El Pahuma

Lalo Loor








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community development volunteer in EcuadorLend Ceiba a Hand -- Volunteer in Ecuador!

Broaden your horizons and gain valuable experience as you lend a hand to the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation.  As a Ceiba Ecuador volunteer you will put your knowledge and skills to work for habitat conservation, environmental education, community development, reforestation, and scientific research.  


See our NEW volunteer positions!

Why Volunteer for Ceiba?

  • Make a tangible contribution!  Ceiba is dedicated to conservation of tropical ecosystems, and works with local people to protect natural resources and develop sustainable ways of living.  Volunteers make tangible and lasting contributions to our projects, and are long remembered by the communities where they work.
  • Gain valuable experience! Being a volunteer for Ceiba is a great way to get hands-on experience: whether its building trails, leading school kids on a forest hike, planting native trees, or surveying bird diversity!
  • Live in a foreign country!  Our volunteers live and work in Ecuador, a vibrant South American country rich in culture, history and biodiversity.
  • Learn spanish!  You will be immersed in local communities and work directly with local people in rural areas, where few people speak English but all are friendly and patient with volunteers as they improve their Spanish.

Volunteer Sites

Volunteer house at Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve, EcuadorLalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve, Ecuador (Bosque Seco Lalo Loor)

Situated on Ecuador's gorgeous Pacific coast, the reserve protects one of the largest remaining tracts of deciduous tropical forest (dry forest) in the coastal Manabi province of Ecuador. Wake up to birdsong and the roar of howler monkeys in the bamboo volunteer house, made in the traditional style. At the end of a hard day's work, helping on trails, reforestation, or environmental education -- see volunteer positions -- enjoy the sunset from one of several nearby beaches, or hike up to the lookout to enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean. Click here for details on this amazing site.

El Pahuma nature centerEl Pahuma Orchid Reserve, Ecuador

Lush cloud forests adorn the steep slopes of this 1500 acre private reserve in the Andes mountains. It is protected via South America's second conservation easement with the Ceiba Foundation. Located only 1 hour from Quito, El Pahuma is the closest protected primary forest to the capital city, and relies on ecotourism for its protection and maintenance. The reserve boasts more than 200 species of orchids, 250 species of birds and three waterfalls. Volunteers assist in caring for orchids, maintaining trails, and environmental interpretation -- see volunteer positions for more detail, and visit the El Pahuma page!

Current Volunteer Positions

Volunteer at the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve, EcuadorLalo Loor Nature Center
Nature Center & Environmental Interpretation Volunteer  (Apply!)

Volunteers with creativity and a passion for nature are needed to run environmental interpretation programs in the new nature center. Responsibilities include one or more of the following depending on your interests:

  • implement environmental education programs at the reserve for local school groups and other visitors.
  • teach environmental themes in local schools with local teachers
  • create indoor and outdoor environmental exhibits and educational materials
  • develop educational mini-programs for tourists and school groups visiting the reserve.
  • greet and guide visitors who come to the nature center, together with the nature center staffperson.

Applicants for this position should be independent, creative and speak at least some spanish. Prior experience working with youth or in environmental education programs is valuable.

Native and Medicinal Plant Garden Volunteer

Enjoy gardening? A new educational garden of native and useful plants is being installed as part of the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve's new nature center. The gardens design highlights the importance of the reserve as a transition zone from dry forests to humid forests, with representative species of each. Responsibilities include:

  • prepare planting beds with soil amendments
  • find and transplant native plants into the garden
  • weed, water and maintain the general beauty of the garden
  • create and install plant labels

Applicants for this position should be independent and enjoy gardening. Spanish language ability is not required.

Reforestation Volunteer (Apply!)

Volunteers with a "green thumb" and an interest in conservation or reforestation are needed to work reforestating abandoned pastures with native tree species.

Responsibilities include:

  • collecting tree seeds and planting them in the nursery
  • working with local schools to establish their own nurseries.
  • planting and maintaining outplanted tree seedlings (irrigation, liberation, etc.).
  • installing and repairing fences around reforestation and regeneration sites
  • taking measurements for tree growth monitoring data collection
  • labelling trees

Applicants for this position should be able to take direction and fit into an ongoing project. Spanish fluency is not required. This position involves physically strenuous work in a hot tropical climate while living in rustic conditions. This position is well suited to someone interested in conducting independent agroforestry, reforestation and/or parks management research in conjunction with their volunteership.

