The plateaus of southwest Patagonia, one of the harshest and least protected ecoregions in South America, are home to biodiversity of great conservation value. The Hooded Grebe (Podiceps gallardoi) is endemic to Santa Cruz province (Argentina) and today, only 40 years from its discovery, it is listed as critically endangered (BirdLife International / UICN) and facing extinction.
The Hooded Grebe Project consists of a professional and committed team that works extensively in the area since 2009, studying the grebes’ biology, identifying the root causes of its greatest threats and generating direct-action programs and conservation strategies that have already helped the population to start recovering.
The conservation measures include intense fieldwork (specifically research and control of invasive species), habitat restoration, local conservation education and promotion of laws that protect the species and its habitat.
After 8 years of intense work, the Hooded Grebe has become a symbol for Patagonia’s threatened wildlife and the applied conservation measures are showing first tangible results.
The “Juan Mazar Barnett” Biological Station was recently built in order to create a space for scientists that are interested in continuing and expanding research in the area. It is now a basecamp for biologists, archaeologists and many local and international students and volunteers interested in participating in the process of saving this beautiful species.
Tasks to be undertaken:
• Acuatic bird censuses.
• Shorebird censuses.
• Data collection on breeding colonies of the Hooded Grebe.
• Monitoring (census and detection) of invasive and exotic species such as American Mink and Kelp Gull.
• Support to colony guardians (detection and control of factors affecting the colonies).
• Monitoring of wildlife (mammals, amphibians and reptiles).
• Collaboration in maintenance of work equipment.
• Promotion and local educational work.
• Housework (cooking, cleaning, collecting firewood) and maintenance of common spaces at the Biological Station.
• Restoration of habitat and working areas (dismantling of ranch fences in the Patagonia National Park, building of trails, road repair and control of invasive plant species).
• Support for capturing and marking Hooded Grebe individuals.
Volunteers are not expected to be formally prepared nor to present official study degrees, but more importantly to be interested in learning and contributing to the project.
Please take the time to read the following information thoroughly and in full, as your application signifies to us that you understand the basic conditions and are willing to comply with these agreements. Any breaches of these agreements may result in suspension or termination of your volunteer status.
Due to the remoteness and long distances between destinations, and to optimize logistics and transportation planning, volunteering periods would rotate every 15 days, and go as follow:
For periods of at least 30 days volunteering in the project, from the months of December to April, these cycles will be commencing on the 1st and 15th days of each month, and ending on the 1st of the following month, and 15th respectively. All of these dates are based on arrival and departure from the town of Perito Moreno, on the North-West of the Santa Cruz province.
As an example for further understanding:
Volunteer is picked up in Perito Moreno on the 1st of January, and volunteering process finishes on the 1st of January.
Or, volunteer is picked up in Perito Moreno on the 15th of January, and volunteering process finishes on the 15th of February.
A limited number of volunteer staff slots are allocated for the following periods:
• 15th December (2017) – 15th January (2018)
• 1st January – 1st February
• 15th January – 15th February
• 1st February – 1st March
• 15th February – 15th March
• 1st March – 1st April
• 15th March – 15th April
The number of volunteers per each slot is to be determined according to the amount of different activities to be carried out on different stages of the breeding season, and the level of workforce needed for these.
We suggest you inform us on your interest for which slot you would like to apply for, and we will allocate the applicants on a capability and “first come - first serve” basis.
Applicants interested in volunteering for periods longer than 30 days will be given priority during selection and volunteer period preference allocation. This is because during a longer period of time, volunteers can learn more about the functioning of the Project, thus are more helpful to it by being experienced on the carried out tasks.
Due to the Hooded Grebe Project’s long-term structure, volunteers have the possibility of proffessional growth within it. Given so, we believe that volunteers with new ideas or interest in the project’s structure for the development of degree dissertation/thesis projects, masters degrees or even PHD works, will be favoured during the selection process. In this sense, the Hooded Grebe Project’s structure counts with helpful elements to be used for long-term research ideas.
If you are accepted to the volunteer program, you will receive detailed logistical information.
To give you a sense of what to expect: You will need to arrive at a little town called “Perito Moreno”, in northwest Santa Cruz province, Argentina. (Make sure you are not getting information on how to go to “Perito Moreno glacier”, or “Perito Moreno National Park”, since that is not where we will pick you up.)
Once you arrive in Perito Moreno, a team member will pick you up and take you to the Biological Station.
