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  • Independent Research Intern: Design, Run & Publish Your Own Research - Conservation, Bio, Botany, Eco, etc

    • Employer: Fundacion Galo Plaza Lasso
      Location: Zuleta, Ecuador
      Country: Ecuador
      Last Date to Apply: No value
      Open Until Filled: Yes


    Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso (FGPL) hosts and provides faculty mentors to students who are in their final years of undergraduate studies, in a masters program, doing postgraduate work or somewhere in between. We are looking for people with energy and initiative to conduct independent research on topics of their choice with the goal of creating publishable work. Due to the multidisciplinary approach of FGLP's work it makes the perfect site for people with multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary interests.  


    Research Opportunities

    Nestled in Ecuador’s avenue of volcanoes we are surrounded by the understudied Andean Páramo and Andean Forest. As these two ecosystems still require a great deal of exploration, FGPL is interested in promoting research and investigation of the local ecosystems. The Andean Páramo consists of island like ecosystems dotting the tops of the Andes. In this way it like the Galapagos Islands, in that each páramo can have its own species. We aim to catalogue wildlife in our area, to study and understand the roles of other species living in the páramo and Andean forest, and how the ecosystems, flora, fauna, and humans impact each other. There is particular interest in studying two critically endangered species - the Andean marsupial tree frog and the spectacled bear (the spectacled bear is the only surviving bear native to South America). There is also great interest in our watershed.

    Here are a few potential areas of research:

    * Cataloging frog species

    * Cataloging any set of species

    * Studying species of flora
    * Looking at the forest management and health

    * Studying any species (frogs, insects, hummingbirds, bats)

    * Studying the endangered Andean marsupial tree frog

    * Studying the endangered spectacled bear

    * Studying Zuleta's impact on the watershed and its importance to the surrounding cities

    There is more to be studied and learned than we could ever list. We are excited to hear your ideas. While developing an idea for your research proposal please feel free to contact us (info@haciendazuleta.com) and discuss your interests and potential research projects.


    Project Structure  

    Interns will be supported in their day-to-day research by two on-site biologists and mentored by a faculty member from either Universidad San Francisco de Quito (www.usfq.edu.ec/) or Universidad Católica (www.puce.edu.ec). Interns can meet with their faculty mentor via video conferencing or they can take the three-hour bus trip to Quito.  

    Interns will be responsible for designing their own research and work schedule. It is estimated that most projects will last between three and six months, but we expect each project to have its own time frame.  

    By the end of the time with us interns will be expected to have produced a poster presentation and a paper/article. Interns will be asked to leave a copy of their work with FGPL so guests of the hacienda can review their work and so future interns can build on what has already been discovered. Interns will also deliver at least one presentation on their findings at a venue appropriate to their project.

    Management skills can be acquired if interns decide to enlist the help of local students or community members.

    You are welcome to help with the condor program and may be asked to participate in community service, such as, helping the after-school program put on special events. That being said, your project comes first and we will protect the schedule you create.



    Applicants must be studying a subject related to their project at the university level. Interns need to be reasonably fit and able to walk for 45 minutes or longer depending on their research. The hacienda is at an altitude of around 2,900m (9,500ft) and the highest observation point is around 3,780m (12,401ft). Be mindful that the elevation makes physical activity harder for several weeks while your body adjusts. We are looking for practical, adaptable, and enthusiastic people who want to learn and have a good time.  


    Who We Are

    FGPL was established in 1995 to continue the legacy of former President Galo Plaza Lasso. We are a nonprofit which sponsors projects benefiting the village of Zuleta and communities in the surrounding area. FGPL implements programs and activities improving the quality of life for the local communities through education, socio-economic development, and conservation.  

    Zuleta is a village of about 1,550 people and the majority of the residents are indigenous. Zuleta was once very remote and for generations Hacienda Zuleta employed the majority of the resident, but the era of the haciendas has ended and Hacienda Zuleta is no exception. While Hacienda Zuleta is still a working hacienda and a high-end hotel, it can only support 60 families.

