Liz Todd '19

Internship with Instituto de Protẻ«ão Ambiental do Amazonas (IPAAM), Summer 2017

This past summer I spent just over 4 months working and living in Manaus, Brazil. Manaus is located in the middle of the Amazon jungle on the bank of the Rio Negro, northwest of the Econtro das Águas, or the meeting of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões. I loved living in Manaus. Although it is still a developing city, it is teeming with vibrant Amazonian/Brazilian culture and life. I quickly fell in love with the food, the people and the daily city life but my favorite aspect of living in Manaus was its proximity to the jungle, the rivers and the northern waterfall region of Brazil.

When I wasn't exploring the region that I was living in, I was working for the Instituto de Proteção Ambiental do Amazonas (IPAAM), an agency within the government of the Brazilian state of Amazonas that is responsible for the environmental regulation of the Amazon jungle and the interior of the state. I had the opportunity to work in the Geoprocessing Department, completing projects with ArcGIS, map making, deforestation and environmental analysis/licensing. I was also presented with opportunities to travel around the state doing fieldwork for my job. As a result I was able to safely see remote regions and cultivate a greater understanding of the economic and environmental challenges that are facing the people who live in the heart of the Jungle. Getting to see towns like Barcelos and Anori firsthand, meeting with people who were of importance and seeing the direct impact of corruption, bureaucracy and the actions of officials who put their own personal benefits before those of the people living and working in the Amazon was a stark eye opener.

As a student attending Washington & Lee I always considered myself to be very lucky but I didn't fully understand the immensity of my privilege until I moved to Brazil. To say that my work and time in Brazil had a profound experience on me is an understatement. It has completely changed the way I view environmental, economic and humanitarian problems. After experiencing the things I did and living in a semi-unstable region of a developing nation with a corrupt government that doesn't take into account the needs of its middle/lower class, the needs of the environment and the imposing Amazon Jungle, the trajectory of my academic career have shifted completely.

Liz's experience was not an official internship but rather it occurred through connections she made and leads she followed up. If you find a organization, job, project you are interested in, be in touch with people involved!
For other opportunities, view the Geology Department's Summer Research and Internships page