do not plan to conduct business by Internet during the expedition, as there is very limited office space available. We strongly encourage you to tell friends and colleagues that you’ll be out of communication during your stay, except for an emergency. Finally, please bring headphones if you would like to listen to your personal radio or mp3 player outside of research time.

FACILITIES AND AMENITIESThe small main building has a library and office and a kitchen area that is open on one side. A long roof attached to this building covers an open-air dining area. You can access the dining area at all hours of the day; there, you can relax, read a book, or play cards at the table.

We have limited refrigerator space, but it is available to volunteers who must bring items that need refrigeration (e.g. medications). You do not need to bring food items unless you have dietary restrictions.

We advise that you bring enough clothing so that you will not need to wash clothes during the expedition. Due to the expense of running the washing machine, we generally don’t allow volunteers to use it, unless the expedition has been particularly muddy. Also, we don’t have a dryer, which means that any washed clothes will probably sit on the clothes line, wet, for the remainder of the expedition.

DISTANCE TO THE FIELD SITEGenerally, we can walk to all sites within two hours; some are very close, and most are within a half-hour walk. However, for the hikes into the valleys, be prepared to hike for several hours, on very steep and sometimes hazardous terrain.

FOOD AND WATERThe project has many great chefs on staff, and you’ll have the opportunity to sample Caribbean cooking and other diverse cuisines. Local fruits, vegetables, and seasonal greens from the garden will be used whenever possible. Three volunteers will be asked to assist with meal preparation and clean-up after each breakfast and dinner.

Below are examples of the foods you might expect in the field. Variety depends on availability, and while this list provides a general idea of food types, please be flexible.

TYPICAL MEALSBREAKFAST Cereal, eggs, pancakes, toast, fruit, oatmeal,

coffee, and tea

LUNCH Sandwiches (you’ll make your own from a choice of cheeses, cold meats, tuna, salad items, etc.), fruit, trail mix

DINNER Puerto Rican-style rice and beans, pasta dishes, salads, meat and vegetarian options

DESSERT fruit, pastries, cakes

BEVERAGES Filtered river water and bottled water, juice, coffee, a variety of black and garden herbal teas.

SPECIAL DIETARY REQUIREMENTSPlease alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms.

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be accommodated on site, but when we are off site, it may be difficult to find food free of animal products. If this is an issue, you are encouraged to bring some snacks from home. You can also make sandwiches at the project site to bring with you when we go out.


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The information that follows is as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that conditions may change.

The forest flora varies greatly from area to area. Areas with large, mature trees have relatively thin undergrowth and are easy to work in. Areas that have been severely disturbed due to landslides or tree-fall may have thick undergrowth with sharp razor grass. The humidity can be high, especially in the summer, but as the site is at a relatively high elevation, there is generally a breeze and conditions rarely get unbearably hot and sticky. For the most part, the tree canopy will shade you. June to November is hurricane season in Puerto Rico.

The terrain ranges from very narrow ridge tops, down generally convex upper slopes and concave mid and lower slopes (generally 30-45 degrees in slope), to fast-running mountain streams.

GENERAL CONDITIONSHUMIDITY: High (up to 99%), especially in the summer monthsAVERAGE TEMPERATURE: 23º C–73º FALTITUDE: 600–610 m / 1,970–2,000 ft.RAINFALL: 3,000 mm / 118 in

ESSENTIAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:All participants must be able to:

• Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.

• Wear all protective equipment recommended or required by industry standards.

• Enjoy being outdoors all day in all types of weather and in the potential presence of wild animals and insects.

• Endure tropical (hot and humid) work conditions.

• Negotiate steep slopes in densely wooded forest on uneven, muddy terrain up to five miles a day, often to remote valley locations.

• Be comfortable hiking and conducting field work at night.

• Be willing to walk in/through the shallow rivers in the valley as often as instructed to conduct general herpetological surveys.

• Get down low to the ground to search for frogs, lizards, and plants for up to six hours a day (not continuous).


