Frequently Asked Questions
What is Earthwatch?
Is Earthwatch a for-profit company?
How is Earthwatch funded?
Why is Earthwatch raising money?
Why should I support Earthwatch?
What is an Earthwatch expedition?
Why join an Expedition?
What is different about an Earthwatch expedition?
Who leads Earthwatch expeditions?
What will I be doing on an expedition?
How will Earthwatch prepare me for my expedition?
How many volunteers will be on my expedition and what are they like?
Do most volunteers travel alone?
How fit do I need to be?
Can you accommodate medical conditions?
Can you provide for special diets?
How luxurious will my expedition be?
Will I have any recreational time?
How does Earthwatch look after my safety?
Will I have an opportunity to feedback on my experience?
Why does Earthwatch fund field research?
How does Earthwatch choose its research projects and scientists?
What happens with the research data volunteers collect?
What are the research sites like?
How does Earthwatch work with local and indigenous communities?
Do volunteers need any special skills to undertake research?
What is a contribution, and what is meant by 'minimum' contribution?
How is my contribution spent?
What other expenses will I have to pay?
How much does an expedition cost?
Why are some expeditions more expensive than others?
How can Earthwatch afford to offer reduced contributions on certain expeditions?
If I am a UK tax payer, can I gift aid my contribution or claim a tax deduction at the higher tax rate?
Expedition Logistics – Before You Go
How do I choose an expedition?
How do I book?
How do I pay?
When do I pay my balance?
What are the passport and VISA requirements?
What vaccinations do I need?
What about travel insurance?
Who arranges my travel?
How will I get to the research locations?
What do I need to bring?
What is the duration of an expedition?
Can I stay after or leave early?
Is my contribution refundable?
Can I transfer from one expedition to another?
What happens if Earthwatch or I cancel my expedition?
Can Earthwatch refuse my participation?
Can Earthwatch dismiss me from an expedition once in the field?
Why do I need to speak fluent English?
Why can't I book last minute?
Why must I complete a Health Declaration?
Why must my forms be submitted 90 days before my expedition begins?
Is there an age limit?
What is Earthwatch doing to reduce the impacts on climate change of air travel by volunteers?
Does Earthwatch have a responsible travel or ethical tourism policy?
WHAT IS EARTHWATCH?
Earthwatch is an international environmental charity that works to promote the understanding and action necessary to achieve a sustainable environment. We pursue this mission in a truly unique way - by engaging people in scientific field research around the world. We use the research we generate to inform policy and management of the environment. We engage people in that research to create understanding of environmental problems to inspire positive environmental action at home, at work, and in the community.
IS EARTHWATCH A FOR-PROFIT COMPANY?
No. Earthwatch is a charity, but because our expeditions are the most visible face of the organisation, we are sometimes misconstrued as an adventure travel, ecotourism, or 'voluntourism' company. Not only are we not-for-profit, our expeditions offer experiences that are very different from those of for-profit tour operators because our volunteers get meaningfully involved with real scientific fieldwork.
HOW IS EARTHWATCH FUNDED?
Many people believe that all of Earthwatch's work is funded by the contributions of volunteers who pay to go on Earthwatch expeditions. While this is not the case, if you are of this opinion, you are not alone. The fact is that, in 2011, contributions from expedition volunteers funded just 32 per cent of the costs of Earthwatch's international activities. The majority of costs - 57 per cent - were funded by companies, charitable trusts and foundations, international institutions, and government agencies. Just eight per cent of activities were funded by individual memberships and donations. The remaining three per cent came from other sources.
WHY IS EARTHWATCH RAISING MONEY?
Like all charities, Earthwatch must fundraise to pay for its core operating costs, which, as explained above, are only partly funded by the contributions of expedition volunteers.
WHY SHOULD I SUPPORT EARTHWATCH?
While some environmental problems are well understood, many are not. Only by understanding the science behind an environmental issue can we know how to solve it. Yet, research alone does not solve environmental problems; we need a global community of informed, impassioned environmental citizens.
Internationally since 1971, more than 90,000 people have collectively given tens of millions of US dollars and nearly 11 million hours of their time (equal to more than 5,000 years) to help Earthwatch understand the scientific basis of environmental problems. There are many environmental research organisations, environmental education organisations, and environmental volunteering organisations, but Earthwatch is a hybrid of all three. Ours is a very powerful model, and no other organisation does it like - or on the same scale as - Earthwatch.
