Earthwatch – promoting a sustainable environment


Trips combining sightseeing with volunteering are more popular than ever with new companies and ideas springing up all the time so it’s difficult to know which to go with.


Earthwatch Institute is one of the matriarch’s in the business. The not-for-profit organisation has been around since the early seventies and could probably teach the new kids on the block a few tricks of the trade. The institute offers volunteers positions within ongoing scientific field research. Well, when they say volunteer they actually mean someone who has wads of cash and can afford to pay for the privilege. Their aim is to change how the public view science and its role in environmental sustainability.

Around 4,000 volunteers per year sign up to one of Earthwatch’s programs ranging from three to 18 days. Costs vary depending on the type of research and where the field site is based but you can expect to pay anything from around $350 to $5,000 for accommodation, food, training and offsetting carbon emissions but flights are extra.


The company is based in the US but has affiliate centres in the UK, Australia and Japan and is launching 10 new expeditions in various remote and threatened locations world-wide.


On the Pribilof Islands, 800 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, Earthwatch is working with the Aleut people to help save the local seals. In the Ecuadorian Andes, volunteers will be involved in tracking and monitoring jaguars, pumas and spectacled brown bears and part of a conservation plan. And one for wine lovers – volunteers will investigate how natural farming can help wildlife thrive in the vine yards of the Bordeaux region of France.


Other new Earthwatch expeditions include researching New York City wildlife, reef fish of the Virgin Islands and minke whales in Canada.


College students might be interested to learn there’s a 30% discount for trips in January 2008. Get more info at the Earthwatch site.