About Us

The NUNA Project— Napo basin, the soul of biodiversity— started long before its official launch in 2018. The project was born with the scientists who integrate it today, with their enthusiasm to discover the natural wonders of Ecuador and with their awareness of how little we know of our most biodiverse areas. One of these is the Napo river basin: rich in ancestral cultures, ecosystems and species, but threatened by various human activities.


The project aims to explore and document the biological richness of the Napo River basin and the benefits it provides, share this knowledge with the people of Ecuador and safeguard it for future generations. In the first stage, the field work is focused on six representative sites of the basin: the Narupa reserve, Llanganates National Park (NP), Sumaco Napo-Galeras NP, Curaray, Antisanilla and Tiputini. The scientists who are part of the NUNA project are professors at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and experts in various groups of animals: birds, primates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, spiders and bats, as well as plants, geography and genetics.


The support and work of the local populations of the Napo basin is fundamental to fulfill NUNA’s objectives of discovering and protecting the incredible biodiversity of this region. Their participation and collaboration facilitate the expeditions in the provinces covered by the project: Napo, Pichincha, Pastaza, Sucumbíos and Orellana.


The NUNA Project is made possible thanks to the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (USA) and is executed by Universidad San Francisco de Quito, in a strategic alliance with the Wildlife Conservation Society (Ecuador).



Researcher and Professor of the Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and the Instituto BIOSFERA of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Her research is related to the ecology of fluvial ecosystems in both temperate and tropical zones. She has ventured into various topics of ecological research, from aquatic insect behavior, diversity of fluvial organisms, ecological processes (eg decomposition of organic matter), to issues of water quality in rivers, biomonitoring, citizen science and climate change. Currently, she has several projects related to the diversity of Andean-Amazonian river ecosystems, and is especially interested in understanding how diversity and ecological processes vary in rivers and streams along elevation gradients from the Andes to the Amazonian plain.

Andrea Encalada, PhD

Fishes, river ecology, aquatic invertebrates

She is a research professor at the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences COCIBA, she is part of the Laboratory on Terrestrial Zoology and curator of the vertebrates section with emphasis on herpetofauna, within the Zoology Museum ZSFQ COCIBA-USFQ. Her main researches are related to the taxonomy and systematics of Ecuadorian herpetofauna, she has described more than 15 species of amphibians and reptiles in collaboration with other researchers. In addition, she is also strongly interested in the biogeographic patterns of distribution of species with models that allow to identify conservation gaps in Ecuadorian fauna. Currently, she has several projects related to the description of species in areas of importance for conservation.

Carolina Reyes-Puig, MSc

Amphibians and reptiles

David Romo is co-director of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Director of the Ethnic Diversity Program at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. David has a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from the Central University of Ecuador. He subsequently obtained his PhD in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota, USA, under the auspices of a Fulbright Scholarship. From the direction of Tiputini Station, David has worked continuously as a member of the management committee of the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, scientific consultant of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative and part of the technical advisory group of the Yasuní National Park and Reserve. The book ``The Secrets of Yasuní: Advances in research at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, USFQ``, received the Enrique Garcés prize for the biological sciences of the Metropolitan Municipality of Quito in 2017, where David is one of the editors and author of several chapters.

David Romo

Environmental communication

Researcher and Professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, where he is Coordinator of the Biology career and director of the Laboratory on Terrestrial Zoology and Zoology Museum. He is an assistant researcher of the National Institute of Biodiversity of Ecuador INABIO, of Birds and Conservation / BirdLife Ecuador and of the Natural History Museum, London. He has worked for more than 20 years developing research, conservation and biodiversity management activities, as well as environmental education and scientific dissemination programs. His research is related to diversity, natural history, biogeography and conservation of terrestrial organisms and ecosystems. Currently, he has several projects related to the diversity of vertebrates of the tropical Andes and is especially interested in understanding different aspects of the urban ecology of the Andean flora and fauna.

Diego Cisneros, PhD

Amphibians and reptiles, ants and spiders

Evolutionary Biologist with emphasis on the study of neotropical birds. She obtained her doctorate at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. She is a professor and researcher at the Laboratory of Evolutionary Biology of the USFQ, and Associate Researcher at the instituto BIOSFERA-USFQ and the Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas. Her research includes the study of the evolutionary relationships of birds, their distributions, their diseases and their conservation. She is part of the team of researchers that recently described the Blue-throated Star (Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus). With more than 50 scientific publications, her research is very collaborative and integrates students, bird lovers, national and international researchers. She is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences of Ecuador and the Society of Neotropical Ornithology, as well as a Reviewer and Associate Editor of several national and international scientific journals.

Elisa Bonaccorso, PhD

Birds, environmental communication, general coordination

Professor and researcher of the Institute of Terrestrial Zoology (ZSFQ) and of the Instituto BIOSFERA of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. In addition, he is the curator of the Invertebrate collection maintained by the ZSFQ. His research focuses on insects and his projects include both biodiversity issues and ecological studies. In this sense, his research has included studies with several groups such as ants, dragonflies and mosquitoes. He is currently conducting studies on the ecological effects of ant species introduced in urban areas using citizen science models for data collection. Additionally, in collaboration with other members of the ZSFQ and within the framework of the NUNA project, he conducts a study to explore the biodiversity of ant communities along an altitudinal gradient in the Napo River basin. His studies with mosquitoes seek to explore the diversity of this group in unexplored areas of the Ecuadorian coast where they could be acting as vectors of zoonoses in populations of wild mammals. In addition, he also has an interest in the group of dragonflies in relation to studying their diversity and distribution patterns.