WHAT IS AN EARTHWATCH EXPEDITION?
In its simplest terms, an Earthwatch expedition is a journey made by a small group of individuals to a specific location in the world where they join a team of scientists to undertake field research that is needed to understand the causes of and possible solutions to an environmental problem. Expeditions typically are for groups of four to ten volunteers and last for one to two weeks.
On a deeper level, an Earthwatch expedition is an immersive cultural and educational experience offering opportunities for eager volunteers to learn about and gain broader perspectives on environmental issues, develop new skills and competencies, challenge the body and mind, and get to know people who share common values about protecting the environment. Earthwatch expeditions can be physically exhilarating, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally moving experiences that may influence and change your life forever.
WHY JOIN AN EXPEDITION?
If you are looking for the opportunity to do something to protect our natural world, to experience local communities on the inside, to share life-changing experiences with like-minded people from around the world, then an Earthwatch expedition is for you. The intense, hands-on connection you get on an Earthwatch expedition will give you an appreciation of the Earth's richness and quiet majesty that no ordinary holiday can match. You will come home bursting with new-found purpose and with your head full of ideas. And, for Earthwatch's part, without your contribution of time and money, vital environmental research would simply not be possible.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT AN EARTHWATCH EXPEDITION?
The term "expedition" has different meanings to different people. In the Earthwatch context, an expedition is an opportunity to join a small team of volunteers who work together under the tutelage of well respected, expert scientists to carry out scientific field research of real importance. Earthwatch expeditions are not adventure travel tours, nor ecotourism holidays, nor simple volunteering placements. Earthwatch expeditions are genuine, immersive field research experiences for people who want to join others in doing something positive to help solve environmental problems.
WHO LEADS EARTHWATCH EXPEDITIONS?
Earthwatch Expeditions are led by leading research scientists who are usually employed by major academic institutions, conservation groups, or other organisations with research missions. They are not tour leaders, but rather experienced field researchers, each with his or her own specialised knowledge and leadership style. They all have a passion for their subject and their work would not be possible without the funding and time you give to be a part of their research project.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING ON AN EXPEDITION?
We make every effort to describe the tasks you will be doing on an expedition as accurately as possible in your Expedition Briefing document. However, please understand that field research is not always a predictable business and there can be last-minute changes. Flexibility is essential. The research range of tasks you could undertake is broad. You might count fish while snorkelling over a coral reef; photograph the dorsal fins of dolphins from the deck of a boat; identify grasses and wildflowers using a botanical key; tag nesting sea turtles and count and measure their eggs; use a dental pick to coax free a dinosaur bone; collect, dissect, and analyse samples of animal scat; or record the behaviours of all manner of animals and insects. You might be trained to use various equipment, such as gravity instruments, a GPS device, a radio-tracking transmitter, water sampling kits, or simply a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass.
HOW WILL EARTHWATCH PREPARE ME FOR MY EXPEDITION?
Approximately three months before your expedition, we will send you a copy of the Expedition Briefing document for your expedition. (Please note that for brand new projects, it may take longer to confirm all necessary details. In rare cases, we may not be able to send a Briefing until approximately 45 days before the start date of your team.)
This comprehensive document contains all the information you will need to prepare for your expedition, including suggested further reading (optional). It contains a full description of the research and tasks you are likely to undertake. You will receive training in all tasks specific to the expedition once you are there. If you have any questions or concerns after reading the Expedition Briefing, please discuss these with your Public Programme Coordinator.
HOW MANY VOLUNTEERS WILL BE ON MY EXPEDITION AND WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?
Team sizes vary from research project to research project. The range is four to twenty volunteers, with the typical expedition team numbering six to ten volunteers. Earthwatch volunteers range in age from 18 to upwards of 80*, come from different countries around the world, and have a variety of jobs and backgrounds. Of the 3,000 volunteers who go on expeditions each year, one-third are repeat volunteers and many have been on more than ten expeditions! You are likely to find that you share many of the same interests and a spirit of adventure, becoming close friends on your expedition. We will send you a team list approximately six weeks before the start of your expedition so you know who you will be with.
*The minimum age for participation on a standard Earthwatch expedition is 18 years old, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, in which case it may be possible for 15, 16 or 17 year olds to participate. Teen teams are exclusively for 15 to 18 year olds. There is no maximum age limit for standard teams
DO MOST VOLUNTEERS TRAVEL ALONE?
