Baseline information on the biology, ecology, and behavior of many Neotropical species remains sparse because they are naturally rare, elusive, and/or inhabit remote locations that are difficult to access and survey. This project seeks to fill these gaps in knowledge, while addressing the threats facing their populations and habitats by engaging Rupununi communities in long-term, participatory research. A long history of conservation efforts in the region has resulted in a group of experienced and motivated local researchers with an interest in participating in projects that address locally relevant issues and inform resource management processes. Our work utilizes research as a tool to fill knowledge gaps, build capacity in scientific processes and research techniques, and develop leaders with the ability to apply these findings locally, while generating novel results from a high biodiversity region with broader applications for the scientific community and society at large.
The Rupununi Wildlife Research Unit (RWRU) is a research collaboration between a faculty member at the University of Florida and a growing number of indigenous villages, private ranches and conservation organizations in the Rupununi region of Guyana. We utilize a team-based approach to managing our projects and value scientific and traditional ecological knowledge equally, putting all members on even ground. Since 2011, we have trained more than 100 local researchers from communities across the Rupununi in a wide variety in a wide variety of research techniques. Our scaffolded approach to building capacity promotes the emergence of leaders by generating new challenges, creating new opportunities to learn, and granted increasing autonomy. Members of our leadership team (below) have worked with us for years and now lead teams of their own, as well as inform the direction of our research questions, methodologies, and decision-making. This page serves as a communication tool where we can share our work and our findings with a broader audience. Please enjoy and feel free to contact us if you are interested in joining or supporting our efforts.
The Rupununi Region of Guyana is named for the river, savannas, and wetlands that bear its name, but the region is actually an ancient rift valley bordered by the Pakaraima, Kanuku, and Iwokrama Mountains. The floor of this rift valley consists of ecologically significant cerrado savanna, rivers, creeks, and seasonally flooded wetlands that are bordered by large and undeveloped tracts of lowland and montane tropical deciduous and evergreen forests. Mountainous areas in the Rupununi have long been revered as ‘places of refuge’ by indigenous communities and thus have never hosted permanent residents. These forests remain intact, running virtually uninhabited to the east and south towards Suriname and Brazil. The Rupununi is called the “Land of Giants,” as it is home to incredible biodiversity, including populations of the largest members of a several of taxa (i.e. jaguar, giant river otter, harpy eagle, giant anteater, goliath bird-eating spider, black caiman, giant armadillo, green anaconda, giant river turtle, arapaima, lowland tapir, black spider monkey, gladiator treefrog, lau lau catfish, giant water lily, and more).