Tiputini Biodiversity Station
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Tiputini Biodiversity Station is a scientific field research center in the Ecuadorian Amazon. A higher diversity of reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds and bats has been found there than anywhere else in South America, and possibly the world. It is located in the province of Orellana, about 280 km ESE from Quito, the capital city of EcuadorCoordinates: . It is located on the northern bank of the Tiputini River, and although separated from the Yasuni National Park by the river, the station is part of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve. The station is jointly managed by Universidad San Francisco de Quito and Boston University as a center of education, research and conservation.
Tiputini Biodiversity Station preserves a tract of 6.5 km² which mostly includes primary non-flooded forest, but there is a rather narrow belt of flooded vegetation towards the river, streams, and around a small oxbow lake. Along the Tiputini River, several beaches are uncovered during the dry season, but all are short, never greater than 100 m.
Because of its remote location and agreements with local indigenous groups, no hunting of large mammals has occurred in the area and it is possible to habituate and study primates that are difficult to observe elsewhere. The station is geared towards research and education, and though not strictly off limits to tourists there are no regular tours to the area.
The discovery of further oil deposits in the region has put the station at risk from nearby development of petroleum extraction and transport infrastructure, though the impacts may be mitigated somewhat by voluntary concessions by the management company. It remains to be seen if promised environmental sensitivity is implemented in the field, however.
The Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) is a field study facility in which students and other scientists perform different research projects. This station is located in the Eastern Ecuadorian Amazon in the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and provides a remote locale for ecological research on the Tiputini River. The forest surrounding TBS is terra firme. The TBS was established in 1995 by Universidad San Francisco de Quito in collaboration with Boston University. TBS was built with sustainability in mind so deforestation was kept to a minimum when building the cabins and lab (Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 2011).
Life at the Station
The facilities are located around a two-story lab. The station includes 9 cabins, a few labs, and a cafeteria. Four cabins are for the head researchers and employees that work there full-time and include 2 beds and a full bath. The other 5 cabins are for additional researchers and student groups that visit and include bunk beds and a full bath. The bathrooms have running water and flush toilets but no hot water. TBS has electricity available in the cabins for about 6 hours a day (3 in the afternoon and 3 at night), and for 24 hours in the lab. The Station has a large cafeteria that can comfortably accommodate about 60 individuals. There are 3 meals served every day, with box lunches available to researchers in the field that may miss a scheduled meal. There is internet access but it is limited because of the physical location of the station. Students can usually use about 1 hour of internet a day, but the researchers have almost unlimited access. In the researcher’s downtime they can go on hikes to lookout towers around the facility (Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 2011).
Goals of the station
TBS has initiated a river turtle nest project in which locals collect turtle eggs on the river banks by the Tiputini station and rear them in captivity. Their populations have been decimated in recent years due to collecting of turtle eggs for sale at market. Podocnemis unifilis has shown improvements in recent years, but P. expansa is still in danger in this region of the river (Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 2011). TBS also has camera traps set-up around the facility and in the neighboring forest to capture photos of the various species in the surrounding national forest. These camera traps are used to estimate population sizes of certain species and to document rare species. TBS also serves as a place to reintroduce captive animals into the wild. A black caiman farm near the station closed down and most of the captive caimans were introduced into the rivers near TBS. However, the main goal of this station is to provide a place for people to perform experiments and research (Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 2011).
The station has been the site for many research projects and has led to the publication of many papers. Bird population studies, reproductive behavior, social structure, and seed dispersal characteristics have all been studied across multiple bird species. Primatology is a large topic of study in this area because of the diversity and abundance of primate species. One paper looked at the relationship between primates and naturally occurring mineral licks using camera traps to identify different species that visited the lick, as well as the frequency and duration of their visits (Blake, 2009). TBS has also been the host for many genetic research projects. One project looked at the genetic relationships between offspring and parents to determine reproductive behavior in manakins (Tori, 2006). This project was very important because it used a new technique for sampling genetic material. In order to sample genetic material from offspring they must take a sample from the bird after it hatched or from the egg after it develops and veins become visible. The problem is that these birds suffer high nest predation rates and so not all the offspring from a nest can be sampled. So in order to get around these problems researchers would take eggs from the nest and replace them with plaster eggs that the mother could take care of. In the meantime the eggs were incubated until they were ready to have a genetic sample taken. After that the eggs were put back in the nest with the mother (Tori, 2006).
TBS is located near the Huaorani Reserve. These local people have not yet shown any malcontent toward the workers at the TBS and in fact a few stop by the station to ask for food or other supplies (Personal Correspondence, Dr. John Blake). However, the Huaorani have shown aggressive behavior toward the oil companies that have tried to drill in their lands since the 1950s. Today some Huaorani can be found in villages along the side of the roads established by oil companies, but others still live in the deep jungle.
- Cisneros-Heredia, D.F. 2006. Turtles of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station with remarks on the diversity and distribution of the Testudines from Ecuador. Biota Neotropica v6 (n1) –http://www.biotaneotropica.org.br/v6n1/pt/abstract?inventory+bn00906012006
- Tiputini Biodiversity Station. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Universidad San Francisco de Quito: http://www.usfq.edu.ec/Tiputini/Paginas/Contact%20Us.aspx
- Tori, W. P. (2006). Obtaining Offspring Genetic Material: A New Method for Species With High Predation Rates. The Condor(108), 948-952.
- John G. Blake, J. G. (2009). Use of Mineral Licks by White-Bellied Spider Monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) and Red Howler Monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in Eastern Ecuador. International Journal of Primatology(31), 471-483