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Traveling up the far reaches of the world's mightiest river offers superb views of forests stretching to the horizon, magnificent sunsets, and (to me, at least) the most delicious fresh air on the planet. But the real fun begins as we explore the details of this fascinating ecosystem and get to know the people who call this water-woven land home.
How does one adequately convey the kaleidoscopic variation on every theme of living thing found in this richest of tropical jungles? We'll see dozens of parrot species and other birdlife that defies imagination: tanagers, toucans, honey creepers, flycatchers, herons, caciques, barbets, egrets, jacamars, and tinamo, to name just a few (literally!). Far greater in variety than the birds are the fish – we'll even try our hand at catching piranhas! Our time spent together will investigate the engines that power this system – the myriad plants and invertebrates upon which all other life depends.
Although I've traveled the river many times as a Smithsonian Study Leader, my 'day job' is as a biologist in the Amazonia department of the National Zoo. There, we study and care for a few hundred Amazonian species of plants and animals – yet our collection is a fraction of what we see on any given day during the Amazon Voyage.
Conservation Biologist Francisco Dallmeier has been a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Institution for the past 26 years. Dr. Dallmeier has developed many training programs in biodiversity research, monitoring, and conservation and has taught several hundred university students and professionals. He represents the Smithsonian Institution on advisory boards for both conservation and governmental organizations and has worked with UNESCO, Environment Canada, and regional partners to develop forest biodiversity monitoring programs and capacity building for sites around the world. Together with Environment Canada in 2008, he led the International Symposium on Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Americas.
Dr. Dallmeier is the director of Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability (CCES), part of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). CCES provides research and conservation approaches for sustainable development and world-class professional and academic programs for conservation practitioners.
For nearly 15 years Francisco has been instrumental in forging strategic partnerships between the Smithsonian and the energy industry so that biodiversity conservation is integrated into mainstream development. Other projects include working with NZP colleagues to formalize a multi-million dollar partnership with the World Bank to implement the Global Tiger Initiative/Conservation and Development Network. This long-term project will integrate biodiversity conservation into sustainable development in 13 tiger range countries and provide resources for trainers, practitioners, and regional leaders. Dr. Dallmeier also led and coordinated the successful nomination of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal as a core site for the Mid-Atlantic National Science Foundation/ National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Francisco received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from Colorado State University.
A popular and respected naturalist, Patty Hostiuck is well-versed in tropical as well as polar ecosystems. Patty leads trips to the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Honduras, the Caribbean, and Baja California, as well as Australia, and Borneo. Patty’s high-latitude work has taken her to every northerly nation from the Canadian High Arctic, Greenland, and Iceland to Svalbard, Norway, and Russia. Over 20 trips to Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego, and Patagonia make for a nearly pole-to-pole career!
Patty has led over 50 trips with Smithsonian Journeys. Fun to travel with, she has shared her expertise in mammals, birds, insects, and plants aboard ships and on the trail with thousands of fellow explorers in dozens of remote areas.