A Day in the Life of a Biologist in the Amazon

Writer is an Amazon Learning alumni who followed a normal workday of Lucas, a biologist working in Tena, Ecuador.  

-       Peccary footsteps, I suppose. Here, and over there as well. Gotta mark these down, he says as he takes the GPS device out of his backpack. Lucas carefully types the details and coordinates into the device and takes a photo of the footsteps. We are ready to continue.

Peccary footstep. Peccary is a native South-American mammal with a strong resemblace to a pig.

Peccary footstep. Peccary is a native South-American mammal with a strong resemblace to a pig.


Lucas is researching wildlife populations and doing his master’s thesis on Capuchin monkeys here in the Amazon. He warns me not to get my hopes too high, since usually you don’t see a thing in the woods. Human activities drive animals deeper into the jungle and illegal hunting is a real problem in the area.


 – Some indigenous communities deeper in the Amazon, like Sapara, respect nature greatly and their hunting is not a problem for animal populations – they know how to do it sustainably. The problem is the people living in towns, separated from nature, who are ignorant or just don’t care. They might shoot a monkey without noticing that it had recently given birth. That way the babies are also doomed, Lucas explains.


As the rain gets stronger and stronger, we continue ascending through the thick of the jungle. Apart from the slight muddiness of the path the refreshing rain is a welcomed guest – a heat stroke would be inevitable on a sunny day. Since animal footsteps are vanishing because of the pouring rain, and monkeys are keeping themselves warm somewhere hidden, we speed up in order to get to the camera traps on the top of the hill.


Apart from a few birds, wildlife keeps itself well hidden on a rainy day. After a good four hours of ascending and descending through the muddy jungle we reach the camera traps, change the batteries, and settle under a tree to enjoy our lunch break. It was surprising to realize how hard the rain actually had been the whole time – the thick roof of the jungle keeps you isolated from the outside world.


Sometimes it is hard to realize the therapeutic effects of nature. I was beyond words when the rain finally gave in to the sun and all the birds around us woke up. All of a sudden Lucas stops and gives the biggest smile: - Did you hear that? Look at the treetops!

The Capuchins finally came to say hi!

The Capuchins finally came to say hi!

After eight hours of marching through the Amazonian wilderness we jumped into a river to get rid of the mud and weariness. The feeling was absolutely fantastic, definitely beat a day at the office. Although for me, the day was an epic, rough adventure in the Amazonian rainforest, I couldn’t stop thinking about how for Lucas, that was just another Wednesday.



Matti Laukkanen