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Apply for Research Funding

Submit a pre-proposal for consideration

We fund the following field expenses: 
  • field equipment and supplies 
  • PI and co-PI transport to the field
  • participant field transportation
  • field technicians
  • support staff (including: cooks, logistics coordinators, wildlife guards, drivers, etc.) 
  • food and housing for PIs/co-PIs, field technicians, and Earthwatch participants 
We do not fund the following:
  • scientist salaries
  • student tuition
  • institutional overhead
  • capital equipment
  • post-fielding data analysis 

Earthwatch’s overarching goal is to support research projects that produce rigorous, relevant, and impactful science, address global change, and actively involve citizen-scientist participants. We distribute requests for proposals (RFPs) annually. We evaluate proposals based on scientific merit, appropriateness of citizen-scientist activities, expected project outcomes and impacts, safety, and logistics.  

Earthwatch funding is intended to be supplemental to other sources of funding. Annual budgets for projects with long-duration teams range between US $20,000–$80,000, with most of that covering volunteer and staff expenses while in the field. Final grants are provided on a per-capita basis based on the number of participants. Research projects are tenable for three years, subject to annual performance review, and may be eligible for renewal beyond that period. 

“No Go” Regions

Earthwatch takes the safety of all people involved in projects we support very seriously. Therefore, we are unable to support research projects in certain regions of the world due to safety concerns, with no exceptions. Please review our current Earthwatch “No Go” List  prior to applying for funding.



Supporting research conducted in an ethical manner is a priority at Earthwatch. Our research ethics standards are as follows:


All projects must follow any existing institutional, national, and international standards for working with animals. We only support capture and handling of animals when it is justified and absolutely necessary to answer research questions and when data cannot be obtained in a more noninvasive manner.


All projects must follow any existing institutional, national, and international standards for working with people, and provide IRB “clearance” prior to fielding with Earthwatch volunteers. Participants are not to conduct social surveys or interviews in local communities independently or unsupervised, although they may assist the research staff in this when deemed appropriate.


All PIs and their staff must apply rigorous quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) measures, while at the same time engaging citizen scientist participants in as many aspects of the research as possible.


Projects must be designed to minimize their carbon footprint and operate in as ecologically sustainable of a manner as possible.


To fit our citizen-science model, unless otherwise stated in the request for proposals, all proposed projects must:

  • Have quantifiable goals and measurable impacts of action taken by the project;
  • Have a 3-year or longer duration (longer-term research may receive priority support);
  • Incorporate field-based research;
  • Have data gathered primarily by citizen-scientist participants recruited by Earthwatch;
  • Field approx. 4 to 10 teams per year, with 4 to 15 participants per team as needed for data collection;
  • Have short (1-3 day) and/or long (7-14 day) duration teams (projects that enable both short and long duration teams will receive priority support);
  • For teams > 1 day, provide reputable housing for volunteers within a 45-minute drive from site; Field adult, high school and college student, teacher, and corporate groups;
  • Be run in English, with all communications by field staff and supporting documents in English;
  • Educate volunteers about the project’s science its relevance to global priorities;
  • Engage with, provide outreach and contribute to conservation actions, or otherwise collaborate with local community stakeholders;
  • Share project data with stakeholders, and if possible contribute to open-source datasets;
  • Partner with collaborators and receive support from at least one other funding source.

All proposals must be submitted by a researcher with a PhD, who is planning to function as the project PI. Degrees must be from an accredited academic institution in the area of study of the proposed project. Graduate students currently working on their PhD may have their faculty advisor submit a proposal for their research. The advisor must be listed and function as the PI of record and maintain all scientific oversight of the research until the student’s doctoral degree is awarded. All submitting researchers must be affiliated with a university, government agency, or science-focused NGO.

We encourage graduate student participation in projects as research technicians. We particularly are interested in helping support developing scientists from emerging nations, although such applicants must still meet the above requirements.

We strongly encourage scientists with an interest in working with 15-18 year-old students to apply for funding. PIs and support staff with relevant experience should highlight this experience in their proposal.

While in the field, Earthwatch participants must be led by qualified personnel. The PI must be the primary leader in the field. 

The person leading Earthwatch participants must have experience leading groups afield. The leader must be fluent in English, familiar with Earthwatch safety protocols and guidelines as described in the Earthwatch Field Manual, and certified in first aid. Additionally, that individual must be able to communicate about the research effectively with participants, respond to questions, and connect the research to a larger global context.  



    The Earthwatch application process begins with the submission of a pre-proposal. Requests for pre-proposals (RFPs) are distributed annually and will be accepted through the deadline indicated on them. 

    Pre-proposals for new projects to begin in 2021 will be accepted beginning in April 2019.

    We select pre-proposals for development into full research proposals, based on: 

  • PI qualifications;
  • Rigor and relevance of the proposed science; and
  • Goodness-of-fit for citizen science.

Are you a researcher with a PhD, who is planning to function as the project PI?