Some volunteers travel as couples or in small groups, but the majority of volunteers are independent, travelling alone to join an expedition.
HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE?
Many expeditions are suitable for every fitness level, but some expeditions are far more demanding than others. To fully contribute to the research and enjoy your expedition, it is very important that you appropriately assess your abilities and your physical fitness level. When searching for expeditions, use the filter tool to find expeditions that meet your fitness preference: easy, moderate, or active. Then download the Expedition Briefing from a project to read about specific project conditions and health information. Make sure you are confident of your fitness before you make your booking, and if you are unsure, call Earthwatch on +44 (0)1865 318831.
CAN YOU ACCOMMODATE MEDICAL CONDITIONS?
There are expeditions to suit nearly everyone. If you have a disability or a specific medical condition that might have an impact on your participation on an expedition, call us and we will do our best to find a suitable expedition. If you will be age 80 or older upon the start date of your expedition, our insurance regulations require that you obtain a doctor’s signature to be sent in with your Volunteer Forms before your expedition begins. Additionally, Earthwatch reserves the right to request a doctor’s signature of any volunteer under certain circumstances.
CAN YOU PROVIDE FOR SPECIAL DIETS?
Many expeditions can accommodate to a wide range of dietary needs. When working in more remote areas, your meals will reflect what is available locally, and therefore cannot cater to every taste. Read your Expedition Briefing and check with us before you join an expedition.
HOW LUXURIOUS WILL MY EXPEDITION BE?
Infrastructure, transportation systems, and emergency and health services in the country of your expedition may not be of the standard you would expect to find at home, but this is part of what makes an Earthwatch expedition authentic and special. Earthwatch tries to provide the most comfortable experience possible, while trying to keep participation within the economic reach of most people; some expeditions, therefore, offer more ‘creature comforts' than others. As a general rule, you will travel, work, eat, bathe, sleep, and experience the same lifestyle as that of real field research scientists. Your work hours may be long and tiring. You may get drenched by sun or rain. Your tasks may require that you get dirty. But, you'll get where you need to go; be taught what you need to know; eat three meals a day; gain new knowledge, skills, and perspectives; and enjoy the company of others on your expedition. Volunteers seeking ‘luxury holidays' do not typically join Earthwatch expeditions.
Most expeditions meet a wide range of dietary needs. However, when working in more remote areas, food will tend to reflect what is available locally. When in doubt, check with Earthwatch before registering.
Accommodation ranges from hotels to live-aboard boats, from wildlife lodges to student dormitories, from field stations on mountaintops to tents in the rainforest. There may be private bathrooms or pit toilets, hot or cold showers. Accommodation varies tremendously by research project so check the Expedition Briefing or contact us if in doubt.
WILL I HAVE ANY RECREATIONAL TIME?
Yes, it's not all hard work! The lead scientist will plan for team activities, and there will be time for rest and relaxation. There will also be opportunities for photography or videography, although this will take a back seat to the research work.
Earthwatch takes very seriously the health and safety of volunteers from the rendezvous to the end of the expedition. In order to ensure you are as safe during your recreational time as you are during research time, we have put a number of measures in place:
Standard Research Days
During a period of unscheduled activities on a standard research day, volunteers can sign themselves out but leave information on where they are going and when they expect to return. Volunteers should always carry contact information for the expedition. Be aware that if you sign out and do not return before the next scheduled activity, Earthwatch's Missing Person Emergency Response Plan will be triggered!
On recreational days, volunteers can join team activities or outings or they can stay at the accommodation to rest. Depending on the expedition, these approved activities may be as unrestricted as walking to town to visit local shops or as structured as a hired safari to a nearby National Park. Options will be described in the Expedition Briefing, please note that associated fees not covered by your contribution to Earthwatch.
In some cases, local conditions may preclude volunteers from leaving the research site during recreational time. In these instances, if a volunteer chooses to venture off against Earthwatch advice, they will need to sign a waiver. Please keep in mind that local, unexpected circumstances may require changes in this policy. We will do our best to keep you informed.
HOW DOES EARTHWATCH LOOK AFTER MY SAFETY?
Very well indeed. See our Safety Policy.
WILL I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO FEEDBACK ON MY EXPERIENCE?
Yes. Upon return from your expedition, we will send you a link to an online evaluation survey. We will use your survey answers to determine what we are doing well and what we need to improve, so your feedback is valuable in ensuring that Earthwatch continues to offer the highest quality experiences possible. And, if you would like to write for our eNewsletter or submit a feature story about your expedition to your local newspaper, contact our PR team for help and advice!
