About 2017-11-02T00:46:39+00:00


The TMA internship program is designed to provide individuals from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in hands-on research and conservation activities in the biodiversity-rich neotropics. In an effort to make programming more rewarding for interns and the organization alike, these internships have grown more and more scientifically rigorous over the years, culminating in our current internships offered through TMA’s Observatorio de Aves Jama-Coaque (OAJC, aka The Jama-Coaque Bird Observatory). TMA established OAJC in late 2017 with a number of ambitious goals, including capacity building for both international and Ecuadorian scientists, discovering aging/sexing techniques for the under-studied birds of western Ecuador, tracking population trends, studying avian ecology, and advancing conservation at all levels. Our exciting new OAJC internship program is lead by our experienced and dedicated staff and offers the highest quality educational experience. 100% of the proceeds from the program go toward running OAJC and TMA, increasing the program’s educational value and scientific impact, and directly supporting TMA’s conservation objectives in the Jama-Coaque Reserve. (For more information on OAJC and its mission, click the Bird Observatory tab above!)
Why participate? There are a lot of right answers! For many, it’s a pragmatic next step in a path towards a career as a talented scientist or conservationist. Others come seeking a program that will help them discover their passions and provide a skillset to set them apart in future graduate school and job applications. To some, our internships are an introspective or spiritual journey – after all, there’s nothing quite like the experience of remote living in a beautiful Bamboo House in the middle of a tropical forest. And of course, some people come just for the birds!
All prospective interns should thoroughly review all of the information found on our Internship and Bird Observatory tabs as well as pertinent documents found on the Application page. As always, our team is more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Just email us any questions at this email:  info@tmalliance.org



TMA’s Biological Research Internship is rooted in Ornithology, Tropical Ecology, and Conservation. The program is designed to provide both an excellent educational opportunity for emerging scientists and to collect ecological data in support of TMA’s research and conservation initiatives. Interns will participate in ongoing projects investigating pollination networks, demographic trends, seasonal movements, molt patterns, habitat use, nesting ecology, and more (see Bird Observatory page for additional details). Field work will focus on ornithological field techniques but may also incorporate vegetation work depending on time of year and study needs (resource availability, structural assessments, species identification, etc.).
Interns will also have the opportunity to participate in other research studies being carried out in the Reserve during their stay (e.g. camera trapping, primate surveys, herpetofauna studies, drone mapping), but these activities will be supplemental to the more in-depth ornithological research activities at the core of the internship. Long-term interns are also encouraged to develop independent research projects that may be related to our observatory work and/or personal research interests in any field.


Prior experience working with birds or other wildlife is not required but is encouraged. Each internship session begins with an intensive two-week training period to help develop necessary skills. Interns may also be asked to review literature supplied by TMA before beginning their programs. While Spanish proficiency is not required, it is recommended as we work in a bilingual environment and it can improve the overall experience. At the very least, we encourage visitors to be open to learning. Interns will receive the full tropical field ornithology experience, which means many days spent waking before the sun and hiking in difficult field conditions while carrying equipment, thus applicants should be in good physical condition. Given these realities, passion for wildlife (particularly birds) and conservation, a hard work ethic, and a positive attitude are all critical to your success and our top requirements.



  • Mist-netting
  • Bird banding
  • Bird identification
  • Bird handling techniques
  • Aging and sexing techniques
  • Study/sampling design
  • Pollen collection and identification
  • Nest searching/monitoring
  • GPS navigation
  • Data management
  • Camera-trapping
  • Conservation practices


  • Banding station operation and management
  • Bander training and leadership
  • Aging/sexing protocol design
  • Scientific writing
  • GIS basics
  • Data analysis
  • Plant ID
  • Vegetation fieldwork techniques
  • Spanish language skills
  • Land management
  • NGO management


