When I decided to give the scholarship a try I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to obtain it. I took my time to write the essay calmly, understanding very well the question and doing a thorough research to be able to answer it. A few weeks later I was ecstatic when I read I was the winner! After freaking out with my family, I started planning my trip to Peru, which was super easy because I only had to look for the plane tickets, the rest of the logistics was handled perfectly by FPI. They made it super easy to get from the airport to the hostel, then to the field station, and finally the way back. Thanks to the scholarship I was able to enjoy the best 2 and a half weeks of my life. I always wanted to experience how it was to work in the Amazon and thanks to FPI I was able to attend the Tropical Ornithology course in Los Amigos Biological Field Station.
During my stay in the field station I was able to learn lots of things like the huge diversity of birds that you can find in the forest, we were able to identify almost a hundred of different species in just a couple of days, and we got 231 birds seen by the end of the course! Also, we were taught different survey methods used to study communities of birds and how to use them like the mist nets, computer programs to analyze the data that was obtained, how to navigate the jungle with a map and GPS, and everything I needed to know about birds thanks to the thorough presentations given by the instructors.
Something that I found was great about my stay in the field station was the freedom given to us to participate in other activities when we were done with ours for the course, we could go on solo walks through the forest to try to look for birds or other animals that are harder to detect when you’re walking with a group of people, we were shown around the trails by a member of the group studying anacondas looking for cool critters because the forest at night is a completely different place from the one during the day (we saw a sleeping bird, that was the cutest thing I have ever seen!), we attended a presentation given by the instructor of another group showing the different conservation projects developed in the field station, we climbed up a 60 meter tall tower to watch the sunrise and sunset (they were amazing, by the way), and we paddled on a boat looking for otters on one of the cochas (lakes), but we were not able to spot any, unfortunately. Maybe next time!
Finally, another thing that I found was great about attending this course as someone whose first language isn’t English was the opportunity to improve it, doing my best to get myself understood by learning new words, new phrases, and getting to know people from all over the world that specialized in different things, which to do that knowing English is essential. As a biologist, this was a perfect opportunity to make connections and learn more about other fields besides ornithology.
After everything that I was able to experience by attending to this course, I want to thank FPI for making it possible for people that don’t have the means to pay for these awesome courses, like me, to receive a scholarship. I wouldn’t have done it without you guys!
-Eloisa Sardinha, Venezuela
Photo Credits (from top): Lucia Alva (cover), Lucia Alva, Paige Handley, Eloisa Sardinha