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Organization Review

Overall Experience: 
Before I begin to tell you about how I found myself wandering around a remote Brazilian rainforest in the middle of the night on the pursuit of different species of bioluminescent mushrooms, I will give you a little background information about myself. My name is Jane, I’m 24 and usually live in London. However, just a few months ago, in May, I decided to do something a bit different. By August, I was travelling to Iporanga, a tiny town in Sao Paulo State, Brazil, to begin voluntary work as a Biological Researcher on a Bioluminescent Mushrooms Project. Iporanga is a small colourful town nestled in between the surrounding mountains and rivers. Six kilometres further on from that, immersed within the Atlantic Rainforest, lies ipBio Betary Reserve. It definitely qualified for the change of scene I had been seeking! After recovering from what my mum would call a rather ‘trying’ thirty two hour journey, I could fully appreciate the sheer beauty of the reserve. There’s simply so much to look at; the incredible variety of the plants, insects and animals means that you never stop discovering new things you haven’t seen before. Three months later; I’m sitting here, swaying in my hammock, watching the sun close in on the mountains, and it’s still every bit as amazing. In the minority of the time not spent lazing about on hammocks, I work with bioluminescent mushrooms. There are ten species that are indigenous to the Atlantic Rainforest, out of seventy one species currently recorded in the world, which makes being a mushroom volunteer here a unique experience. As I have a degree in Biology, I am well versed in the lab, which works out well as I spend most of my time replicating mycelium, photographing petri dishes and thinking up new ways for the project to move forward with our volunteer coordinator, Imran. However my favourite thing about working with mushrooms is going out to look for them. Having dinner and a couple of drinks with your friends, then going into the forest, turning off the lights, and suddenly finding that everything around you is glowing, always makes for a strange but great evening. During the weekends I tend to forget about contamination rates (I don’t know when this obsession started), camera exposure settings and replication methods, in favour of boia cross, caving and barbeques. Iporanga is beautifully situated for everyone who loves outdoor activity; it has over 400 caves to explore and is also home to Casa de Pedra, the largest cave mouth in the world, plenty of spectacular waterfalls to hike to, and rappel. For people who are perhaps less prone to any sort of strenuous physical activity, there is boia cross, where you float at very lazy pace down the river taking in the scenery. Coming to Iporanga and ipBio has been the perfect springboard to allow me to explore more of Brazil; it allowed me to grasp enough of the Portuguese language, Brazilian lifestyle and to gain the confidence needed to explore Brazil by myself. Since I have been here I have visited Curitiba, the country’s seventh most populous city, and the absolutely incredible Foz do Ignacu on the Brazilian/Argentinan border. For the uninitiated Foz do Ignacu is set of more than two hundred waterfalls spanning across the river separating Brazil and Argentina, it is known as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. After I leave ipBio I plan to keep on travelling through Brazil and then onwards to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.