Trail Construction Volunteer (Apply!)

Individuals are needed to plan and construct trails in a new tropical dry forest reserve on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. Responsibilities include:

  • clearing minimal vegetation necessary for trail construction using machete and/or chainsaw
  • using proper trail construction techniques to avoid erosion and destruction of flora
  • installing signs to guide visitors on trails
  • constructing and installing handrails, benches, fences and signage where necessary
  • measuring and mapping completed trails using compass, tape and measuring wheel

Applicants should be physically fit and able to conduct strenuous outdoor work in a hot tropical climate. Knowledge of using tools such as machetes and chainsaws and experience in construction helpful. Must be willing to learn sound trail construction practices and be practiced at using a compass to orient in remote areas. Spanish helpful but not required.

Volunteer at El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, Ecuador
volunteer nature interpretationNature Center Interpreter & Forest Guide   (Apply!)

A friendly, independent and outgoing individual with good organizational and people skills is needed to greet visitors and help with environmental interpretation in the beautiful Nature Center. Responsibilities include:

  • greeting and orienting visitors
  • guiding hikes
  • organizing and maintaining records
  • staffing the reception area
  • creating and maintaining educational displays and materials
  • assisting with daily operations of the nature center

Previous experience in nature reserves, parks or tourism a plus.  Some Spanish language or other foreign language ability preferred. 

Gardener, Orchid Botanical Garden  (Apply!)

Individuals with a green thumb, or who enjoy caring for plants outdoors, are needed to assist in the care of orchids and other plants, and in general maintenance of the Botanical Garden at the El Pahuma reserve. Responsibilities include:

  • care of garden trails and general garden maintenance
  • care of plants (watering, pruning, weeding)
  • creating tags and signage
  • maintaining hummingbird feeders
  • greeting and guiding visitors when needed

Prior experience in botanical gardens, greenhouses, nurseries or the like would be extremely useful.  Previous experience working in forest parks and reserves or in environmental education centers also would be helpful, but is not necessary.  Knowledge of spanish beneficial, but not required.

Trail Construction & Maintenance  (Apply!)

Individuals willing to conduct physical work and with basic carpentry skills are needed to assist with the construction and maintenance of trails and other visitor facilities. Responsibilities include:

  • maintaining existing trails (repairing stairs, benches and handrails, maintaining drainage channels, removing litter, replacing gravel, etc.)
  • clearing downed and encroaching vegetation
  • creating wooden signs and installing them
  • helping to building blinds and/or benches for overlooks and wildlife viewing
  • constructing a new trail in a steep area for access to the Shunguyacu waterfall
  • assisting in other routine maintenance or construction tasks when needed

Applicants should be strong and physically fit, willing to do heavy work on steep slopes in a variety of weather conditions. Applicants should possess an interest in conservation of tropical montane forests, have knowledge of or willingness to learn sound trail construction practices, and be at ease living in simple conditions in rural areas.  Previous experience working in parks and reserves, or in forestry or construction a plus. Knowledge of spanish helpful, but not required.

Volunteer Fees and Payment Policy

Please see our RATES page for current food and lodging costs for volunteers.

Food and lodging is provided at your volunteer site (see rates).  Payment for your stay must be received IN FULL prior to your arrival at your volunteer site.  Payment may be made online, through Network For Good, or by mail (see our address in the application section).

Ceiba will supply necessary equipment for completion of posted volunteer positions.  The exact materials to be supplied, and their use, will be elaborated upon once a volunteer has been approved and arrives on site.  In special cases, volunteers may be asked to provide necessary equipment; this may occur when volunteers are selected on the basis of a particular skill that relates to specific equipment, such as photographic equipment. Volunteers are responsible for supplying all unrelated and/or personal equipment (hiking boots, flashlight, etc.), and must cover costs of food, lodging and transportation during days off.

There is a processing fee due with your volunteer application of $25. See how to apply for more information.

volunteering in EcuadorImportant Information for Ceiba Volunteers

Thank you for your interest in volunteering your time and skills to the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation.  The quality work of our volunteers greatly contributes to the success of Ceiba projects.  Like ourselves, our volunteers are committed to conservation and helping others, and recognize that each one of us must do our part to protect the environment.  This document details the general guidelines and policies for volunteers participating in Ceiba projects abroad.  We appreciate you taking the time to familiarize yourself with the conditions and guidelines for becoming a Ceiba volunteer.