    Hacienda Zuleta and FGPL are trying to help the community find other forms of supporting themselves. Within Hacienda Zuleta FGLP runs a store to sell community made goods including: leather, alpaca wool clothing, and hand embroidered items. FGPL also has a store in Quito and is starting a website to provide the women a space to sell their embroidery. The FGLP's main approach to economic development has been through supporting the local female art of embroidery. Not only does a focus on embroidery help empower the women, while preserving their culture, it also helps ensure the money is spent on the children, as the women spend most of their income on the education of their kids.

    We believe that education is a right and a life-long endeavor and therefore started a public library in town. The library offers a selection of books for the old and young alike and hosts after-school programs, a tutoring program, and a summer camp for the children. FGLP supports the continuing education of the adult community by providing requested workshops.

    FGPL is a part of the Grupo Nacional de Trabajo del Cóndor Andino, the government licensed reproduction and liberation organization for the Andean Condor in Ecuador. Condors are critically endangered in Ecuador with only 50 wild condors left and almost 20 of them live in Zuleta. Therefore, the Conservation of the Andean Condor in Ecuador project was started in 2009 in collaboration with FGLP, Hacienda Zuleta, and the Zuleta community.    

    FGPL & Hacienda Zuleta operate the project Condor Huasi (Kichwa for Condor House) on land belonging to the hacienda. Zuleta's seven captive condors and four condors in the Quito Zoo are part of a condor breeding program with the goal of returning the chicks to the wild. The project aims to understand more about wild and captive condors, identifying factors impacting their behavior, breeding, survival, and the actions needed to save the species from extinction.



    FGPL is located within Hacienda Zuleta (http://zuleta.com/), in Zuleta, Ecuador about a 2 hour drive from Quito. The area is known for dairy farming and the detailed embroidery used in traditional attire and other textiles. Hacienda Zuleta itself is renowned for being the home of former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso, for whom FGPL is named. More recently the hacienda is known for its cheeses and luxury tourism but it is also a working colonial farm.  

    While Zuleta is only a few minutes away from the equator, it is very high up in the Andes and thus chilly and sunny. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with the weather in the area before packing, as beachwear will leave a visitor quite uncomfortable (http://www.accuweather.com/en/ec/hacienda-zuleta/1239703/weather-forecast/1239703).   


    Accommodation & Meals    

    Interns will be provided with basic accommodations in our volunteer house. The house is dorm style with each intern typically having their own room. There is a living room, kitchen, two (male and female) bathrooms.

    Upon request and with availability interns can be placed in a homestay with families who have a long history of working with the hacienda. All accommodations have electricity, hot water, and are heated by fireplaces or space heaters.

    Whether in the homestay or in the volunteer house, three meals a day will be provided. In the volunteer house interns will prepare their own breakfasts. They then have a choice of eating lunch or dinner at the hacienda and cooking the other meal in the house. We are able to cater to vegetarians (let us know when you apply), but we cannot accommodate vegans.     

    On your days off you may take a sack lunch with you if you choose to explore nearby cities. When interns travel they are responsible for paying for their own meals and accommodations.   

    Intern Contribution  

    The Independent Research Intern position for 2019 requires a contribution of $13.25/day or $20/day for a homestay. This covers:  

    - Housing

    - Three meals a day   

    - Training and supervision by project staff  

    - Mentoring by a university faculty member

    - Transport from the Ibarra Bus Terminal to the hacienda on your first day

    - Letter of reference on satisfactory completion of the placement  

    Not included:  

    - Travel to and from your home country

    - Travel to Ibarra on your 1st day or return travel

    - Passport and visa costs (you may need a visa)

    - Insurance – you must have travel medical insurance which covers you for the activities you will be carrying out during the project

    - Medical expenses - you must be vaccinated against tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis, and yellow fever (at our elevation there is no yellow fever)

    - Personal expenses such as your cell phone plan, snacks, souvenirs & excursions  

    - Research equipment FGPL does not already own



    Independent Research Intern positions are available year round on a rolling admissions basis. Depending on the proposed project, interns typically stay between three and six months.  

    When applying it is important to rank your three preferred start dates.  Please, space your start dates out by several weeks to a month. During the application process we will let you know the availability we have closest to your desired start dates.  