WHY DOES EARTHWATCH FUND FIELD RESEARCH?
The amount of government and institutional funding available for scientific field research has diminished over the years. And, what is available is not guaranteed for the long-term. Understanding environmental problems requires a long-term commitment to scientific research, and Earthwatch exists to help fill the funding gap left by government and institutions. This was a founding principle of the organization in 1971 and remains so today, forty years on.
HOW DOES EARTHWATCH CHOOSE ITS RESEARCH PROJECTS AND SCIENTISTS?
Scientists from all over the world are invited to submit research proposals to Earthwatch on the basis that they meet one of our four Priority Areas and contribute to Earthwatch's wider mission. In addition, the proposed research must fully engage volunteers as research assistants. Our research team works closely with applying scientists to ensure that proposed research tasks are appropriate for volunteer involvement. All new research projects are subject to strict evaluations and a rigorous external peer review process. Many research subjects require sustained data collection over a number of years, and some of our research projects have been supported for several decades. Our model provides not only hard-to-come-by, long-term funding but also a dedicated workforce of enthusiastic and committed volunteers.
Each Earthwatch expedition is designed and managed by a lead scientist in close association with Earthwatch research and field management staff. Earthwatch scientists are not Earthwatch employees, but rather research partners. They have years of experience leading field research projects and have great enthusiasm and passion for their area of expertise. In the field, the lead scientist may play a central or peripheral role in managing the research. In the latter case, the lead scientist will delegate day-to-day management of the expedition to other members of the research team. This will be made clear in the Expedition Briefing document.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE RESEARCH DATA VOLUNTEERS COLLECT?
The data collected by volunteers is added to research databases of Earthwatch scientists to help them answer critical questions, for example, about changes in species populations or habitats. Some Earthwatch scientists also submit volunteer-collected data to regional or international databases, allowing data to be shared among scientists and made available to the general public. The findings from analyses of this data form the basis of scientific papers, management plans, and reports written or contributed to by Earthwatch scientists. By disseminating their research findings, scientists are able to bring to the attention of a wider audience of conservation professionals, national and international initiatives, and governments vital new information underpinned by a solid foundation of scientific research. This information then informs policy decisions and conservation action plans to protect ecosystems, threatened species, and tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
WHAT ARE THE RESEARCH SITES LIKE?
Earthwatch teams work in some of the most interesting places on Earth. Much of our work is in wildlife reserves, important historical sites, and national parks. Sites range from Mongolia to the Kalahari, from Caribbean coral reefs to the Arctic Circle. In some cases, you will be working in areas inaccessible to tourists, including pristine regions that only researchers are permitted to enter. Your Expedition Briefing document will give you a detailed overview of the research site.
HOW DOES EARTHWATCH WORK WITH LOCAL AND INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES?
On the vast majority of Earthwatch expeditions, the research team leading the expedition has strong ties with local government, conservation and environmental NGOs, community leaders and/or village elders. Research projects are designed to benefit local and indigenous people, their society and their environment. Our long-term success depends on undertaking research supported by and in close consultation and collaboration with these communities. We engage local scientists on many research projects; employ local staff to support the smooth running of expeditions, and source food, equipment, and transport locally.
DO VOLUNTEERS NEED ANY SPECIAL SKILLS TO UNDERTAKE RESEARCH?
The research projects Earthwatch supports are all suitable for volunteer participation, e.g. the data collection is easy to teach and undertake. There are huge amounts of data to collect, and with training, volunteers are very efficient and accurate at data collection. That's the beauty of the Earthwatch model. All you need to know will be taught to you by the research staff on the first day (or occasionally two days) of your expedition. The majority of tasks are simple and you will quickly master them. In fact, you will undoubtedly discover skills you never knew you had! Please note that some expeditions require higher levels of fitness than others and some require SCUBA diving certification.
WHAT IS A CONTRIBUTION, AND WHAT IS MEANT BY ‘MINIMUM' CONTRIBUTION?
Because Earthwatch is a charity, not a for-profit organisation, the cost of participating on an Earthwatch expedition is called a contribution. We use this term because we want to remind you and others that our work needs your generous support! When we use the term ‘minimum' contribution, we mean that you can elect to contribute more than the quoted contribution amount for the Expedition. Additional funds are needed, and so we urge you to consider making the most generous contribution you can for your expedition. Any amount above the minimum contribution will be considered a donation, and we will offer you several choices for how you would like that donation used.