Code of Conduct

Volunteers are required to conduct themselves at all times in a professional manner while participating in Ceiba projects or working at Ceiba sites.  Participants are expected to work responsibly to complete the tasks assigned to them to the best of their abilities.  Volunteers are requested to cite Ceiba and any Ceiba project locations (e.g., reserves, etc.) in any publications relating to work conducted while working on Ceiba-approved projects.  Since providing continuity is one of the greatest challenges of any volunteer program, volunteers are requested to send an email to Ceiba at the end of their stay to summarize the work they did during their volunteership, and to provide comments, suggestions and copies of any materials created. In the case of extended projects, Ceiba may request that volunteers submit intermediate progress reports from the field (most often by email) . 

All participants are expected to provide Ceiba with copies of data, notes, maps, photos, recordings, theses or publications that result from your volunteership.  Participants are expected and encouraged to pass on their knowledge, and the information they have collected, to local people whenever possible, and to listen carefully to and incorporate the ideas and knowledge of local people.  If appropriate, you may organize workshops, seminars and other presentations, and should at all times strive to involve those with whom you routinely interact (landowners, local students, field assistants, et al.).  Finally, participants are encouraged to be prepared to be flexible, when situations arise that require adapting the initial description of your expected duties (after all, this is field work).

Minimum Duration

A one week minimum commitment is required, but you can extend their stay for up to 3 months or more with prior approval from Ceiba.  Please note that an extended visa is required to remain in Ecuador for more than 90 days.

Work Schedules

You will normally work 6-8 hours per day, 5 days per week, though not necessarily Monday through Friday. Specific work schedules will depend on the position for which the volunteer is applying, for example many positions at El Pahuma require volunteers to work on Saturday and Sunday when visitation is highest.

During your two days off each week, on-site staff can help you find many fun activities and interesting places to go near your volunteers site. Free time activities may include hikes to waterfalls, surfing or beachcombing, and checking out nearby towns and archeaological sites. Food, lodging and travel during days off is the full responsibility of the volunteer.


If you'd like to volunteer for Ceiba, you should have a strong interest in conservation and related human issues, and be willing to undertake difficult and sometimes tedious outdoor work in a tropical climate under sometimes rustic living conditions.  While university study is not required, certain knowledge areas or skills are preferred for some positions.  Spanish language ability is always a plus, but is not required for most positions. See current volunteer positions for specific requirements.

What to Bring

The list below is by no means exhaustive, but rather includes items that are essential to living and working at your volunteer site:

  • headlamp or flashlight
  • long-pants and long-sleeved lightweight shirts for field work (cotton is best)
  • hiking shoes or boots
  • rubber boots (easily purchased cheaply in Ecuador)
  • poncho or other raingear
  • swimsuit and towel
  • biodegradable soap
  • water bottle
  • pocket knife
  • insect repellant
  • sunscreen
  • personal first aid kit

Safety and Insurance

Ecuador is generally a safe country, but travel to and work in rural areas where medical facilities are limited carries certain inherent dangers. Volunteers are required to sign a waiver to release Ceiba from responsibility for any illness, accident, or injury incurred during their stay in Ecuador.  It is strongly recommended that volunteers carry valid insurance to cover medical emergencies during travel abroad. We also suggest you bring a personal first aid kit. Many of our positions involve field work that will require you to be in good physical condition.  Consult the specific position description to assess the physical demands of your position.  Volunteers should consult their local physician or travel health agency to obtain necessary or recommended vaccinations for travel and work abroad.

Arrival in Ecuador

Please contact Ceiba with the date that you plan to arrive in Ecuador and to make an appointment to visit our Quito office. You are required to make payment in full for your stay and sign the liability release at our office in Quito before you report to your field site. At this time you will also receive directions for traveling by bus to your site, and other orientation information. When you get to your field site, you will be greeted by a site staffmember and oriented to the project, introduced to people you will be working with, and assisted in planning your volunteer work. You'll receive more detailed travel and arrival information upon your acceptance as a Ceiba volunteer!

