The Inia Program

Exploration in the Wooding laboratory extends beyond our home in Merced. We have ongoing projects in one of the most diverse and spectacular regions of the world -- the Amazon rainforest. In partnership with the Peruvian humanitarian organization Project Amazonas, we direct the Inia program, a project

The Inia Program is named for the Amazon river dolphin, Inia geoffrensis, which inspires with its ability to navigate the river's turbulent waters. Learn more from National Geographic here.

integrating scientific training, investigation, and medical outreach. The program has three pillars: education, research, and service.

Education

The most compelling and effective way to learn about third world health challenges and solutions is through immersive experience, yet few international opportunities are available to students. We have joined with Project Amazonas to offer an intensive research workshop on location in Perú titled Health on a Rainforest Frontier. Based in the bustling Amazon port of Iquitos, Health on a Rainforest Frontier takes on the complex health threats faced by populations living at the interface between city and forest. The course explores balances between traditional and western medicine, emerging access to health care, and other keys to wellbeing at the jungle’s edge. After an experiential introduction to the city and week long investigation of urban issues, we undertake a two week journey aboard Project

Emilio Quezada (UCM '17) consults a psychiatrist at the Loreto Regional Hospital.

Amazonas' medical service vessel, La Esperanza, tracing remote tributaries to visit isolated mestizo and indigenous communities. Along the way, students gain insight into the lives of Amazonian peoples, the challenges they face, and their hopes for the future.

- Learn about our partner, Project Amazonas, here.

- Watch videos of past sessions here.

- Want to take the course or offer it to your own group? Contact Dr. Wooding

  at swooding@ucmerced.edu.

Research

Amazonia was first occupied by humans 10,000 years ago. Since then, its inhabitants have both shaped the environment and been shaped by it. The Inia Project promotes research investigating both sides of this relationship. Amazonian research in the Wooding laboratory focuses on the domestication of yuca (Manihot esculenta), a key tropical food crop, which we are studying in analyses of physical and genetic diversity. Inia also supports research by junior investigators. One of our undergraduate colleagues, Pedro García (UCM '19), received a grant from The Explorers Club to travel with Project Amazonas and study attitudes toward empirical and traditional medicine. Another, Maria Rivas Reyes (UCM '19), who traveled to the Amazon on a medical service expedition, presented her 

Dr. Wooding conducts research on Project Amazonas' river boat, La Esperanza.

findings on women's health to the 2019 meeting of the American Public Health Association. We are always eager to meet promising young collaborators.

- Are you a student with a research idea?  Contact us here.

Service

College students make outstanding contributions to international health initiatives: they are independent, enthusiastic, and have freshly honed skills. Our program's partner, Project Amazonas, seeks assistants to support health education outreach projects in rural Amazonian communities. They are particularly in need of Spanish-English translators, who are essential for accurately diagnosing and treating patients. The Inia program matches undergraduate volunteers with

Maria Rivas Reyes (UCM '19) interviews a patient.

- Read a news article about three UC Merced students' clinical service trip here.

- Want to volunteer? Contact Dr. Stephen Wooding (swooding@ucmerced.edu)

  or Dr. Devon Graham (devon@projectamazonas.org).

Project Amazonas' clinics and educational programs, promoting health care in needy communities and offering real world experience to the next generation of providers and researchers. Scholarships are available.