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Transportation A professional bus company that also runs the local school buses will transport volunteers. Drivers in Puerto Rico do not follow Western standards and large buses don’t have seatbelts. Volunteers are not permitted to drive, and seatbelts, when available, must be worn at all times.

Hiking/ Terrain The terrain can be steep, wet, muddy and dangerous. The main forest road is relatively even and well maintained. Once off the road and in the forest, there is increased risk of slipping, falling, and injuring yourself due to uneven and frequently muddy terrain. The steep slopes on which the team will work will be slippery in wet weather. Risks will be discussed with the group before going into a particular area of the forest. The best way to prevent injuries of this manner is to walk slowly and pay careful attention to your surroundings. Be prepared to get very muddy and be aware that you may have to crawl up slopes or slide down them. This does not require a great deal of acrobatics but, rather, a willingness to get dirty. Proper footwear—hiking boots with good tread and ankle support—is essential; volunteers who do not have adequate footwear will not be permitted to join the team at the study sites.

Animals/ Plants There are non-aggressive bees and wasps in the forest. Those who know they are allergic to bee or wasp stings must carry the appropriate medication (antihistamines, at least two EpiPens, etc.) just in case. Mosquitoes and midges are also present but not in large numbers. There is no malaria in Puerto Rico, but dengue fever is common (see the Safety section for more information). The best protection are long sleeves, socks, long pants, and mosquito repellent.

The forest has razor grass, which is why long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves are important. There are also stinging nettles and plants that contain toxic sap. These will be pointed out so they can be avoided. Walk carefully and pay attention to your surrounding at all times.

Climate/ Weather There may be high humidity and heavy rain, so you should bring good rain gear and quick-drying clothing. The sun is very strong in the Caribbean, so use sunscreen lotion with high SPF protection and appropriate clothing (wide- brimmed hat, long sleeves, sunglasses, etc.) if you visit the beach during your stay in Puerto Rico. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.

Because of the high humidity, persons using a hearing aid may find it doesn’t work properly. You should consider purchasing a hearing aid dehumidifier.

June to November is hurricane season. In the event of an approaching hurricane, we will take you to a place of safety, either a hotel near the airport or, if time does not permit, a local hurricane shelter. In the event of inclement weather, heed staff instruction without fail.

Project Tasks/ Equipment

Some project tasks may result in slightly increased risk, mainly due to the area of the forest being studied. Any risks will be assessed on a day-to-day basis. Staff will inform the team of all risks and risk prevention for all areas and tasks before entering each area. Always pay attention to your surroundings and heed staff instructions.

Personal Security The site is reasonably secure and there is always staff on site at the homestead so theft is not a common concern. However, it is always best practice to leave any unnecessary valuables at home. In addition, you are encouraged not to bring any high-value equipment, especially electronic equipment, as the high humidity can damage it.

Swimming Swimming may be possible during recreational time, and typical water-related risks will be present. A certified lifeguard is unlikely to be available, so all swimming will be at your own risk. We may visit a local beach during the recreational day, and there are also swimming holes and shallow, slow-moving rivers on and off site for swimming. These holes are not deep enough to dive into; doing so may result in serious injury. Certain areas used for swimming are accessible only by climbing up or down steep gradients. Take care when accessing these areas at any time. Swimming in some areas may not be permitted in rainy weather as the often-steep terrain around them may become muddy and slippery. Always swim in pairs or groups and inform staff where and when you’ll be swimming. Swimming is not permitted at night or if the project staff considers water conditions unsafe.


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Distance from Medical Care

40 minutes by car.

Disease Traveler’s diarrhea affects many international travelers.

Diseases found in Puerto Rico include dengue fever, leptospirosis, and typhoid. Please see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (who.int) websites for more information on these conditions and how to avoid them.

You can decrease your risk of most diseases above by avoiding mosquito bites, practicing good hygiene, and drinking only bottled or filtered water when appropriate.

If you feel ill once you return from your trip, make sure you inform your doctor that you have recently returned from a tropical region.