Termination & Cancellation Policy

Your volunteership ends automatically on the date specified on your application. If you'd like to stay longer, we are happy to extend your volunteership, but you will be asked to pay for additional days by the original ending date.  Ceiba reserves the right to dismiss any volunteer from a project site for any reason deemed sufficient by Ceiba staff.  Persons subject to dismissal will be notified in writing of the termination of their volunteership or the reasons for expulsion.  Expulsion of participants may result from cases such as:  1) abuse of position as a Ceiba volunteer, 2) misuse of facilities, 3) improper professional or personal conduct, 4) misrepresentation of Ceiba and its goals, 5) violation of Ceiba policies such as reserve management guidelines and 6) unlawful conduct.  To date, we have never had cause to dismiss a volunteer  We are confident in the qualifications and professionalism of all our volunteers and provide these guidelines so that volunteers are aware of our policy.

Should a volunteer decide to withdraw from the volunteer position prior to program completion (see invoice for dates), he or she is responsible for lodging and food costs through the end of the week in which the volunteer leaves the site (Sunday). This is because food is purchased in advance for the entire week. The amount refunded will be based upon the rate the volunteer paid for those days (which depends on the length of the stay; see Rates for more information).

A Message to Volunteers

Volunteering your services on an international conservation project can be an experience you will never forget.  While it is the opportunity to contribute to a worthwhile cause or to get to know a foreign country in greater depth that initially attracts potential volunteers, the challenges and rewards gained from working with local people to find creative solutions to complex problems are remembered most by volunteers after completing their assignments.  The experience of working in a foreign country, and making a meaningful contribution to issues important to you, can invigorate your confidence in your own abilities; likewise, participating in an ongoing conservation program can renew your faith in the capacity of people to work together to make a difference in their lives and their environment.  Ceiba deeply appreciates the value of the work contributed by our volunteers.  Many of our most important discoveries and project advancements have been made by our volunteers!  We hope that your position will challenge and stimulate you, and that you will count your own self-development among the benefits of your volunteership.  It is our sincere wish that your participation with Ceiba will have a meaningful and lasting effect not only on the project with which you will work, but also on yourself and the choices you will make in your future.

Volunteer FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions by volunteers and researchers can be found in the FAQ sheet.

Volunteer Application Instructions

Please read the above information carefully before applying to one of Ceiba's volunteer positions.

To apply, please complete the following steps:

  1. Fill out the online volunteer application form

  2. Email us with:
    • your resumé or a description of your skills, experience, and interests.
    • a clear photocopy of your passport (photo page)

  3. Pay the $25 application fee:
    • pay online through Network for Good*
    • or send US check to our Wisconsin office:

Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation
Volunteer Progran
301 S. Bedford Street, Suite 7A
Madison, WI 53703
Tel:  (608) 230-5550
Email Ceiba

*Network For Good is like paypal for nonprofits, but charges only 2% in fees. If you elect to pay online, please indicate the purpose of the payment, check the box to add the 2% service charge, and fill in all contact information.

Why do we charge a non-refundable application fee? It takes a fair amount of administrative work to manage the volunteer program and prepare for the arrival of a volunteer. Unfortunately, some volunteers that apply and are accepted cancel at the last minute or never show up, so these administrative costs are borne whether the volunteer joins us or not. Thus we charge for administration of volunteers up front.

You will be notified within 2-4 weeks of receipt of your application materials if your application has been approved.  We may request to interview you, particularly for positions that require specific skills.  Due to the volume of applicants, negative replies will not be mailed, however you may contact Ceiba at your convenience to check on the status of your application.

Ceiba's Mission and Goals

The Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation is a non profit organization dedicated to the preservation and rehabilitation of tropical habitats, and the conservation of their plants and animals.  Our mission is to sponsor scientific research, provide public education and support community-based actions that promote the conservation of ecosystem integrity and biodiversity.  Ceiba's specific objectives are:  1) support community-based wildlife and habitat conservation efforts in tropical South and Central America, 2) implement resource management practices that maintain ecosystem integrity and biodiversity, 3) teach applied ecology and management principles in field courses, seminars and technical training workshops, 4) monitor the impacts of human land uses on ecosystems, habitats and species diversity, and 5) facilitate communication between conservation organizations, farmers, scientists, and resource managers.


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