Giovani Ramón, MSc

Amphibians and reptiles, ants and spiders

Como resultado de más de 15 años trabajando en áreas tropicales y aprendiendo de primera mano acerca de sus complejidades ecológicas, socioeconómicas y relacionadas con la conservación, actualmente tengo una agenda de investigación bien definida, establecida y reconocida en regiones importantes como el icónico El Parque Nacional Galápagos y la megadiversa Reserva de la Biosfera Yasuní. Concentrándose en tres áreas principales: biogeografía y ecología de las plantas, invasiones biológicas, y conservación y manejo. También uso herramientas moleculares, plataformas tecnológicas (drones), sistemas de información geográfica y modelos espacialmente explícitos como complementos para obtener resultados de mayor impacto y eficiencia en estos campos.

Gonzalo Rivas-Torres, PhD

Geographical characterization and vegetation

He is a research professor at the Institute of Terrestrial Zoology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. His research has been and is focused on the scientific knowledge of mammals with particular attention in bats, of which he has conducted studies of distribution, abundance, taxonomy and systematics in different ecosystems of Ecuador, continuously developing new capture techniques. His experience is also related to the photographic monitoring of birds and terrestrial mammals through the use of camera traps.
He is currently doing research in Parasitology and Virology of bats in collaboration with the Microbiology Institute of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. His participation in the NUNA project in the bats subcomponent is done to know the current status and diversity of chiroptera in the Napo river basin.

Jaime Guerra, MSc

Bats and mice

Evolutionary biologist specialized in the diversity of South American amphibians. He obtained his PhD at the University of Kansas, United States. He is a professor and researcher at the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences of Universidad San Francisco de Quito and co-director of the Laboratory of Evolutionary Biology. His research areas are the evolution, taxonomy, ecology and conservation of amphibians, although he also leads studies in other organisms. He has more than 70 articles published in scientific journals and has described six genera of glass frogs, 45 new species of amphibians and 9 reptiles. He is part of the Amphibian Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN) and is an associate editor of the journal Avances en Ciencias y Ingenierías.

Juan Manuel Guayasamin, PhD

Amphibians and reptiles

Leo Zurita-Arthos is an ecologist and geographer. His research focuses on modelling and mapping ecosystem services on a regional and global level, through the use and development of relevant geotechnological techniques. While he centers his work on monitoring forest cover changes through remote sensing in Ecuador and the Amazon region, he also contributes to habitat mapping of key species for conservation in the Galápagos Islands. His prime interest is to apply geo-information systems and computerized mapping to generate solutions for ecosystem conservation problems.

Leo Zurita-Arthos

Geographical characterization

Vice Dean of the College of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Coordinator of the Biotechnology Career and Director of the Plant Biotechnology Laboratory of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina, UNC-Chapel-Hill, USA. At the moment, several of the research projects she is carrying out are related to understanding the genetic diversity and population structure of several key species of plants and animals of Ecuador. Other areas of interest are; In vitro plant culture, biosecurity and access to genetic resources. The research she is carrying out either in continental Ecuador or in the Galapagos Islands, has as main objective to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and its proper management.

María de Lourdes Torres, PhD

Fish genetics

Biologist at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala; MSc. Biology and Ph.D. Zoology of Texas Tech University, United States. Outstanding Woman Leader in Science, by West Texas Association for Women in Science. She has received scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation and Albert R. and Alma Shadle Fellowship, by the American Society of Mastozoologists. She has been awarded by the Academy of Sciences of Texas and the American Society of Mastozoology to do research in Latin America, and for having done the best master’s thesis by the Association of Naturalists of the Southwest of the United States of America. She has 36 scientific publications related to mammals of America, and the description of new species. Her research focuses mainly on rodent speciation processes.

Nicté Ordoñez, PhD

Bats and mice

He is a research professor at the College of Biological and Environmental Sciences and is part of the Microbiology Institute of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. His main interests are focused on the associations between plants or animals and their respective microorganisms, integrating functional macroecology with molecular and applied microbiology. Currently as a researcher in Ecuador, he is developing multidisciplinary research lines that are focused on the area of microbial ecology. In the NUNA project, he executes with other colleagues the ``geographical characterization and habitat`` in which various available techniques are used, such as the use of satellite images and advanced techniques like multispectral drones to draw conclusions on the welfare of pristine forests in the Napo Basin. For the accomplishment of the diverse geographic maps he collaborates with the team of the Institute of Geography of the USFQ. He is also pleased to be a strategic worldwide collaborator for the estimations of biodiversity and biomass of vegetation in the ecosystems of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

Pieter van ´t Hof, PhD

Geographical characterization and vegetation

Ecologist with 30 years of experience in research, teaching and project coordination. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is dean, professor and director of the Laboratory of Ecology and Behavior of the USFQ. Her areas of study are the ecology of tropical ecosystems and the ecology of behavior, with emphasis on primates. She has made multiple projects in ecology, behavior and environmental impact assessment whose results have been published in books and specialized journals. She has also developed environmental education programs and implementation of sustainable production activities in the Amazon and the Ecuadorian Coast. She is Chairman of the Primate Study Group of Ecuador and Co-Vicechair for the Tropical Andes of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group.

Stella de la Torre, PhD

Diversity and ecology of primates

Coordinator of the Department of Environmental Engineering of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Researcher of the USFQ Biosphere Institute, and Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering of the University of North Carolina, UNC-Chapel-Hill, USA. Her research areas include water quality and its impact on public health, treatment of domestic and industrial effluents, bioremediation, and sustainability. Currently, she is leading several research projects related to pollution of bodies of water in Ecuador in the Sierra, Amazon and Galápagos regions in order to improve the quality, management and accessibility of fresh water.

Valeria Ochoa Herrera, PhD

Fish, water quality, environmental pollution studies