A few notes on vaccinations and treatment:

• MALARIA: Currently, malaria is not an issue in Puerto Rico.

• TUBERCULOSIS: Volunteers returning from developing countries may wish to have a (PPD)-tuberculin skin-test to screen for potential infection.


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EMERGENCIES IN THE FIELDMajor injuries will involve a car ride to the nearest hospital, 40 minutes away from the project site. The project vehicle is always on site when volunteers are on expeditions in the field. The project vehicle may not always be available when volunteers are not in the field and are resting at the homestead.

In the event of an exceptionally serious major bodily injury, where the injured cannot be moved and carried out, an ambulance will be called by telephone after first aid is administered.

In the case of a personal emergency that requires early departure, the project staff will assist in helping the participant get to the airport. All transportation and any other fees will be paid for by the participant.

PHYSICIAN, NURSE, OR EMT ON STAFF: Project staff members are not medical professionals.

STAFF CERTIFIED IN SAFETY TRAINING:CPR: 3t Vakil, Andres Rua, Norman Greenhawk

FIRST AID: 3t Vakil, Andres Rua, Norman Greenhawk

WATER SAFETY: Norman Greenhawk

For emergency assistance in the field, please contact Earthwatch’s 24-hour emergency hotline number on the last page of this briefing. Earthwatch is available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.

IMMUNIZATIONSPlease be sure your routine immunizations are up-to-date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella). Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor, and the following are recommendations only. Visit the Healix Travel Oracle website through the “Travel Assistance and Advice” page in your Earthwatch portal, cdc.gov or who.int for guidance on immunizations.

PROJECT VACCINATIONSREQUIRED If traveling from countries or region where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination. You may need to present this certificate when you arrive in country.

RECOMMENDED FOR HEALTH REASONS: Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B



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YOUR DESTINATIONLANGUAGE: The official languages of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English (Puerto Rico is a part of the United States of America). The project will be conducted in English. Most Puerto Ricans speak both Spanish and English. Most Puerto Ricans like to meet visitors with at least remedial Spanish-speaking abilities; this is NOT at all required, but merely a cultural nicety.


ELECTRICITY: 120 volts, 60 Hz, standard U.S. two-prong, flat pin plug. Plugs are two flat parallel prongs or two flat parallel prongs and one cylindrical grounding prong.


PERSONAL FUNDS: The airport has ATMs and money- changing facilities, but bank services and ATMs will not be available at the research site. ATMs are also available during the day out, but not during the evening out in Guavate or Patillas. You won’t be able to use traveler’s checks or credit cards at the research site. Therefore, bring some cash in U.S. dollars to purchase drinks and snacks, and for entrance fees for recreational activities (at least US$200 is recommended) during the expedition. Workers will expect to be tipped according to the following: restaurant staff (15-20%), taxi drivers (15-20%), and porters at the airport (at least $1 per bag).


Passport and visa requirements are subject to change. Check with your travel advisor, embassy or consulate in your home country for requirements specific to your circumstances. Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


United States No (but you can use it as your photo ID if you wish)


United Kingdom

Yes No

Europe Yes No

Australia Yes No

Japan Yes No

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

CONTACT INFORMATIONYou may be required to list the following contact information on your visa application and immigration form, or if your luggage does not make it to baggage claim at your destination:

Thrity Vakil Las Casas de la Selva TropicVentures, HC 63 Box 3879, Patillas, Puerto Rico, 00723-9643 786-329-7761 [email protected]



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q This expedition briefing

q Your travel plans, rendezvous details, and Earthwatch’s emergency contact information

q Photocopies of your passport, flight itinerary, and credit cards in case the originals are lost or stolen; the copies should be packed separately from the documents

q Passport and/or visa (if necessary)

q Certification of vaccination (if necessary)

q Documentation for travel by minors (if necessary)

CLOTHING/FOOTWEAR FOR FIELDWORKNOTE: Please bring plenty of changes of clothing. We recommend at least four changes of field clothes. It is very difficult to get clothing completely dry due to the high humidity and frequent rain.

