Go somewhere exotic, do something real, with Earthwatch

earthwatch2.jpgIf you’re tired of sitting on the couch while watching nature specials on TV, you can actually sign up to join an expedition instead. Maybe you’ve already heard of Earthwatch — they’ve been around for 35 years now — but if not, they team up volunteers with researchers working to preserve biodiversity and wildlife around the world. Projects range from excavating mammoth fossils, to studying the behavior of whales or turtles, to archaeology and forestry projects.

These are real projects, led by real scientists, that produce new knowledge, and you can be part of it. Earthwatch also offers special programs for students and teachers. A friend of mine who teaches high-school geography went on a fellowship to Brazil for two weeks a couple summers ago and had a spectacular trip.

Volunteers share the costs and cover food and lodging expenses with a pro-rated contribution. In 2006, expedition costs range from $395 to over $4,000, averaging $2,200, for 2 to 21 days. No special skills are required, except scuba certification for diving projects. If you’re ready for something completely different, Earthwatch is worth a look.