We have developed five internship lengths in the Jama-Coaque Reserve and El Observatorio de Aves Jama-Coaque. All of the programs are managed by our experienced team and carried out with the same level of enthusiasm and dedication. The five different session lengths are designed to provide individuals with varying levels of experience and availability an opportunity to experience the tropics and learn through hands-on engagement. Each session begins with an intensive two-week training workshop teaching critical research skills. Each of the five tabs below provide some basic details for each internship session.
Length:  4 weeks (26 days)
Summary:  Our Taste of the Tropics Internship is designed to give participants a brief taste of tropical/ornithological research to determine if it’s something they wish to pursue more heavily as they move forward in their careers. The program consists of an intensive two-week training period followed by a quick two weeks of field work.
Visa:  No special visa is needed to participate in this internship program – all visitors to Ecuador receive an automatic 90 day visa upon arrival to the country.
Length:  8 weeks (54 days)
Summary:  Our Tropical Immersion program is our most popular session; it provides you with an opportunity to gain important field skills and build your resume. Following your initial two-week training program, you will hone your skills in the field for 1.5 months, gaining the confidence required to work with live birds and conduct wildlife field research in a professional setting.
Visa:  No special visa is needed to participate in this internship program – all visitors to Ecuador receive an automatic 90 day visa upon arrival to the country.
Length:  11 weeks (75 days)
Summary:  The Quarter on the Equator internship is open to everyone but was designed with students studying on the quarter system in mind. This program provides ample time to establish a firm grip on technical skills not easily mastered and prepares you for a career in Ecology and/or graduate school. Many past students have received university credit for this program (see below).
Visa:  No special visa is needed to participate in this internship program – all visitors to Ecuador receive an automatic 90 day visa upon arrival to the country.
Length:  15 weeks (103 days)
Summary:  Our Semester Abroad internship is open to everyone but was designed with students studying on the semester system in mind. Participants develop a solid grasp on technical skills, have opportunities to mentor others, may carry out independent projects, and can expect to handle and process many diverse bird species. This program is a favorite of young researchers preparing for a career in Ecology and/ or graduate school. Many past students have received university credit for this program (see below).
Visa:  Our Semester Abroad program requires participants obtain a tourist visa extension to stay in Ecuador for the entire 15 weeks. This process is done in Quito during the first three months in the country and TMA staff can assist with the process. The tourist visa extension has a cost ($250 in 2017) that is paid directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon application.
Length:  26 weeks (180 days)
Summary:  Our Professional Apprenticeship is designed to offer advanced field training to individuals looking to take the next step in their professional careers. In addition to mastering complicated techniques, apprentices are expected to take on leadership roles, learn the ins-and-outs of operations management, and may develop independent projects. Participants will obtain all the skills necessary to run their own mist-netting and banding operations and will handle the greatest number and diversity of birds. Participants are also expected to design and carry out independent research projects in any field of their choosing.
Visa:  Our Professional Apprenticeship program requires participants obtain a tourist visa extension to stay in Ecuador for the entire 15 weeks. This process is done in Quito during the first three months in the country and TMA staff can assist with the process. The tourist visa extension has a cost ($250 in 2017) that is paid directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon application.


The TMA internship is structured around a Monday through Friday work week to ensure a healthy balance between working/learning time in the field and time off for much needed R&R. Most weeks tend to look something like this:
  • Monday: Mist-netting and bird banding
  • Tuesday: Mist-netting and bird banding
  • Wednesday: Independent projects/ misc. research, training reviews, or vegetation sampling
  • Thursday: Mist-netting and bird banding
  • Friday: Cavity-nesting ecology and conservation
  • Saturday/Sunday: Off days
Interns and staff work hand-in-hand during the week to conduct the various research projects active during your time in the Reserve. During the weekends, everyone is free to either stay in the Reserve or head out to one of the nearby towns where additional amenities can be found. Most staff and interns usually take this time to do laundry, talk with family back home, and hit the beach. At the start of each internship session, TMA staff will share information about the different options available for weekend travel.
Day-to-day life in the Jama-Coaque Reserve tends to follow the sun, where most interns and staff are up before or with the sun and in bed soon after it falls under the horizon. Typically most science interns and TMA staff are up between 5-7am and in bed by 9 pm, but scheduling depends on the specific project and daily tasks that are active at the time. For example, bird research duties frequently require extremely early wake-up times, but other work such as camera trapping or herpetology work allows for later wake-up times.
To ensure everyone in the Reserve enjoys their time while also successfully carrying out their work we encourage everyone to be self-driven, independent, courteous, flexible, and above all maintain a positive attitude. Working and living together with a group of individuals in close quarters has its challenges, and can have a fairly steep learning curve for those who haven’t experienced living in a group before, but it can also be incredibly rewarding for those who work hard to make it work. After 8 years of carrying out a successful internship program we are confident that every session will run smoothly and enjoyably with your teamwork and assistance. Regardless of which internship program you select, by the end of your internship session you are bound to end up with many new friends and potential collaborators.
Below is an example daily work schedule for our internship programs. As with any schedule, your daily schedule is likely to vary as new, exciting, and unforeseen opportunities present themselves.