HOW IS MY CONTRIBUTION SPENT?
Earthwatch is constantly fundraising to increase support for its projects, thereby keeping volunteers’ contribution to the overall research costs at a manageable level. In some instances, a portion of Field Grant costs are underwritten by a corporate sponsor or generous donor who contributes money to help fund the expedition costs. For instance, if £10,000 is underwritten on a project, a portion of that can be used to offset the volunteers’ contribution, or to fund other elements of the researcher’s project, such as much needed equipment or additional staff.
20% is spent on safety and welfare measures.
It is critical to conduct political, meteorological, and physical risk assessments, as well as create and manage health and safety procedures, 24/7. Earthwatch must also assure research scientists are fully trained on these measures.
12% is spent for Earthwatch to promote and provide information on expeditions.
The more volunteers who join a project, the more successful all aspects of that project will be – from the team dynamic, to the amount of data collected. Our website and Annual Research Guide are two of the key ways in which we reach the public.
8% is spent on preparing volunteers for their expedition.
This includes helping volunteers choose and sign up for an expedition, collecting and carefully reviewing each volunteer’s forms, preparing and providing expedition Briefings before participants head into the field, answering all volunteer questions, ranging from travel itineraries to clothes to bring, and working to ensure Earthwatchers are thoroughly prepared for their Expedition experience.
3% is spent on medical and evacuation insurance, travel insurance, and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions of travel.
For instance, if participants leave a carbon footprint from jet fuel used to travel to an expedition, we offset that carbon by investing in projects such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams.
New research projects have challenges of their own – and Earthwatch often introduces up to a dozen new research projects per year. It typically costs between £28,500 and £50,500 to start up a new project. Since contribution costs typically do not cover all costs related to starting a new project, Earthwatch must actively raise money from other sources to cover set-up costs so they are not passed to our volunteers.
WHAT OTHER EXPENSES WILL I HAVE TO PAY?
Your contribution does not include your travel (including airport taxes) to the project rendezvous, costs incurred before or after the project, or the cost of passports, visas, and vaccinations. In some circumstances you may be required to pay additional costs for excursions during the expedition that you choose to take. You will not need to arrange and pay for your own travel insurance as this is included in the contribution you pay to Earthwatch provided you do not have additional vacations days either side of your expedition. If you do have additional vacation days you will need to arrange travel insurance elsewhere. Please see our insurance information page for details, especially if you are aged 75 or over as slightly different insurance arrangements are in place for volunteers in this age group.
HOW MUCH DOES AN EXPEDITION COST?
For 2011, the average contribution of a standard expedition is approximately £1,500*. The most expensive expedition is £3,195, and the least expensive is £350.
*Teen only expeditions carry additional costs and are therefore more expensive than standard expeditions.
WHY ARE SOME EXPEDITIONS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN OTHERS?
While many factors affect cost, the three factors that have the greatest influence on cost are: (1) the duration of the expedition, (2) requirements for supplies and equipment for the research, and (3) the cost of local accommodation, fuel, and transportation.
HOW CAN EARTHWATCH AFFORD TO OFFER REDUCED CONTRIBUTIONS ON CERTAIN EXPEDITIONS?
Every research project in our portfolio is important to Earthwatch, and it is our goal to support every research project to full capacity with expedition volunteers. Inevitably, however, some expeditions are more popular than others; some occur during off-peak travel times of the year; and some expeditions are more expensive than others. Each expedition has a minimum number of volunteers required, and it is a sad but true fact that on the rare occasions when expeditions don't meet their minimum, expeditions get cancelled and vital research does not get done.
While Earthwatch is a not-for-profit organisation, our expeditions operate in a market, and all markets are driven by demand. As such, we use cost to manage - and shift - demand as needed to try to ensure volunteers are evenly spread across our projects. This is an essential tool for ensuring the crucial research on each of our projects gets carried out. Hence, for expeditions that are not as popular, occur during off-peak travel periods, or are more expensive than average, Earthwatch periodically offers reduced contributions to shift demand to meet minimum numbers on those expeditions. The reduced contributions offered are never taken out of the share of the contribution that goes to the scientist to manage the expedition. The reduced contribution is funded out of Earthwatch's share of the contribution, which increases the amount of money Earthwatch must raise each year from sources other than paying volunteers.
