Two graduate student research awards, worth US $7500 each, for study at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station!

What is the opportunity?

We’re looking to promote the next generation of conservation scientists and tropical ecologists and you could be the key to our future. And we want to help. San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) and the Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS) announce a competition for bright, motivated graduate students to come to our field station to conduct research, all expenses paid.

Are you currently enrolled in a graduate program (doctoral students preferred) and interested in figuring out how Amazonian ecosystems work and how they can be conserved? Then you are a viable candidate. All research topics will be considered, but preference will be given to those most closely aligned with our vision for the Station (learn about us at We are especially interested in research projects that will help address some of the big problems facing conservation in Manu National Park and Amazonian ecosystems generally, or capitalize on unique opportunities at the Station to move forward the field of tropical ecology. Examples of research topics we seek to promote include (1) those addressing climate change, (2) target species identified in Manu National Park monitoring plans, (4) species that have a disproportionate impact on ecosystem maintenance (e.g., “keystone” species), and (5) any research question that has real value for conservation. However, any research question that meets our general goals will be given equal consideration.

What is Cocha Cashu? The Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS) is a tropical ecology field station of international renown and importance for understanding and preserving biodiversity. It is located within Manu National Park in southeastern Peru. As a biodiversity repository, the Manu Biosphere Reserve stands without peer, encompassing the entire Manu River watershed from the Andes Mountains to the lowland Amazonian rainforest—almost 6,000 square miles. SDZG has managed the Station since 2011.

What expenses are covered?

  • Full international airfare round trip to Cuzco, Peru
  • Vehicular and boat transportation, accommodation and food in transit to Station
  • Food and accommodation costs in Cuzco for planning with Cuzco-based staff and making purchases and other logistical arrangements for research
  • Station fees and meals at station for 3 months
  • Research mentorship by our scientists
  • Field assistance provided by Station staff, local indigenous people or Peruvian students and young scientists
  • Limited basic field supplies
  • Total value = U.S. $7,500 each (two grants are available)
  • Other research expenses, including most equipment, must be covered by the applicant.

The funding for this graduate student program comes from a generous donation from the Wallace Research Foundation.


Research at the Station must commence before July 2016. Projects commencing before December 2015 will be given preferential consideration.

What are you expected to do?

You will travel to one of the most remote places on Earth, several days’ journey from civilization (and medical care). You will live in the Amazonian rainforest, sleep in a tent, and enjoy the company of some of the top tropical ecologists from the past, present and future. You will conduct research for three months on your proposed research topic. You will write blogs or engage in other forms of outreach and education to media and local audiences. You will provide a brief report summarizing your research findings and their relevance to conservation. You will never forget this experience and you will never be the same person again (we hope).

Why are we doing this?

Field ecology, especially in the tropics, is declining in academia due to the high costs and long-term nature of field ecology and changing emphases. Boots-on-the-ground ecology is at risk, which will have important ramifications for future generations of ecologists. A new generation of trained biologists is urgently needed to study ecological processes in nature and apply lessons learned to conservation action. If today’s graduate students do not gain this important experience, where will the next generation of conservation professionals and ecologists come from? Our intent is to address this problem and, hopefully, to catalyze new, innovative research programs at Cashu well into the future.

Requirements for applicants:

  • Enrolled in a graduate program (Ph.D. preferred)
  • Significant experience conducting ecological research
  • Mastery of fundamentals of scientific hypothesis-testing and methodology
  • Good communication and inter-personal skills
  • Spanish fluency preferred
  • Excellent health and experience living under rigorous field conditions
  • A strong research proposal

Before you apply: please visit our website ( and read the materials there to make sure that you and Cocha Cashu are a good fit. It is a magical place but it is not for everyone.

To apply: Send an email to Send a full CV, a research proposal, and a 1-page Statement of Interest detailing why you would like this award, what talents and skills you bring, and how this experience will facilitate your career. The research proposal should be no more than 4 pages, should (1) introduce the reader to the background to your research, (2) state the hypotheses being tested, (3) summarize the methods utilized, (4) discuss the question’s relevance to conservation and the goals of CCBS, and (5) state the expected outcomes. Proposals will be evaluated with regard to conservation relevance, scientific soundness, innovation, clarity of presentation, and in terms of how well the proposed research will move forward the goals of the Station.

Review of applications will commence on June 30, 2015 and applications submitted before this deadline will be given preferential consideration. However, strong applications received after that date will also be considered until September 1, 2015.