q Earthwatch T-shirt

q Strong, comfortable, well-worn-in hiking boots or shoes with good tread and good ankle support (synthetic materials that dry easily are preferable to leather, which may get moldy). NOTE: Participants without appropriate footwear will not be permitted to conduct fieldwork. Tennis shoes, sneakers, and rubber boots (e.g., Wellington, gumboots) are NOT suitable for hiking in the forest. Your boots will get wet, especially during the hikes into the valleys, which have rivers. If possible, bring two pairs so you can alternate boots and allow them to dry between uses.

q Lightweight, quick-drying, long-sleeved shirts (nylon or synthetic blend strongly recommended; long sleeves can protect from insect bites and scratches)

q At least four pairs of lightweight, quick-drying pants/trousers (nylon or synthetic blend strongly recommended)

q Warm sweatshirt (especially for winter teams, Nov.–Feb.)

q At least eight pairs of socks (wool or synthetic hiking socks are best)

q Rain gear (poncho or jacket, pants, and hood or hat)

q Bandana(s) for neck protection against sun and insects


q At least one set of clothing to keep clean for end of expedition

q Hat with wide brim for sun protection and beach towel for recreational day at the beach


q Small daypack to keep your personal items together and dry

q Headlamp (preferred) or flashlight/torch with extra batteries and extra bulb (essential)

q Working gloves, preferably heavy canvas type (very important)

q Two plastic containers, e.g., Tupperware, for lunches

q At least two large water bottles able to hold at least one liter each (you will need to carry your fluids for the day)

q Sunscreen lotion with SPF 30 or higher

BEDDING AND BATHINGNOTE: Mattresses, sheets, and pillows will be provided.

q Lightweight sleeping bag

q Towel (we recommend a quick-drying pack towel from a camping store)


q Personal toiletries (biodegradable soaps and shampoos are encouraged)

q Antibacterial wipes or lotion (good for cleaning hands while in the field)

q Personal first aid kit (e.g., anti-diarrhea pills, antibiotics, antiseptic, itch-relief, pain reliever, bandages, blister covers, etc.) and medications

q Spending money


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q Gaiters for hiking in the forest; highly recommended to help keep your pants, socks, and shoes clean and dry

q Rain pants, especially for the frog studies

q Comfortable shoes to change into after conducting field work

q Binoculars—this is a fantastic place for birdwatching

q Earplugs to block out the frog noise at night

q Flip flops or sandals for the shower

q Swimsuit

q Travel guidebook

q Compass (if you have your own, please bring it)

q Field Guide

q Large hip sack or waist pack for equipment

q Knee pads for frog studies

q Used books to donate to the project library for other travelers

q Pocket knife (remember to pack this in your checked luggage)

q Some duct tape (a whole roll is not necessary)

q Favorite snack food

q Presentation Materials: do you have a hobby or career that you think would be of interest to other volunteers? If so, consider giving a presentation. Pictures or PowerPoint presentations can be displayed on the project computer.

q Camera, film or memory card(s), extra camera battery

q Hardware for sharing digital photographs at the end of the expedition

q Dry bag or plastic sealable bags (e.g. Ziploc) to protect equipment like cameras from dust, humidity, and water

q Books, games, art supplies, etc. for free time

NOTE: Do not bring more luggage than you can carry and handle on your own. If traveling by air and checking your luggage, we advise you to pack an extra set of field clothing and personal essentials in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost or delayed.

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THRITY “3T” VAKIL, president of Tropic Ventures Education & Research Foundation, has worked in this Puerto Rican rainforest for over fifteen years. 3t has worked directly with Earthwatch teams for 15 years, and has been a Principal Investigator for eight years, (67 Earthwatch teams = approximately 600 international volunteers). Along with managing volunteer youth groups and all Earthwatch expeditions, she has a hand in every aspect of forestry, including tree and vine identification and research; selection of trees for harvest; logging and sawing operations; and marketing and selling of sustainably grown and harvested wood, wood products, and non-wood forest products. Born in Kenya, she has always been an avid explorer of nature, and her travels have taken her all over the world. She is also an accomplished painter, a web and graphic designer, a documentarian, and a photographer. Schedule: All Teams

