Contribution starting at $3,650
Exported from Streamline App (https://app.streamlineicons.com)
10 days (avg. $365 a day) Includes accommodations, food, and all related research costs
BOOK WITH A $500 DEPOSIT
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Mapping Biodiversity in Cuba

Location
Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve, Sancti Spíritus, Cuba Map it
Lead Scientist
Activity Level
Moderate
Accommodations
Wilderness Camp/Dorm
Food
Chef-prepared meals
Special diets accommodated
white-eyed parakeet (Psittacara leucophthalmus) eating fruit on a branch.
Earthwatch volunteers observe wildlife in the trees (C) Dr. Natalia Rossi
Earthwatch participants will walk through the forests of Banao to identify and document tree species, measure canopy coverage, and look for indications of human impact.
Earthwatch volunteers measure trees (C) Dr Natalia Rossi
Earthwatch volunteers plant seedlings (C) Dr Natalia Rossi
A close up of a Cuban emerald (Riccordia ricordii) on a branch.
Earthwatch volunteers collect data in a tree plot (C) Dr Natalia Rossi
white-eyed parakeet (Psittacara leucophthalmus) eating fruit on a branch.
Earthwatch volunteers observe wildlife in the trees (C) Dr. Natalia Rossi
Earthwatch participants will walk through the forests of Banao to identify and document tree species, measure canopy coverage, and look for indications of human impact.
Earthwatch volunteers measure trees (C) Dr Natalia Rossi
Earthwatch volunteers plant seedlings (C) Dr Natalia Rossi
A close up of a Cuban emerald (Riccordia ricordii) on a branch.
Earthwatch volunteers collect data in a tree plot (C) Dr Natalia Rossi

Cuba is on the cusp of a wave of economic development, threatening some of the unique biodiversity living there. Help researchers and wildlife managers to gain a better understanding of wildlife within protected areas in Cuba to better conserve these species.


Earthwatch volunteers collect data (C) Sasha Reford GonzalezThe mountainous forests of Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve are home to species only found in the Caribbean—including the vulnerable Cuban Parakeet and the near threatened Cuban Amazon Parrot. Despite this unique biodiversity, long-term political complexities with the U.S. and other nations stymied collaborative international research. But now international relations are improving, making this a critical moment for the island nation's wildlife. As Cuba becomes more open to the world, many predict new economic opportunities and the development that comes along with it.

Researchers are now able to recruit citizen scientists to help them take stock of the wildlife that inhabit these beautiful, protected lands, information that will be crucial to informing management and conservation plans as the island becomes increasingly developed. In its initial years, this project helped produce the first-ever baseline assessments of biodiversity in Banao—including data on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plant-life. In analyzing these data, scientists determined that researching and conserving primary pollinators and seed dispersers, including birds and bats, is essential to maintaining and improving the integrity of habitats within the forest. In the second phase of this project, volunteers will support this pollinator research by working with a team of scientists from Cuba and Argentina to document the many endemic and migratory bird species that inhabit the reserves. You’ll document bird sightings, record bird songs, monitor bat populations, and survey forest trees—particularly royal palms, which provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds. The data collected will help to paint a more complete picture of these protected areas and how increased development could impact biodiversity in the future.

 

 

A Typical Itinerary

  • Day 1: Meet, travel to field site
  • Day 2: Orientation and training
  • Days 3–9: Survey birds, bats, and forest trees
  • Day 10: Departure.

Note on Travel

Currently, U.S. passport holders may enter Cuba with a ‘Cuban Entry Card,’ also called a ‘Tourist Card.’ The Entry Card is easily obtained through U.S. air carriers providing service to Cuba or through visa service agencies and costs approximately $50–100 USD.

The activities of this Earthwatch environmental project are authorized under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) General License pertaining to Cuba (31 CFR) under article 515.575 on Humanitarian Projects. Our activities are consistent with a full-time schedule.

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HOW YOU WILL HELP

When you arrive, the researchers will provide you with training and information on studying and assessing biodiversity within the reserve. Field work will begin on Day 3, where you will:

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A research show volunteers the wing of a bat as they monitor bat populations in the reserve.
Document Birds and Bats

Explore the Banao River Basin as you work alongside researchers to observe and record bird species, while collecting samples of vocalizations along an altitudinal gradient. You will also help set up mist nets, record specimen measurements, and place acoustic recorders to monitor bat populations in the reserve.

Earthwatch volunteers look for wildlife in the forest (C) Dr. Natalia Rossi
Survey forest trees

Walk through the forests of Banao as you identify and document tree species, measure canopy coverage, and look for indications of human impact.

A researcher engages children in the rural community of Banao in an outreach talk.
Community engagement

This project will engage the rural communities of Banao and neighboring communities in outreach talks and wildlife festivals. Community members will also be involved in ongoing conservation efforts, including parrot counts, monitoring bird communities, and reforestation efforts.

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You will start the work at the Jarico field station, then partway through the expedition, you will move to the second research location—a few hours hike up the mountain to La Sabina field station, where there is a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea on clear days.

Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

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FEEDBACK & QUESTIONS

15 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Tim Hoffman |
Hang out with experts on the birds, trees, and bats of Cuba. Spend time walking the forest transects to spot and count birds, identifying and measuring trees in the forest quadrants, and counting and identifying bats caught using mist nets. It’s all great fun. The scientists leading this work are outstanding. They love to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the research. Since there are five leaders, there are many opportunities to interact with them. In addition to the enjoyable field work, the accommodations, the two locations, the food, and the extracurricular activities were all first-rate…As with every Earthwatch expedition I have been on, the researchers really appreciate our support.
Antonio Martinez |
Located in a very comfortable and beautiful setting, the work was meaningful and interesting. The Cuban people - both support staff and scientists - were gracious, caring, friendly, and superb hosts. We ended feeling we had helped make a difference, while making new friends.
Marion Bittinger |
This Earthwatch program gave me the unprecedented opportunity to experience Cuba and its environment and people firsthand. I felt very much a part of the research, and the direct interaction with such expert scientists made my small contributions feel significant and helpful. The multi-faceted nature of this particular expedition allowed me to dabble in birds, plants, and mammals (bats!), and helped me to understand better the workings of the ecosystem as a whole. I'm so glad I participated.

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