About the Trip

A brief history of the RARE trip

In May of 2015, the Radford Amazonian Research Expedition (RARE) provided undergraduate students with a unique opportunity to conduct original biological research in a primary Amazonian rainforest ecosystem. Under the supervision of two Radford professors, a group of ten select students spent three weeks learning and exploring deep in the Peruvian jungle.

Members of the RARE team traveled from Radford to Puerto Maldonado, a rapidly growing city near Peru’s eastern border. In Puerto Maldonado, the team met with guides from Tamandua, LLC, a conservation and ecotourism group devoted to the protection and conservation of the Peruvian jungle.  From there the RARE team traveled eight hours, first by car and then by boat, to reach the remote Las Piedras Biodiversity Station where they conducted their studies.

The research conducted in Peru

The Las Piedras Biodiversity Station is situated within 30,000+ acres of pristine rainforest located along the Las Piedras River, encompassing a wide variety of microbiomes and habitats. The station itself incorporates private dormitories, fully functional showers and toilet facilities, a common meeting hall, and a kitchen with a full-time chef. As part of the RARE project, the station was equipped with a solar generator as well as a variety of state of the art scientific field and laboratory equipment, including wireless microscope-cameras, sat-fi internet connections, genetic sampling and preservation systems, half a dozen infrared trail cameras and much more.

Throughout the several weeks they spent in and around the Las Piedras Station, members of the RARE team conducted multiple original scientific studies that the students themselves worked to design and prepare during the preceding semester. Their research focused on a wide variety of topics related to exploration of this all but unmapped jungle ecosystem, such as the impact of deforestation on microbial metagenomics, analysis of the antibacterial and antifungal properties of rare plants, cataloging of newly discovered species, and tracking and behavioral studies of megafauna including tapir, jaguars, macaws and monkeys. 

In addition to their independent research, RARE students had the opportunity to explore the forest and river, learn from local guides and study under Radford’s expert faculty. They encountered rare and endangered species, visited local markets, saw the impact of deforestation first hand, and hiked and studied in a truly one of a kind place. Following their return to Radford, students were encouraged to continue their studies and analysis, conducting follow-up research on the samples and data they collected for further academic credit. 

The RARE project is a component of Radford University’s initiative to provide undergraduate students with unique opportunities for transformative academic exploration of the world and their place in it. As participants in RARE, students were able to enjoy an experience that is equal parts education and exploration, and entirely unforgettable!