Educational and research opportunities at Wildsumaco Biological Station, Ecuador
The Wildsumaco Biological Station (WBS) is a new research and education facility in the Tropical Andes biodiversity hotspot in Ecuador. Located on the eastern Andean slope at 1450m, WBS is sited near the buffer zone of Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, the core area of the larger Gran Sumaco International Biosphere Reserve. The centerpiece of the National Park is the 3,732 m Volcán Sumaco, a stratovolcano that is isolated from the main Andes chain. This relatively scientifically unexplored region has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, and therefore offers individuals and groups a wide variety of research and educational opportunities. The location of the station within lower montane rainforest at the volcano’s base places it in the middle of an unbroken elevational transect from páramo vegetation at Sumaco’s peak to lowland tropical moist forest in the Amazon. The placement of WBS within this unique geography allows for a variety of scientific investigations including: endemism of high-elevation species, elevational stratification of flora and fauna, range shifts in response to ecological change. Our goal is to develop WBS as a premiere site for research and educational opportunities contributing to our collective understanding of world biodiversity and scientific knowledge.
Individuals from 10 international institutions have developed numerous research and educational programs at WBS since it opened in 2012. PI-led research projects include: camera-trap mammalian surveys documenting more than one third of all Ecuadorian mammalian carnivore species and the highest published trap success for the near-threatened margay (Leopardus wiedii); herpetological surveys identifying new species; aquatic surveys identifying 56 taxa, with maximum diversity in Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera and Odonata; and assessing local adaptation by comparing male white-crowned manakin (Dixiphia pipra coracina) displays to other described subspecies. Graduate student projects include intraguild interactions of carnivores, sensory cues and special memory in the Loncophylla robustus nectar bat, and inter- and intraspecific aggressive behaviors of hummingbirds. Collaborations have also resulted in the formation of an intensive summer immersion course in Tropical Ecology at WBS. In this course, students are introduced to the region’s biodiversity and develop research projects investigating its ecology. Projects include amphibian, reptile, and mammal diversity surveys; hummingbird ethograms and interspecies aggression; invertebrate species-area quantification in Heliconia cups/bromeliad tanks; lepidopteran diversity in incandescent versus black light; lampyrid and other bioluminescence surveys; and diversity relative to human encroachment. WBS provides many opportunities for researchers and students to explore one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.