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Pedro Oliva – The Waterfalls project

The Waterfalls project is all about understanding the role of waterfalls in their ecosystems. Water data is collected with scientific equipment, and uniquely a kayak is used as a data collection platform while Pedro Oliva, extreme white water kayak adventurer, acts as a conduit between science and society.

Pedro and his team of scientists from several different universities and research institutes worked out ways to engage with the villagers along the 1,100 km (684 miles) stretch of river that Pedro paddled. Schools along the way held thematic days to raise awareness of the importance of the river, the waterfalls and the water that continually flows past them. The school children spent excited days waiting for Pedro to reach their village and come and see their work.

The study and its results are now being presented in a permanent exhibition at a museum in São Paulo for more children to share the adventure and learn from it. Societal factors have a big influence on the health of the river and ecosystem services. Over time, a gap has emerged between scientific knowledge and societies' perceptions of ecosystem services. A major part of Pedro's kayak expedition was to gather people together to exchange scientific knowledge and local perceptions, between the scientists and the communities.

PEDRO SHARED HIS unique perspective of the Paraiba do Sul catchment, shaped through the time he spent on the river. The scientists shared their preliminary evaluation of the local ecohydrological processes based on the data collected. The communities shared their local knowledge and perceptions, and were inspired to reflect upon how their activities impact the river and the communities downstream. The strategy to engage with the societies along the river included social cartography, collating local community histories related to water resources, presentations to high school students, and kayaking workshops for kids to teach them basic skills and encourage a healthy lifestyle through sport.

“My passion is to work with projects related to environment, sport, science and society. During 2015 I paddled more than 1,100 km along one of Brazil’s biggest rivers to study the waterfalls’ function in the ecosystem.”



water samples.

sampling points.

samples with multi parameter probes, totaling


temperature and humidity records.

news segments on national TV, reaching more than 8 million viewers.

schools along the river joined the project with environmental studies and thematic days.



BORN: 1978, São Paolo, Brazil
FAMILY: 2 children
LIVES TODAY: São Paolo, Brazil
ACHIEVEMENTS: Set the world record for highest kayak waterfall plunge in 2009 at Salto Belo, Mato Grosso, from a height of 39 m (127 ft).

“I’m proud of having traveled across six continents and jumping from 40 meter high waterfalls, but most of all I’m proud of being a father to my 2 children.”


Athletes in this article

Pedro Oliva

Pedro Oliva is the Bear Gryll of Brazil and lives a life full of adventures. But he also wants to use his knowledge from being an extreme athlete and jumping down a 40 meter high waterfall to studying the function of waterfalls in the eco system.


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Pedro Oliva

Whitewater kayak adventurer


“My true inspirations are nature and people that push boundaries and think beyond the norms.“