We encourage you to take advantage of any offer of a reduced contribution, but don't assume that the expedition you want to volunteer on at the time of year you want to go will be put on offer!
IF I AM A UK TAX PAYER, CAN I GIFT AID MY CONTRIBUTION OR CLAIM A TAX DEDUCTION AT THE HIGHER TAX RATE?
No. Unfortunately the UK government changed the law in 2000. This type of contribution is no longer considered a charitable donation nor is it eligible for Gift Aid or a tax deduction. However, donations to Earthwatch, which are not in payment for an expedition, are considered charitable donations and are eligible for Gift Aid and a tax deduction at the higher tax rate.
Expedition Logistics – Before You Go
HOW DO I CHOOSE AN EXPEDITION?
You will find details of a selection of expeditions in our free Expedition Guide* or comprehensive details of Every Expedition on our website, which is continuously updated, so be sure to check it regularly.
*All information in the Expedition Guide is correct at time of going to press, but further research projects and expeditions may be added or cancelled during the year, so use our website for most up-to date expedition information available. Request a free Expedition Guide.
HOW DO I BOOK?
You can either book online or you can ring our office on 01865 318831. Our friendly team will guide you every step of the way. You may wish to familiarise yourself with our Terms and Conditions before calling.
HOW DO I PAY?
There are a variety of ways to pay. See Terms and Conditions or call us on 01865 318831 to discuss what is best for you.
WHEN DO I PAY MY BALANCE?
If you reserve your space 91 days or more before the expedition start date, the balance payment of your contribution is due 90 days prior to your expedition start date. The balance payment will be solicited through automated reminder emails or is payable at any time directly to Earthwatch.
The full contribution is required if reserving a space at or within 90 days of your expedition's start date. You can pay with MasterCard, Visa or AMEX.
Note: If you fail to make your full payment 90 days before you field, we reserve the right to treat your reservation as cancelled and give your space to another volunteer.
WHAT ARE THE PASSPORT AND VISA REQUIREMENTS?
See the Expedition Briefing for your chosen project as well as our Terms and Conditions.
WHAT VACCINATIONS DO I NEED?
See the Expedition Briefing for your chosen project as well as our Terms and Conditions.
WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?
See Insurance Information.
WHO ARRANGES MY TRAVEL?
You do. While we will be able to offer suggestions, part of preparing yourself for an Earthwatch expedition comes in getting yourself to and from the rendezvous site. You are free to make your travel arrangements with any travel agency you choose. Start making enquiries about your flights as soon as you have received and read the updated Expedition Briefing. Flights can get booked up months in advance, especially if you are planning to travel at peak times (June-August and the Christmas/New Year period). We recommend that you make sure the tickets are refundable or changeable. Though rare, there is the possibility that expedition dates could change. See Terms and Conditions.
HOW WILL I GET TO THE RESEARCH LOCATION?
You will be met by a member of the research staff and other volunteers on your expedition at the in-country rendezvous point specified in your Expedition Briefing document (note: for safety reasons, the online version of the Expedition Briefing does not have the specific rendezvous point listed. Once you have registered for an expedition place we will send you a link to a version of the Expedition Briefing with full rendezvous and departure details). Usually, the rendezvous point is at the nearest international/regional airport or it may be at a nearby hotel. The field team will usually have an Earthwatch sign and/or be wearing Earthwatch t-shirts. It will help if you wear the Earthwatch t-shirt we will send you. You are required to complete and return a Travel Form specifically so that all parties know how and when you will be arriving. From the rendezvous point, you will be taken to the research location by the research staff meeting you there.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
You will find a full packing checklist at the back of your Expedition Briefing document. This document details the essential items you need to take with you on the expedition.
WHAT IS THE DURATION OF AN EXPEDITION?
The duration of an expedition varies from as few as 2 days to as many as 16 days, with most lasting between 10 and 14 days. There may be up to 20 different teams of volunteers in the field - one after the other - over the course of a year-long research season. Ten days to two weeks allows people who have limited paid leave from work the opportunity to volunteer.
CAN I STAY AFTER OR LEAVE EARLY?
Unfortunately, you cannot stay on longer than your expedition duration or leave before the end of your expedition. It is possible, however, to join two expeditions back-to-back, if dates are appropriate. Of course, you are free to travel elsewhere in the country or region either before or after your expedition at your own expense.
IS MY CONTRIBUTION REFUNDABLE?
See Terms and Conditions.