DR. MARK NELSON has worked for several decades in many aspects of ecosystem research. Among many other things, he serves as the chairman and CEO of the Institute of Ecotechnics (ecotechnics.edu), the vice chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation (globalecotechnics.com) and the founder/director of Wastewater Gardens International (wastewatergardens.com). He also directed space and environmental applications for Space Biospheres Ventures, which created and operated Biosphere 2—the world’s first laboratory for global ecology—and was a member of the eight-person crew for the first two-year closure experiment within Biosphere 2. On this project, Mark runs the preparation and analysis of the tree study data. Schedule: Team 3

NORMAN GREENHAWK holds an undergraduate degree in environmental studies from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. He has been leading Earthwatch groups into the forest to study reptiles and amphibians for seven years, and with the help of these volunteers has discovered that Las Casas de la Selva is home to endemic species such as E. cooki (IUCN Vulnerable) and E. richmondi (IUCN Critically Endangered). Norman is a 2013 winner of the Earthwatch Neville Shulman Award for Emerging Environmental Leaders and is a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines. He will be starting work on his Master’s degree at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Rio Piedras in August of 2016. Schedule: All Teams

ANDRÉS RÚA GONZÁLEZ, director of technical systems at the project, is from Marin Bajo in Patillas, Puerto Rico. A qualified chainsaw operator, he manages the tree-felling operations, hauling, and milling wood. He is also a fine woodworker, a proficient tractor driver, a skilled electrician, an organic gardener, and a talented composer and musician. He has worked with all Earthwatch groups since 2005, and has led many other volunteer youth groups in the field. He has involved Las Casas de la Selva in many community and environmental projects. Andrés also organized a complex event to clean up the reservoir of Lake Patillas, calling hundreds of local people to action. Andrés is currently working on the Nuestra Madera Project, to educate and access people to the woods of Puerto Rico. Schedule: All Teams

NOTE: Staff schedules are subject to change.



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FORESTRY, DEFORESTATION, AND SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT• Wadsworth, Frank, H. A Forestry Assignment to Puerto Rico.

IITF 2015

• Brokaw, Nicholas et al. A Caribbean Forest Tapestry: The multidimensional nature of disturbance & response. Oxford University Press, 2012

• Anderson, Jennifer L. Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America. Harvard University Press, 2012

• Wadsworth, Frank H. Forest Production for Tropical America. USDA Forest Service, 1997.

• Jenkins, B. Michael, and Emily T. Smith. The Business of Sustainable Forestry. Chicago: Island Press, 1999.

• Mayhew, J.E. & Newton, A.C. The Silviculture of Mahogany. CABI Publishing, 1998.

• Anderson, Anthony B., ed. Alternatives to Deforestation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

• The Wilderness Society. Defining Sustainable Forestry. Island Press, 1993

• Myers, Norman.The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and Our Future. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.

ECOLOGY, THE TROPICAL RAINFOREST, AND SUSTAINABLE WAY OF LIFE• Nelson, Mark. The Wastewater Gardener. Synergetic Press, 2013

• Juniper, Tony. What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? How money really does grow on trees. Synergetic Press, 2013.

• Preston, Ricahrd. The Wild Trees. Random House, 2008

• Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. New Society Publishers, 2005

• Pearce, Fred. Deep Jungle. New York: Eden Project Books. 2005.

• Vandermerr, John, and Ivette Perfecto. Breakfast of Diversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction. Oakland: Food First Books, 2005.

• Forsyth, Adrian, and Kenneth Miyata. Tropical Nature. New York: Scribner, 1987.

• Kricher, John. A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

PUERTO RICO• Picó, Fernando. History of Puerto Rico: A Panorama

of Its People. Markus Weiner Publishers, 2006.

• Balletto, Barbara. Insight Guide: Puerto Rico. 3rd ed. London: Apa, 2000.

