Puerto Rico's Rainforest

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Puerto Rico’s Rainforest

How can we profit from the world’s forests without destroying them? This beautiful Caribbean island may hold answers.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Each year people cut down between three and six billion trees in the world’s forests, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Trees alone can’t show a forest’s health—we need to know how what we do to the trees shapes the animal populations that call the forest home.

If we want to keep profiting from forests, we must understand their ecology—in other words, how all of the organisms in them coexist. Ecological research can lead to smart management plans that will help us conserve the forests for the future as we continue to use the trees and the cleared land. In the case of Puerto Rico, ecologically sound management plans can also bolster the island’s economy: the forests’ diverse species are a big draw for tourists.

As an Earthwatcher, you’ll join forces with Las Casas de la Selva, which manages and researches a beautiful section of secondary-growth rainforest. The area around Las Casas’ base is particularly well suited for studying forest management because humans have dramatically shaped it. They’ve cleared much of it for agriculture and grazing, and because a lot of the land slopes steeply, it erodes severely once the plants are gone. Unless farmers heavily apply chemical fertilizers to this nutrient-depleted land, they get poor crops.

Lizard on rainforest leaf

Earthwatch volunteers will be trained in a variety of tasks, which may include counting lizards or frogs.

Already, the data collected with the help of Earthwatchers have led us to implement new land-management plans and figure out how to direct our future research studies. The Las Casas project, with the contribution volunteers like you have made, has become a living demonstration of new models for forest management in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

About the research area

Las Casas de la Selva, Patillas, Puerto Rico, Central America & The Caribbean

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Thrity “3t”
President, Tropic Ventures Education and Research Foundation

ABOUT Thrity “3t” Vakil

Thrity “3t” Vakil, president of Tropic Ventures Education and Research Foundation, has worked in this rainforest for over a decade. Along with managing volunteer youth groups and all Earthwatch expeditions, she has a hand in every aspect of forestry, including tree and vine identification and research; selection of trees for harvest; logging and sawing operations; and marketing and selling of sustainably grown and harvested wood, wood products, and nonwood forest products. Born in Kenya, she has always been an avid explorer of nature, and her travels have taken her all over the world. She is also an accomplished painter, web and graphic designer, documentarian, and photographer.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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