CAN I TRANSFER FROM ONE EXPEDITION TO ANOTHER?
Yes, but there are some restrictions. See Terms and Conditions for details.
WHAT HAPPENS IF EARTHWATCH OR I CANCEL MY EXPEDITION?
See Terms and Conditions.
CAN EARTHWATCH REFUSE MY PARTICIPATION?
Yes. See Terms and Conditions.
CAN EARTHWATCH DISMISS ME FROM AN EXPEDITION ONCE IN THE FIELD?
Yes. See Terms and Conditions.
WHY DO I NEED TO SPEAK FLUENT ENGLISH?
All Volunteer Forms, Expedition Briefings and other expedition documents are in English, and English is the language spoken on all expeditions, even if other volunteers and members of the research team are multi-lingual. All safety information is communicated in English and therefore fluency is required for the safety of all participants. However, depending on the expedition, language skills may be of great help, so please let the research team know what languages you speak.
WHY CAN'T I BOOK LAST MINUTE?
As the start date of an expedition nears, the field team begins finalising plans for the expedition, including counting how many volunteers will be coming in order to determine food, accommodation, and local transport needs. Within 30 days of the start of an Earthwatch expedition, it may be necessary for Earthwatch to check with the field team before taking your booking. If the field team are happy for you to join the expedition, then Earthwatch will accept your booking, and you will need to submit all required forms a minimum of 15 days before the start of your expedition.
WHY MUST I COMPLETE A HEALTH DECLARATION?
Your Health Declaration which is part of your Earthwatch Participation Form helps Earthwatch ensure that you are fit enough to participate in the expedition you have chosen and that any medical conditions you may have can be reasonably managed by the research team once you are on the expedition. In the event of an emergency it also provides any medical professionals treating you with a more complete picture of your health history.
WHY MUST MY FORMS BE SUBMITTED 90 DAYS BEFORE MY EXPEDITION BEGINS?
Should any information in your –Earthwatch Participation Form suggest a problem with your participation on your chosen expedition, ninety days provides enough time for Earthwatch to help you resolve those problems or to give you the chance to transfer to a more suitable expedition.
IS THERE AN AGE LIMIT?
Standard expeditions have a minimum age of 18, unless accompanied by parent or legal guardian, in which case the minimum age for most expeditions is 15. There is no maximum age. Volunteers over the age of 80 have enjoyed our expeditions and have made valuable contributions to the fieldwork. Please be realistic regarding your health and fitness, and always call us for advice.
Teen teams are exclusively for 15 - 18* year olds, and are supervised by additional Earthwatch staff. Teens can connect with leading scientists in a peer setting while learning new skills and appreciating the power that they have to change the planet. These special teen teams focus on the same research activities and have the same expectations as our regular teams, but with more supervision and support.
*18 year old volunteers are welcome to join any Teen Team of their choice provided they are in their final year of high school/secondary school in the current academic year.
WHAT IS EARTHWATCH DOING TO REDUCE THE IMPACTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE OF AIR TRAVEL BY VOLUNTEERS?
Earthwatch fully recognizes that air travel contributes to climate change. At the same time, we recognise the urgent need to carry out scientific field research in many places around the globe, and we depend on people to give both their time and money to carry out that research. Most volunteers come from developed countries, while most of the field research is carried out in developing countries; hence, the requirement of air travel is impossible to avoid.
While carbon offsetting is not a solution to climate change, we believe it does help to mitigate its effects, and is therefore part of our solution. Earthwatch offsets all CO2 emissions (for all expedition participants, volunteers and any Earthwatch staff, travelling specifically to the project) with Climate Care according to our Carbon Offsetting Policy. Earthwatch automatically offsets the CO2 emissions of all volunteers and includes these costs in the contribution of the expedition.
Another part of our solution is to encourage volunteers to use alternative forms of travel (such as trains, ferries or buses) that have lower greenhouse gas emissions per person per mile travelled. We can provide advice and information to volunteers about overland travel to expeditions in Europe.
DOES EARTHWATCH HAVE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL OR ETHICAL TOURISM POLICY?
Many of our expeditions are based in remote communities, well away from the tourist track. Earthwatch recognises there may be social and cultural impacts from volunteers as foreign visitors to research project locations. Please read our Responsible Travel Policy. Earthwatch stresses the need for responsible behaviour and common courtesy in these communities. It is a good idea to do some background reading about the area you will visit. Please check your Expedition Briefing for specific information about local culture and customs.
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