4:30:      Wake up with fresh coffee, fruit, granola, and eggs while the owls, potoos, and nightjars dive into their last chorus of the evening.
5:00:      Head to your banding site while the bats and kinkajous head home to bed
6:00:      As the dawn chorus gets under way, open your mist-nets for a morning of banding motmots, antbirds, hummingbirds, tanagers and more!
11:00:    Pack your bag and begin the hike back to the Bamboo House for a well-earned lunch.
Noon:   Dig into some Manabí cuisine – regarded as the best in Ecuador – courtesy of our local chefs.
13:00:    Down-time – Slip into one of our many hammocks for a siesta, shower in a waterfall, or relax with a book from our extensive library.
14:00:    Wrap up your day with data entry, planning for tomorrow, and/or a group discussion on relevant literature to further your growth as a scientist in the tropics.

15:30:    Down-time
18:00:    Dinner!
19:00:    Help with a quick clean-up before taking the rest of the evening to hone your guitar skills, master Ecuador’s national card game, chat with friends, or search the river for snakes and tree frogs.
21:30:    Quiet hours begin to ensure everyone remains well-rested and healthy. Finish that book or hit the hay to prep for another day of life in the tropics.


The Jama-Coaque Research and Education Center is made up of two beautiful rustic bamboo structures that are frequently compared to the classic Swiss Family Robinson home. Built entirely by hand by our staff and local community members, the buildings offer a scenic and comfortable living experience in the middle of Ecuador’s Pacific Forest. We can accommodate up to 22 individuals in beds with mosquito nets and have plenty of hammocks around the house to relax in during the warm tropical afternoons. The main house is principally for our internship programs while the second building is maintained for visiting researchers and student groups.
Neighboring the main house we have an open-air shower with a private view of our food forest. Occasionally you can spot toucans or monkeys passing by the shower, but the design is such that you maintain privacy from the bipedal animals walking around. Also neighboring the two buildings is our brand new dry-compost toilet, which is maintained by TMA staff and interns.
In the main house we have a phone that is available 24 hours a day for work related calls and emergencies. The phone is powered by a solar panel and battery bank that ensures we always have enough power for the phone. We also have electricity from our hydro-electric turbine that provides enough electricity to recharge AA and AAA batteries as well as some tablets and small laptops. With that being said, we still recommend to all interns and visiting researchers that they bring plenty of back-up rechargeable batteries for their electronics.
In the main house we also have a large safe available for protecting valuables during your time in the Reserve. TMA staff are the only ones with keys to the safe and are happy to open and close the safe whenever you need access. We also are incredibly proud of our library. We have worked many years to assemble a great collection of fiction and non-fiction books. We highly recommend all interns bring new books for their time in the Reserve, and hopefully donate them to our library, but we’re confident that even without bringing their own books every intern will find something they enjoy. We also have a database of scientific literature available ranging from tropical ecology to ornithology to herpetology to permaculture and green architecture.
Completely surrounding the Bamboo House is the Jama-Coaque Reserve. The Reserve has a large network of hiking trails that make access to every corner of the Reserve possible. Although impossible to walk in a single day, many of our interns are able to walk each and every trail during their time in the Reserve. Hiking to the higher elevations of the Reserve does take a bit of physical fitness, but the reward for arriving at the top is an incredible view of the Reserve and the Pacific Ocean. Maps, handheld GPS units, and trail signs are available to interns during hiking and research activities. We also recommend that biological field research interns consider bringing their own GPS units and field gear since we do not have enough units for each and every intern. A packing list will be sent to all interns once accepted to the program.


While TMA is not currently in a position to offer college credit or scholarships to international students, our staff are happy to support students who wish to pursue independent credits and/or scholarships through their universities or elsewhere by writing letters and/or communicating with university staff and faculty. Most universities have Independent Research or Internship credits and/or travel/internship grants available to students wishing to partake in study abroad, internship, or research experiences. We highly suggest prospective applicants pursue these opportunities with their advisors or department chairs, and we are more than willing to help. Many previous students have successfully received credit for their time with TMA, often at lower costs than typical class credits.


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