Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru
Posted: 2 years ago

£1,056 per course

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With ASA you will have the opportunity to learn field ecology techniques, develop your own independent research project and boost your career, all while experiencing the beauty of the Peruvian Amazon and contributing to conservation! 

What you’ll learn: 

Our program has been designed to help you develop the skills and experience you need to pursue a career in field biology or conservation, whether you hope to continue to work in the tropics or closer to home. In our 4, 8 and 12-week sessions you’ll learn by working directly with our expert team through structured academic and research-based activities. Our participants work on and contribute to projects in the following areas:

  1. Biological Research and Monitoring
  • Butterfly ecology, evolution, & natural history. Participate in an ongoing, long-term study to understand butterfly diversity and biology, including butterfly collecting and raising caterpillars to study their host plants.
  • Biological inventories. Join our naturalists to monitor flora and fauna at the field site, including insects, birds, mammals, and plants.
  • Plant phenology. Contribute to understanding the impact of climate change on the fruiting and flowering of Brazil nut trees and Aguaje palms, the two most ecologically and economically important non-timber tree species in our region.

  1. Sustainable Tropical Agriculture and Agroforestry
  • Experimental agricultural and agroforestry plots. Look into the effects of intercropping, integrated pest management, and organic fertilizers to promote sustainable farming and production practices in the Amazon.
  • Recuperation of deforested land. Get your hands dirty by doing reforestation work to create important wildlife corridors between forest fragments and primary forests.

You will also learn important skills:

  • Navigation and mapping: Off-trail navigation techniques, GPS and GIS use.
  • Tropical ecology research techniques: experimental design, data collection and management, wildlife survey methods (e.g. camera trapping, insect collecting, plant sampling, etc).
  • Identification of major Amazonian plant and animal groups (e.g. trees, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects and other invertebrates) 
  • Sustainable tropical agriculture and agroforestry methods and practices: tree planting and reforestation techniques, experimental design and plot setup, etc. 

These practical skills are complemented by weekly guided discussions of primary scientific literature spanning topics such as tropical biology, sustainable development and conservation. 

We offer three types of experiential learning programs:  

  • Introduction to Sustainability: In just 4 intensive weeks you’ll learn all the basics of tropical field biology and conservation. 
  • Advanced Sustainability: In this longer 8-week program, you’ll expand on your knowledge of tropical biology and conservation by performing your own independent project. 
  • Academic Quarter: In our most immersive 12-week program, you’ll master your research skills and knowledge of Amazonian biology by conducting your own in-depth research. This is a great opportunity for a thesis or keystone project (both undergraduate and postgraduate).  

Independent Research Project

We believe in hands-on, immersive learning, which is why you’ll have the opportunity to put all the skills you’ve learned into action by carrying out your own independent research project. We’ll help you throughout the whole process, from selecting your research question to writing your final report. Some of our former participants have used this opportunity to write their honors or capstone thesis, and some have even published their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals. A few former projects include: 

  • Comparison of Bird Species Abundance at Waking and Roosting Periods in Regenerating Agroforest – Alessandra Wilcox (2019)
  • An Analysis of Constraints and Opportunities for Sustainable Inclusion of Madre de Dios Farmers in Cacao Value Chains – Mitch Theisen (2019)
  • Herptofaunal Abundance and Diversity in Terre-Firme Forest and Edge Habitat – Jonah Cruz (2019)
  • Comparing butterfly diversity in different tropical habitats – Allison Stoiser (2018)
  • Assessing the sustainability of local farming practices in the vicinity of Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru – Joao Vilca (2017).

Our Research Station

Finca Las Piedras is located in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon, in the country’s Madre de Dios region. Our site borders primary forests and a matrix of agricultural land and regenerating, secondary forest where you can experience both the campesino culture and the amazing diversity of the rainforest.  

Living facilities on site include shared dorms and beds with mosquito nets, shared composting toilets, open-air showers, a bathing platform at our “quebrada” (a small jungle stream), and a large dining hall where meals are served. Our facilities are rustic yet comfortable and designed to minimize our environmental impact. We also have laboratory space, wifi access, a shadehouse, a flight cage for research on butterflies, and a large trail network that provides access to numerous rain forest habitats.

About ASA and our mission in the Peruvian Amazon: 

We are the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA), a U.S.-based 501(c)3 non-profit organisation, and our vision is sustainability for the Peruvian Amazon. Although the term sustainability has become something of a buzzword in recent years, we consider the idea behind it profoundly important in the age of expanding human influence in the natural world. To us, sustainable agriculture implies the production of food and other products that does not diminish the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Furthermore, we believe that people can benefit from the bounty of nature without reducing biodiversity or ecosystem services—water, a stable climate, or a healthy environment— that all of us have the right to enjoy. All of our work in the Peruvian Amazon, therefore, aims to ensure a more sustainable Amazon by promoting the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. 


“I absolutely loved my experience here. My only regret is not staying longer. I have been introduced to such a vast amount of material and I only want to learn more from here on out.” – Allesandra Wilcox, 2019

“I learned to be creative in many ways. Manual work, constructing traps to catch a tiny fraction of the rich wildlife. Scientific knowledge, putting together information from the literature. All surrounded by—submerged into—this exotic diversity.” – Tobias Süess, 2017 

Dates and Rates 

All experiential learning sessions (1, 2, and 3 month programs) start and end on fixed dates between May 31 and December 10, 2021. For more information and exact dates go to

Application deadlines: four weeks before the beginning of a session.


Introduction to sustainability (4 weeks): $1,400 

Advanced Sustainability (8 weeks): $2,400 

Academic Quarter: 12 weeks, $3,300 

Why are there fees for experiential learning programs?

We are a small organization trying to do big things in the Amazon, and funding for our research, conservation, and education efforts is very limited. Fees paid by participants cover the cost of maintaining the physical infrastructure at the site, as well as the purchase of food and other important supplies. Only a very small amount of these fees are spent on overhead, with an additional small amount going towards direct conservation action in the Amazon.

What’s included 

Program fees include the following: 

  • All food and accommodation at Finca Las Piedras (3 meals/day, snacks 24 hrs/day, dormitory housing w/shared bathroom, all bedding materials and mosquito net).
  • Pick up & drop off from Puerto Maldonado airport or bus terminal to Finca Las Piedras.
  • Full-time Academic Coordinator 
  • Independent Research Project guidance (where applicable) 
  • Welcome kit including ASA t-shirt

What’s not included 

Programs fees do not include: 

  • Air transportation, incl. international airfare to Peru, domestic flight to Puerto Maldonado (PEM), air taxes, ticketing fees, etc. 
  • Travel/medical or insurance of any kind
  • Passport (required) 
  • Travel visa for Peru (not required for many countries for stays of < 90 days) 
  • Additional local travel/optional activities