For my STEP experience, I traveled to Peru to take a three week Tropical Biology and Primatology field course in the Amazon rainforest. During my stay at Los Amigos Biological Field Station, I learned all about the diverse flora and fauna of the rainforest through classroom lectures and hands-on field activities. I was introduced to different field research skills such as radio telemetry, GPS, tree-climbing, and mist-netting to better understand how field research is carried out.
Since my time in Peru, I am more willing to take risks. I have learned that I can handle more than I think. I did not meet up with my group until I arrived at the hostel in Puerto Maldonado. I had to navigate a couple of foreign airports and manage to get a taxi whilst not knowing any Spanish. It was definitely the most stressful traveling experience I have ever had but completely worth it.
By living in the rainforest for three weeks I learned that I don’t need a lot to survive. We only had electricity for 3 hours every day but it never felt like a problem. It was more like I was being set free from technology to go out and experience the beauty of the natural world. I also learned how wasteful my way of life can be and that I need to make changes to fix that. Living with so little, I realized how many of the “things” I own are not necessities.
I have always been a cautious person and tended to do as I was told. Neither of which is necessarily a problem but it has stopped me from doing things in the past. Going into this trip, I really had no idea what to expect and that absolutely terrified me. Somehow I managed to make myself take the risk and I don’t regret it for a second. There were many parts of this trip that terrified me; going to a country where I didn’t speak the language, spending three weeks with a group of people I have never met before, and living in a place so far off the grid that we had to take a 3 hour boat ride to get there. I was able to do all of those things and loved every second of it. I surprised myself in so many ways and I am a more adventurous person because of this trip.
Every time I think about Peru, I have a smile on my face but sadness in my heart. I adored my time in the rainforest and will treasure the many good memories I have but I am saddened by the fact that I may never have a chance to go back there and that future generations will probably never have a chance at all. This crash course in field research made me realize that my idea of becoming a field researcher was not for me. But this trip also left me with a passion for making choices in my life that will make a difference for the health of our world. I am still trying to figure out what my future career will be, but it will have something to do with conservation of species and their habitats.