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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Earthwatch?

Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that connects people with scientists to protect our planet. For more than 50 years, Earthwatch has empowered over 200,000 participants to join leading scientists on field research expeditions that tackle critical environmental challenges around the globe—from climate change to ocean health, human-wildlife conflict, and more.

What is included in the cost of the expedition?

Your contribution covers important research costs, such as equipment, permits and supplies; food, accommodations, and local transport; safety and welfare management; travel medical and emergency evacuation insurance; and preparatory materials. Our scientists rely on your contributions in order to produce top-quality research while hosting teams of citizen scientists. Your contribution and most travel costs are tax-deductible in the U.S.

Who can join an expedition?

Anyone can join an expedition—no experience necessary! All training will be provided upon your arrival. We offer both adult expeditions and teen expeditions for 15- to 17-year-olds. Teens are also welcome on most of our adult expeditions if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Participants join us from all over the world.

What do the project Activity Levels mean?

The physical fitness levels listed below are guidelines only. 

Please refer to the specific project conditions and physical demands as described in the Essential Eligibility Requirements included in the Online Expedition Briefing. These basic physical and thinking abilities are needed to fully and safely participate in the program and are intended to help you decide if you can safely participate. Participants on all projects must be able to follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.

Many of our expeditions occur in challenging climate/environmental conditions that can greatly intensify the fitness required for a given project. For example, conditions may include extreme heat/humidity, high altitude, aridness, extreme cold, etc. Please be sure to review the Project Conditions carefully with this in mind.


Very Easy 

Must be able to walk up to 1 mile/day (1.6 km) over flat terrain. Must be able to remain seated (whether on the ground, in a chair, vehicle, or boat, depending on the project) for extended periods; must be able to get up/down from a seated position. The ability to stoop, bend, or kneel is often required. Dexterity is often required.


Easy

Some walking over uneven ground or small hills must be able to walk up to 3 miles/day (5 km) with personal supplies up to 5 lbs. (2.3 kg). The ability to repeatedly stoop, bend, or kneel is often required. Dexterity, mobility, and good balance are required. 

  • For water-based projects, one must be able to swim or tread water for 5 minutes unaided by fins or a buoyancy device.

Moderate 

Must be able to walk, possibly in sand or uphill, with a light pack up to 5 miles/day (8 km); must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 10 lbs. (4.5 kg). The ability to stoop, bend, or kneel is often required. Dexterity, agility, and good balance are required. 

  • For water-based projects, one must be able to swim at least 110 yards (100 m) unaided by a buoyancy device or fins.

Very Active

Must be able to walk up to 10 miles/day (16 km) for several days in a row, possibly off-trail, over uneven terrain, in sand or uphill, climbing over rocks or other obstacles, and/or at high altitude; must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 20 lbs. (9 kg). Dexterity, agility, and good balance are required. Must be able to move quickly if needed. 

  • For water-based projects, one must be able to swim at least 220 yards feet (200 m) unaided by a buoyancy device or fins. 
  • For snorkel/scuba projects, one must be able to surface dive up to 15 feet (4.6 m) multiple times per day or perform two dives per day at no more than 60 feet (18 m). 

Strenuous 

Must be able to hike up to 15 miles/day (25 km) for several days in a row, possibly in backcountry and/or uphill, over uneven terrain or in sand, climbing over rocks or other obstacles, and/or at high altitude; must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 40 lbs. (18 kg). Dexterity, agility, stamina, and good balance are required. 

  • For water-based projects, one must be able to swim at least 550 yards (500 m) unaided by buoyancy, a device, or fins. 
  • For snorkel/scuba projects, one must be able to surface dive up to 15 feet (4.6 m) consistently throughout the day or perform two dives per day at no more than 60 feet (18 m).

Varies 

Some projects may be able to accommodate varying levels of fitness due to some activities being more or less strenuous than others on the same project. Please refer to the project description, including the Essential Eligibility Requirements, or contact Earthwatch for additional information about the research activities and fitness required.

How do I sign up for an expedition?

We highly recommend that you visit our website, find an expedition you are interested in and read the expedition details and briefing (you’ll find a link to the briefing at the top of the expedition page). When you are ready to book, you can either book online or give us a call at 1-800-776-0188.

How far in advance do I need to book an expedition?

Each expedition has a different degree of demand. Some expeditions fill up a year or more in advance, so we suggest that you sign up as soon as you see an expedition you are interested in. Once you sign up, you will have until 90 days before the start of your expedition to complete payments and submit your participation and travel forms.

Do I need to have any prior scientific knowledge to participate?

No. You will learn all that you need to know when you get out to the field.

How is Earthwatch committed to my safety? 

At Earthwatch, we are committed to caring for the safety and welfare of all individuals involved in our activities anywhere in the world. Although risk is an inherent part of the environments in which we work, we believe that through careful risk management and diligent planning all participants can have a rewarding, educational and inspirational Earthwatch experience. 

Are payment plans available?

Participants may pay all at once or in installments. You can reserve a space with a $500 deposit, then continue paying off your balance as often as you’d like, up to 90 days before fielding.

Additionally, some participants take advantage of our Expedition Fund. Starting an Expedition Fund is an excellent way to help fundraise for an expedition’s contribution cost. You can ask your friends, family, colleagues, and peers to contribute towards your expedition. It is a great alternative to holiday and birthday gifts! Plus, all contributions are tax-deductible!

How long are the expeditions?

Our expeditions vary by duration, with most running between 1 and 2 weeks.

What are some other ways to get involved with Earthwatch?

Even if you can’t join us on an expedition right now, there are many ways to get involved with Earthwatch. Sign up for our newsletter to receive environmental success stories, news, and expedition updates. Refer a friend to Earthwatch. Or donate to help sustain critical field research that protects endangered species, responds to the effects of climate change, and safeguards our ecosystems.

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