My Volunteering Trip to Guyana

From my first breath, I have always loved being immersed in nature but it is only recently, after my first year of Environmental Biology at Queens University, that I’ve realized my raw affinity for the natural world. Moving forward, my life will be dedicated to understanding ecosystems in an attempt to protect the numerous invaluable resources they provide us.This is why I’ve decided to embark on a research expedition deep into the most remote areas of the Iwokrama Rainforest (located at the northern edge of the Amazon basin in Guyana, South America) guided by the conservation research organization, Operation-Wallacea (Opwall). On my trip, I will be assisting a research team dedicated to studying the impacts of selective logging on biodiversity (number of species present in a given area).

Unfortunately, as a student subsisting on financial aid and summer jobs, the cost of this trip is more than my family and I can afford. My goal for fundraising is to raise the entire cost of the trip, including lost pay from forgone work, and gear not provided by Opwall. Broken down, that includes the $4300 fee charged by Opwall, $2200 for flights and internal travel and accommodations within Guyana, $2600 in lost pay and $300 for gear. Below, you can read about me and my motivations for going on such a trip where you’ll see that a donation would not be one that is taken for granted.

About me:

As a student of Environmental Biology, the complex interactions that exist within ecosystems inspire me.  I yearn to gain the fullest possible understanding of every natural process; from the fungi that connect the roots of all plants, to the apex predators like the lion whose diet relies on many transfers of energy from sun to plant to prey. As a naturalist, my fondest memories involve being kilometers away from the nearest road, town or city, but as near as possible to remote forests where I feel a true sense of belonging. In an attempt to chase this feeling, I spend as much of my summers in the Canadian Rockies as possible, pondering the complexities and fragility of environments less traveled.

Naturally, I have chosen to pursue a career in ecological research where I can satisfy my desire to be surrounded by nature and my desire to fully understand it. This trip will provide me invaluable experience in my projected field and will serve as a stepping stone to all of my future environmental and biological endeavors.

While my career path wasn’t entirely decided until recently, growing up, pursuing post-secondary education was a goal that was always in my sights. I stayed dedicated to my studies through high school while balancing numerous athletics and a part time job—and I was well awarded for my efforts. At Highwood High school in High River, Alberta, I was named the valedictorian for the class of 2016, and the Academic Athlete of the year (an award given to students with exceptional marks while being highly involved in athletics) each year from grades 9-12. My ambition for educational success did not stop at High School. In my first year at Queens University, where I’m currently studying environmental biology, I achieved a GPA which placed me on the Dean’s list (honor roll) and I intend to maintain this status with each coming year.

In my spare time at Queens, my passion for the environment has driven me to found an anti-overconsumption campaign that will be coming to Queens campus in March 2018. If you would like to learn more about the campaign, you can visit our facebook page at 

I hope in reading this you can see that I am a person who is passionate about what I study and the career I wish to pursue. Additionally, that I am a goal setter who achieves the goals that I set. With that in mind, a donation towards my trip would be an investment in my future—as an environmentalist and a biologist—and would be forever remembered and appreciated.

About the expedition:
On the expedition, my first few days will be spent in a field course where I will learn about Neotropical ecology and conservation, reduced-impact logging, and become certified in every necessary area required to conduct field research in a South American rainforest. After a 12 hour journey into the heart of the jungle, for the following three weeks, I’ll be putting these skills to the test in the field at three terrestrial locations where we’ll be staying in hammocks! At the end, we’ll be surveying the Burro Burro and Essequibo river populations by boat! We’ll conduct surveys to sample populations of reptiles, large mammals, birds, beetles, and general forest structure to assess the impacts of selective logging on the Iwokrama Rainforest. These are skills that I will continue to use in my professional career after university as an ecological researcher.
A great video about the trip, made by Opwall, can be found here: 

About the organization:

“Opwall is a conservation research organization that is funded by, and relies on, teams of student volunteers who join expeditions and conduct field research.”


·      Over 330 Peer Reviewed Publications

·      More than 40 new vertebrate species discovered

·      Supported by more than 70 PhDs

·      Involved in the establishment of multiple protected areas

·      Supervised over 1000 undergraduate and master’s dissertations

·      Directs $millions every year to on-the-ground conservation and research

·      Alumni includes more than 20,000 volunteers from over 100 countries

Taken from: 

About the research:

This study will be crucial to determining whether or not the benefit of selective logging to local economies in Guyana is worth the potential costs of lost species, leading to decreased forest stability, thereby threatening a loss of ecosystem services that this incredibly productive land provides. Tropical rainforests such as these provide a myriad of services to humans; from carbon dioxide capturing and oxygen production keeping our air breathable, to antibiotics found in species that exist nowhere else on earth. This study is surely a step in the direction of sustainability, ensuring that we leave behind an earth as fruitful and beautiful as the one we were born into.

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Jordan Russell 
High River, AB
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