The Research

A brief history of the RARE trip

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

Members of the RARE team travel from Radford to Puerto Maldonado, a rapidly growing city near Peru’s eastern border. In Puerto Maldonado, the team meets 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 travels eight hours, first by car and then by boat, to reach the remote Las Piedras Biodiversity Station where they conduct 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 is 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 spent in and around the Las Piedras Station, members of the RARE team conduct multiple original scientific studies that the students themselves work to design and prepare during the preceding semester. Their research focuses 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 have the opportunity to explore the forest and river, learn from local guides and study under Radford’s expert faculty. They encounter rare and endangered species, visit local markets, see the impact of deforestation first hand, and hike and study in a truly one of a kind place. Following their return to Radford, students are 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 are able to enjoy an experience that is equal parts education and exploration, and entirely unforgettable!