Cost of the program
Running the volunteer program comes with numerous expenses for us: food, salaries for leaders and coordinators, camping and research equipment, insurance, transportation, showers/ bathrooms, and more. To help offset some of these costs, the program cost is US$ 20 per day (600 per session).
This covers the volunteer expenses once arrived at the project. It includes training, transportation, food, camping equipment and lodging throughout the entire stay.
If your stay exceeds 60 days, we are able to reduce the amount requested to US$ 15 per day.
We will ask you to pay the program cost in cash during your first days at the project. Unfortunately, we cannot accept any other way of payment.
By deciding to join us, we expect that volunteers have read and agreed to the expectations of the program. While you are with us, we need you to respect our policies and staff leadership. Those who do not do so will be asked to leave the program, without the possibility of any refund.
Weather conditions in Patagonia are harsh and they change dramatically by the season and by the hour: winds over 60 mph (100 km/h) and temperatures that may vary from below freezing to near 90ºF (30ºC) in one day, plus very high levels of solar irradiation due to low levels of humidity in the atmosphere.
If you are accepted to the volunteer program, you will receive a detailed equipment list.
There is no internet access and no cell phone service anywhere closer than 100km from the Biological Station, and the satellite phone is for emergency use only. You will have the chance to communicate with your family and friends every time you go to town, but this probably won´t be often (except for emergencies). Plus, internet service in town can be spotty and frustratingly slow. If connectivity is important to you, consider this when making your decision to volunteer.
The food is hardy and typical to Patagonia: lots of stews and soups, lamb, potatoes and bread. In the field, volunteers cook together on a basic camp stove. Ingredients in the field are limited—think simple camping cooking.
If you’re a vegetarian please know that Patagonia is not an easy place to eat meat-free, as meat is a major part of the diet, but this should not be a reason not to participate of the project.
The volunteer program is mostly local, and only a little part international. We do not expect participants to be totally bilingual since most of the team members speak English fluently, but experience showed that most conversations take place in Spanish. Not understanding conversations at dinner or during endless roadtrips can make volunteers feel uncomfortable or excluded if they are too shy to ask for a language switch. Still, this should not stop you from coming.
We do not require applicants to have any specific qualifications.
Our obstacles are immense. The Hooded Grebe´s breeding range is huge, its threats are many and for a few months, we need to be fast and everywhere at the same time in order to protect the Grebe´s most important breeding colonies.
We are looking for volunteers who are motivated by passion and genuine interest in biodiversity conservation and research. We require commitment, initiative, sacrifice and a willingness to go above and beyond.
We need adventurers, people who like the idea of camping in the wild, rough and windy deserts of the high plateaus of western Patagonia, who enjoy certain isolation, extreme weather conditions and never ending trips on bad roads and nearly inexistent tracks. A volunteer should be able to withstand long periods without a hot shower, without internet and phone communication, camping conditions and long walks for fieldwork. Volunteers should be in GOOD physical shape and health to participate in the program.
We know from experience that a volunteer of the Hooded Grebe Project needs to be flexible (able to accept last minute changes of plans and delays), have a good sense of humour and a proactive attitude, be respectful towards the other volunteers and team members, show interest for the different cultures, accept and embrace their differences, help out and do more than his/her share (wash dishes, wake up early, offer to help) and have fun.
Last but not least, not everything is harshness, isolation and wind in Patagonia. The team is an interesting mix of biologists, parkrangers, environmental engineers, students, adventurers and naturalists who enjoy good meals at night, good music and long conversations. Of all ages and from all over the world, there are many different stories to hear and - most importantly – there´s a general huge passion about saving the Hooded Grebe. We hope participants will enjoy themselves, make new friends, and learn about Patagonia and conservation.
It’s a life changing experience for those who are up to the challenge.
How to Apply
Thank you for your interest in volunteering for the Hooded Grebe Project. Our campaigns would not be possible without the vital day-to-day efforts of our many volunteers. We are always in need of volunteers to engage in field activities, conduct research, and so much more.
If you want to apply for the Hooded Grebe Volunteer program in the coming season, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, including:
• A letter briefly describing your interest in participating
• Your CV
• The session or sessions you would be interested in participating (use volunteering period description for guidance)
• A Reference letter
Applications will be received until OCTOBER 1st, 2017.
Results will be available on October 31st. Together with the results, you will receive the acceptance package with all the information needed.
For further information, please check these websites:
Facebook: “Salvemos al Macá Tobiano”
To know a little more about the species, the history of the project and to get a sense of what to expect, you can watch our documentaries in Youtube:
“Twilight of the Hooded Grebe”
"Tango in the Wind"