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Our work in the Amazon forest is pivotal in the race for species conservation. Our teams are creating data-driven solutions for the Amazon’s contemporary threats.

Amazon in Peril

The Amazonian forest covers approximately eight million square kilometers, and it houses some of the most diverse ecological communities on the planet.  Named one the largest ecosystems carbon pools on Earth, the Amazon stores around 200 metric gigatons of carbon in its biomass and soils. Moreover, its plant communities help balance the global water cycle, stabilizing rainfall and climate.

Recent headlines have been announcing the devastating fires and deforestation ongoing in the Amazon, which threaten the ecological balance of this system on which humans closely depend.

Devastating fires, coupled with the effects of climate change, have accelerated the pressure to carry out comprehensive assessments of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services in the region. Our teams work in the region to fulfill this important role.

Faculty Colloquium on Drought and Forest Fires in the Andes-Amazon Basin Region in January 2020 (partnership with FIU's Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center)

Become a Biodiversity Scientist

Join our IRES Tropical Biodiversity Training Program to study tropical rainforests and organisms. Your adventure will take you to French Guiana, where over 98% of the territory is covered by rainforest.

Ongoing Research

  • Assessments of Biodiversity

    Plants

    Several Institute scientists are working to get clearer understanding of the Amazon's terrestrial plant species. Dr. Christopher Baraloto studies tree dominance in the forest, as this is an important element in how the area stores carbon.

    Dr. Diego Salazar Amoretti’s work on plant chemical defense, has led to the most comprehensive chemical evaluation of any tree genus. Such studies can improve strategies for the discovery and development of novel medicines, pesticides, and the improvement of staple crops.

    Uncovering root morphology, Dr. Oscar Valverde-Barrantes examines the causes of root and plant diversification, and the evolutionary changes in plants. 

    Amphibians

    Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi is a renowned frog expert, having discovered more than 30 frog species, several of which are located in the Amazonian region. The research that Catenazzi conducts includes understanding how vulnerable species are responding to threats as well as conservation efforts. 

    Birds & Mammals

    Dr. Clinton Jenkins specializes in using spatial modeling to inform biodiversity conservation. By providing a visual model of biodiversity loss, Jenkins is able to direct conservation efforts to the most threatened areas. His global maps of animal diversity (including bird and mammal diversity) have helped to inform experts where species richness is heavy or sparse.

  • Human-Ecosystem Interaction

    Dr. Elizabeth Anderson studies the connection of rivers in the Amazon basin to the people of the region. Her team supports local efforts by the Kukama to map the cultural features of the Marañon River in the region near Pacaya Samiria in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition, Anderson examines the impact that these connected systems have on aquatic life, particularly migratory fish.

    Dr. James Riach specializes in traditional health knowledge and ethnobotany of native people in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon. As a member of Project Amazonas, Inc., a humanitarian and environmental research and education non-profit organization, he has helped develop integrated strategies to address health, conservation, and development needs in the Peruvian Amazon.

    Dr. Cara Rockwell focuses on forest management and recovery. Particularly in the Peruvian Amazon, her team examines production of Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) by smallholders, seeking to assess important indicators of forest cover loss, degradation, and socio-economic conditions at the landscape scale.

  • Training

    Graduate Student Training

    The Institute leads an International Research Experience for Students (IRES) focused on biodiversity training in the Amazon basin. The program serves as a training platform for the next generation of biodiversity scientists. In the face of accelerating global changes, there is urgent need to document and understand tropical organisms. However, the number of well-trained organismal biologists who can achieve this pressing work is not enough to match the speed of these antropogenic changes. This program aims to address this crisis. Explore the program.

    Citizen Science

    Our team of scientists, led by Dr. Paulo Olivas, is part of the Amazon Citizen Science Network, which includes over two dozen organizations who work to gather information from citizens about the fish and rivers across the Amazon Basin. The Amazon Citizen Science Network aims to improve scientific understanding of Amazonian freshwater systems, drawing on the local knowledge and observations of thousands of people across the Amazon. Learn more about the project.

Support Our Work

Your support helps us to join hands with communities in Amazonia and around the world.