By: Melissa Robell

Last summer, I completed an international internship in Florianópolis, Brazil for ten weeks.  I worked for Ekko Brazil Institute for the Otter Project. This experience allowed me to explore my passion for international wildlife and research while learning about a new culture. I was the first intern to participate from Oregon State University.

Ekko Brazil Institute is an OSCIP, which stands for Organizations of Civil Society of Public Interest, which is a special type of Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). One of the projects that Ekko Brazil Institute has is the Otter Project and is about 30 years old. The Otter Project has two centers: one in the Pantanal in Aquidauana and one in the Atlantic forest in Florianópolis. The main center for the Otter Project is in Florianópolis in the state of Santa Catarina.

The goal of the Otter Project is to help with the recovery, conservation and research of otters and other animals in the Mustelidae family. The project focuses mainly on Neotropical (Lontra longicaudis) and Giant Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis).

As an intern, I focused on: rehabilitation, research and outreach. There are many animals at the center including but not limited to eight Neotropical Otters and two monkeys. Every day we fed the animals twice, cleaned the enclosures, provided enrichment and monitored their health. I also helped with research by collecting data for the Parasite Project and Otter Intensity Project. For the Parasite Project, I helped analyze feces by identifying the parasites with a microscope. For the Otter Intensity Project, we checked places every week in Florianópolis for signs of otter activity. Otter activity signs included: feces, scratch marks, seeing an otter or footprint. For outreach, I talked to the public and school groups about the importance of otters and protecting the environment. Sometimes I even dressed up as an otter!

My favorite part of participating in this international internship was being able to gain hands on experience while earning credits for my degree. I also, had the opportunity to develop my own research project focusing on analyzing the behavior of Neotropical Otters at Peri Lake. I analyzed Neotropical Otter behavior by reviewing camera trap videos put of the Otter Shelters at Peri Lake. I enjoyed connecting to the people that I met in Brazil and learning about their culture. I visited Iguazu Falls twice, watched capoeira, learned Portuguese and participated in many other adventures all while challenging my own beliefs and building confidence in myself. I am thankful for all the people that I met because they were the nicest people I have ever met. I am honored that they treated me like family.

This international internship was through IE3 Global. IE3 Global is an organization that offers a variety of international experiences to students at Oregon State University and other universities including: research, studying abroad, international internships, exchange and faculty-led programs. IE3 Global currently offers internships in over fifty different countries with a variety of academic and professional fields for Oregon State University students.

I am thankful for the support of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the alumni-supported CAS Global Experiences Fund and E.R Jackman Internship Support.