Volunteering Abroad Shouldn't Cost the Earth

Monitoring Wild Macaws in Costa Rica Costa Rica



We have been working in the lowlands of southeastern Peru for more than two decades. Drs. Brightsmith and Vigo-Trauco from the Schubot Center from Avian Health from Texas A&M are now leading its expansion to new areas in the Neotropics through a broad array of collaborative projects focused on the ecology and conservation of psittacines. A long history of dedicated research and monitoring has provided many insights into various aspects of wild parrots and macaws.

We are always looking to collaborate with anyone with a passion for conservation and biology. Volunteers are one of the most important aspects of The Macaw Society. The thousands of hours of observations that have been conducted over the decades would not have been possible without the help of the many volunteers and assistants who have offered their time and energy for the cause of science and conservation. There are no qualification limitations, although most volunteers come from a biological or environmental sciences background. All applicants are welcome, as we can find a role for almost any type of volunteer. If you are responsible, enthusiastic, self-disciplined, and patient PLUS you enjoy being outdoors and working with wildlife, we encourage you to check out our volunteer assistantship opportunities. We have different volunteer assistantships programs that require different levels of experience from amateur enthusiasts and birdwatchers to graduate-level professionals. We are receiving volunteers in our two locations in Costa Rica: Bosque Escondido (Nicoya Peninsula) and Punta Leona (Central Pacific Coast). Our different volunteer programs allow you to be part of our research team in one location or in both locations. As an ongoing research project, our positions are available year-round. Daily volunteer activities are specific to each location.

Long-term volunteer assistant (8 weeks minimum, 3 months stay preferred)

You will be trained to identify all parrots by sight and sound in the area, conduct wild parrot counts in forests, roosts, locate foraging parrots and enter data into computers. During the macaw breeding season, you will be trained to climb trees using rope systems to check on macaw nests and chicks. You will be trained to monitor macaw behavior around and inside nests using surveillance video cameras and around feeding stations. You will also help measure and prepare food items and refill wildlife feeding stations.

Short-term volunteer assistant (12 to 42-day stay, 30 days preferred)

You will be quickly trained to identify all the local parrots by sight and become experts at parrot/macaw behavior monitoring around nests and around reintroduced wildlife feeding stations. They will also help measure and prepare food items and refill wildlife feeding stations. Due to the short length of stay, volunteers will have only minimal involvement in activities requiring higher training levels like parrot censuses and tree climbing. Assistants will also help with data entry.

To apply, please send an email to volunteering@themacawsociety.org. This email should contain the following: a letter of interest explaining why you want to work with us; your CV or resume; email addresses for at least 3 references; your preferred location(s) for volunteering (you may choose to help at any combination of the two sites); the range of dates when you will be available and how long you can participate.


The Macaw Society

Bosque Escondido (Nicoya Peninsula) or Punta Leona (Central Pacific Coast)

Long-term volunteer assistant requirements: previous field experience; previous experience working with birds; degree in Biology, Ecology, Forestry, Wildlife Sciences, or related careers or close to graduation; intermediate/advanced Spanish level (useful but not required). Additional requirements: Good physical condition, able to carry a 40 lb (18 kg) pack over moderate terrain for up to 2 km, no fear of heights (Dec-May). Good disposition facing new and challenging situations, able to work in a team under stress. Have both life and accident insurance coverage. Short-term volunteer assistant requirements: previous experience observing animals in captivity or in the wild; appreciation for nature and wildlife. Additional requirements: Average physical condition, ability to walk 2 km over moderate terrain, good sense of observing animals, ability to stay seated for long periods of time, and some background knowledge of birds in general.

Dates of program:
Year around

Duration of program:
2 weeks minimum up to 6 months

Age requirement:
Adults of both sexes 18-80

US$30 per day for long-term assistants and US$45 per day for short-term assistants. A one-time processing fee of US$30 will be added for all volunteers. The daily rate covers food, non-bar beverages, unlimited tea and coffee, and accommodation (bedding is provided). All volunteers will be charged an airport transfer to be picked up (US$20) or dropped off (US$10) at the airport plus an extra cost to be transported to the release site (private transportation or reduce cost transportation) Volunteers needs to pay 20% of the total cost of their stay. This non-refundable payment is required to hold the reservation for the assistant. The remaining 80% of the payment should be made at least two weeks before the assistant arrives at the release site. Arrangements can be made if assistants wish to pay in cash in the country. However, prior permission from the coordinator is needed. Changes to the daily fee may apply according to availability and season.

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