    Do I need a visa?
    If you are staying for longer than 90 days you will need a visa. Travelers from most countries are now issued a free 90-day tourist visa on arrival once every 12 months. You can volunteer or intern, without pay, on this visa. If you plan to stay longer you should look into either the Visa 12: X Turismo – Visitante temporal or review the list of other visas (https://www.cancilleria.gob.ec/requisitos-para-solicitud-de-visas-no-inmigrantes-e-inmigranes/) to find the one that matches your plans. It is easiest to call the Ecuadorian embassy in your country if you have any visa questions.

    Do I need to speak Spanish?  

    It is not necessary to speak fluent Spanish for this opportunity, but if the project proposed requires interacting with the local community you will need to be able to speak Spanish as a translator cannot be provided.  The project supervisor speaks English, as do several of the Hacienda staff, so you will be able to communicate within the Hacienda without Spanish. However, you will get much more out of the experience if you are able to communicate with the local people, and we recommend that you at least attempt to learn some basic Spanish before arrival and while you are here. There are many Spanish schools in Quito (widely regarded as one of the best places to learn Spanish) with 1-to-1 classes at very reasonable prices.

    Why should I have to pay to intern?  

    FGPL is a nonprofit organization with a limited budget. We do not have the funds to cover the costs of your housing and food. We charge less than other programs as this is not a fundraiser for us, but an opportunity to learn as much as we can and help improve our community.

    Can I intern in a group from my university?  

    Yes, but all members of the group need to have their applications accepted on their own merit and pay the intern contribution. In your individual cover letters please indicate that you are applying as a group and list the names of the other group members. University groups may intern with or without a professor from their university. Professors accompanying groups will also need to pay the intern contribution. Groups wishing to intern together should apply with plenty of time. We usually accept no more than 4 people at a time.  

    Can I intern before I start my degree or during the holidays?

    You need to have studied a subject related to your project at university level for at least 2 years. Intern opportunities are available all year round, though holiday times tend to book up well in advance.  

    How to apply  

    The application process happens in three steps.

    Step 1 - Email info@haciendazuleta.com with your CV and a cover letter explaining why you wish to be a intern, why you think you would make an excellent intern, and what you expect to gain from the experience. Please, note any relevant volunteer or work experience and your level of Spanish. Most importantly please provide a one paragraph abstract describing your research proposal. Please, place your cover letter and abstract on the header provided for you below.  After the we review your CV, cover letter, and abstract you will be notified if we would like you to proceed to step 2.

    Step 2 -  You will be asked to submit your research proposal which will first be reviewed by the on-site biologists to assess the academic and research abilities of the intern and the feasibility of the proposal. If, it meets the standards of the FGPL we will move to Step 3.  

    Step 3 - During step 3 the we will match you with a faculty mentor. Once a professor agrees to mentor you, you will be officially accepted into the program.  

    Accepted interns will need to reserve their spot by either paying a non-refundable deposit of $150 (to be applied to their contribution) or send us a copy of their purchased airline tickets. Without the tickets or the deposit we will not be able to hold your spot.


    Websites & Videos

    For more information about Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso and Hacienda Zuleta please check out these links:

    Our website - http://fundaciongaloplazalasso.org/en/

    Our facebook - ww.facebook.com/pages/Fundaci%C3%B3n-Galo-Plaza-Lasso/469766279719606

    The hacienda who houses us - http://zuleta.com


    Zuleta (with subtitles) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSlBExobEqo

    Condors (8:40) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CPHAhsXWSA

    The Community (1:30) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjbo4kZyIIk

    The History of Galo Plaza Lasso, Hacienda Zuleta, Embroidery, & Archaeology - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBoGaYUCVxE

    Embroidery - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwhEFOuQl6c



    Fundacion Galo Plaza Lasso  

    Application - Independent Research Intern


    Date of Birth:  

    Major/Academic Focus:

    Highest level of education to be completed before you arrive:  

    Describe your level of Spanish:  

    Length of desired stay:  

    Please rank your three desired start dates. If, you can only come on one or two dates only list those dates.

    #1-                                         #2 -                                       #3 -

    Dietary Needs:

    Where you found this internship:  






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