• Marino, John. Puerto Rico: Off the Beaten Path. 2nd ed. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2002.

• Peffer, Randall. Lonely Planet: Puerto Rico. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet, 1999.

• Pitzer, Kurt and Tara Stevens. Adventure Guide to Puerto Rico. 4th ed. New York: Hunter, 2001.

THE GLOBAL SITUATION OF TROPICAL RAINFORESTS• FAO State of the World's Forests 2014 http://www.fao.org/


• Caulfield, Catherine. In the Rainforest: Report from a Strange, Beautiful, Imperiled World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

• Carson, Walter H., ed. The Global Ecology Handbook. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.

• Gradwohl, Judith, and Russell Greenberg. Saving the Tropical Forests. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1988.

• Head, Suzanne and Robert Heinzman, eds. Lessons of the Rainforest. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1990.

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS• Dodd, C. Kenneth. Amphibian ecology and conservation:

a handbook of techniques. Oxford University Press, 2010.

• Rivero, Juan A. Amphibians and reptiles of Puerto Rico. La Editorial, UPR, 1998.

PROJECT-RELATED WEBSITE• www.eyeontherainforest.org

• FB: Eye On The Rainforest


TWITTER: twitter.com/earthwatch_org

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/earthwatch

BLOG: earthwatchunlocked.wordpress.com

YOUTUBE: youtube.com/earthwatchinstitute


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Call Earthwatch’s 24-hour on-call duty officer in the U.S.:

+1 (978) 461.0081

+1 (800) 776.0188 (toll-free for calls placed from within the U.S.)

After business hours, leave a message with our living answering service. State that you have an emergency and give the name of your expedition, your name, the location from which you are calling, and if possible, a phone number where you can be reached. An Earthwatch staff member will respond to your call within one hour.


+44.20.3667.8991 (collect calls and reverse charges accepted)

U.S. TOLL FREE: +1.877.759.3917

U.K. FREE PHONE: 0.800.19.5180

E-MAIL: [email protected]

You may contact Healix International at any time. They can assist in the event of a medicalor evacuation emergency or for routine medical and travel advice, such as advice on visas and vaccine requirements.


Earthwatch Australia 24-Hour Emergency Helpline+

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Thank you for joining this expedition! We greatly appreciate your decision to contribute to hands-on environmental science and conservation. It is volunteers like you who fuel our mission and inspire our work.

While at Earthwatch, I’ve had the opportunity to field on a few expeditions, most recently in Kenya with one of my daughters. Each expedition has touched me deeply, and made me proud to be able to roll up my sleeves alongside my fellow volunteers and contribute to such meaningful work.

As an Earthwatch volunteer, you have the opportunity to create positive change. And while you’re out in the field working toward that change, we are committed to caring for your safety. Although risk is an inherent part of the environments in which we work, we’ve been providing volunteer field experiences with careful risk management and diligent planning for nearly 45 years. You’re in good hands.

If you have questions as you prepare for your expedition, we encourage you to contact your Earthwatch office. Thank you for your support, and enjoy your expedition!


Scott Kania President and CEO, Earthwatch

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Earthwatch U.S. 114 Western Ave. Boston, MA 02134United States

[email protected] earthwatch.org

Phone: 1-978-461-0081 Toll-Free: 1-800-776-0188 Fax: 1-978-461-2332

Earthwatch Europe Mayfield House 256 Banbury Rd. Oxford, OX2 7DE United Kingdom

[email protected] earthwatch.org

Phone: 44-0-1865-318-838 Fax: 44-0-1865-311-383

Earthwatch Australia 126 Bank St. South Melbourne, VIC 3205 Australia

[email protected] earthwatch.org

Phone: 61-0-3-9016-7590 Fax: 61-0-3-9686-3652

Earthwatch Japan Food Science Bldg. 4F The University of Tokyo 1-1-1, Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku Tokyo 113-8657, Japan

[email protected] earthwatch.org

Phone: 81-0-3-6686-0300 Fax: 81-0-3-6686-0477