Group Terms and Conditions

Statement of Purpose

In addition to Earthwatch’s general Terms & Conditions, we have provided specific guidance and policies related to our school groups program. Please familiarize yourself with the following information if you get involved with Earthwatch as a trip organizer, leader, chaperone, or parent of a minor. These Terms and Conditions are subject to change at any time; all agreements and contracts are subject to these Terms and Conditions as presented at the time of signing. If you have any question or concerns, please contact your Advisor or other Earthwatch representative.

Expedition Selection and Registration

Choosing an Expedition

Your Earthwatch Group Expedition Advisor will help you organize an expedition that matches your groups’ interests, desired destination, schedule, activity level, and budget. Expedition dates may be chosen from prescheduled teams visible online or custom schedules based on the researchers’ availability and the ability of participants to meet the expedition's fitness requirements. Once confirmed, your Advisor will provide a Group Leader Agreement detailing the planned expedition and any additional requests. Registration of participants may not begin until this agreement has been completed and returned to Earthwatch. Prices are subject to change prior to completion of the agreement.

Please remember that Earthwatch Expeditions are scientific research expeditions, not tours or holidays. Earthwatch makes every effort to describe field conditions accurately both in its publications and orally, but fieldwork in remote locations is a delicate business and prone to last-minute change. Participants must accept this as part of what makes an Earthwatch Expedition a special experience.

Registering for your Expedition

All group participants must complete their registration online. Student participants under 18 years of age may not register themselves. Instead, a parent or guardian must register their student(s) online by providing basic contact information for both the parent and the student. Registration is confirmed upon receipt of a $300 USD (£175/€210/$500 AUD) non-refundable deposit for all participants; those registering within 90 days of the expedition start date must pay a full, non-refundable balance (see “General Payment Information” for more details).

Some expeditions are more strenuous than others, and it is each participant’s responsibility to review the project conditions and physical demands as described in provided expedition briefing and determine if they are able to safely participate in the expedition prior to registration. Failure to read this briefing may result in participant’s cancellation from the team. Participants should discuss their participation in this expedition with their doctor if they have a question or concern about their health and/or ability to participate. Earthwatch reserves the right to require a doctor’s approval for participation as needed. A doctor’s approval is required for all adult participants 80 years of age or older.

Once registered, participants and parents of minors will receive an email confirming their reservation on the expedition. This email will also outline the next steps in your preparation to join the expedition, including further guidance on forms, payments, and how to access your MyEarthwatch Portal account.

Preparing for your Expedition
Your Account

The MyEarthwatch Portal contains important information about your expedition, including required forms, payment information, and a current expedition briefing. Earthwatch works hard to update each expedition briefing every year, and we make every effort to have the updated briefing ready approximately 90 days before the start date of the first team of the expedition.


All forms must be completed and submitted to Earthwatch via your online account no later than 90 days before your expedition start date unless otherwise agreed upon. Failure to submit forms by the deadline may result in cancellation from the team and forfeiture of all contributions to Earthwatch. Participants who register within 90 days of the expedition start date must submit all forms as soon as possible.

By signing the Earthwatch Participation Form, all participants and parents of minors agree to Earthwatch’s Code of Conduct and Teen Behavior Agreement for minors. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in cancellation with no refund.

General Payment Information 

Contributions to Earthwatch 

The cost of participating in an Earthwatch Expedition is called a “contribution” and covers basic research costs, including room and board, research permits, scientific equipment, on-site staff, and, unless otherwise stated, the cost of participation for chaperones. Emergency medical and evacuation (MedEvac) insurance for your Earthwatch Expedition is included in the contribution you pay to Earthwatch. Earthwatch is not responsible for medical or other costs not covered by this insurance policy. Please see “Insurance” below for more details. 

The contribution does not cover travel to or from the rendezvous site, costs incurred before or after the expedition, or the cost of passports, visas, and vaccinations. In some cases, additional on-site, travel, or recreational costs may be required, so please check with your Advisor for more information. 

Group Payment Options 

Group leaders may choose from one of the options below when planning their expedition. The agreed-upon payment schedule will be described in the School Group Leader Agreement and in relevant communications to participants and their families. If travel is booked via Earthwatch, travel costs are due 90 days prior to expedition start date (see “Travel” below for more information). 

Earthwatch requires groups to adhere to one option for all participants; please contact your group leader if an individual participant requires an exception to this policy prior to signing the agreement. Failure to complete payments by the agreed upon deadline may result in participant cancellation from the expedition and forfeiture of contributions to Earthwatch. 

Regardless of the payment option selected, if travel is booked via Earthwatch, the full cost of travel is due 90 days prior to expedition start date. 

Option 1: Balance due during Registration 
  • Submit full expedition contribution, including non-refundable $300 deposit, at time of registration. 
Option 2: Recurring Monthly Payment Plan 
  • Submit non-refundable deposit of $300 at time of registration. 
  • Remaining balance divided into equal installments and automatically charged to paying contact’s credit card on a monthly basis according to a schedule agreed upon by Group leader and Advisor. 
  • If requested, where travel is booked via Earthwatch, airfare may be calculated into monthly payments once purchased or collected as a separate payment. 
Option 3: Partial Payment Schedule 
  • Submit non-refundable deposit of $300 at time of registration. 
  • Partial payments due according to contracted schedule. Final balance due 90 days prior to expedition start date. 

Note: All participants registering after deadline are required to be current with the group’s agreed-upon payment schedule when placing initial payment. 

Expedition Funds 

The school, Group leader, or individual participant may also choose to start an Expedition Fund. An Expedition Fund can be started with a minimum contribution of $25. Once an Expedition Fund is open, volunteers and contributors of all kinds (parents, colleagues, community members, etc.) can add to it in increments of $25 or more. Contributors will receive an email confirmation of their non-refundable, tax deductible donation as well as a tax-letter in the mail in January of the year after their donation is made. All Expedition Fund contributions are to be used toward the cost of the group’s expedition and will be credited to anyone the group leader designates as a participant. Should a group have to cancel, all contributions made into its Expedition Fund must be used for an Earthwatch expedition within 3 years of the initial deposit or these contributions will be considered general donations to Earthwatch. 

Note: All Expedition Fund donations are non-refundable. 

Tax Deductibility 

In the United States, Earthwatch Institute is a public charity described under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is not a private foundation, as it is an organization described in Section 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(VI) of the Internal Revenue Code. In general, contributions of cash, securities and property donated by US citizens to support scientific research projects sponsored by Earthwatch Institute are tax-deductible. Participants and contributors should consult their local tax laws and/or tax attorneys or other qualified professionals for official tax advice. 

Please visit our Terms and Conditions page for more tax information. 

Note: Earthwatch provides tax letters exclusively to individual contributors and organizations, and is not responsible for acknowledging receipt of contributions on behalf of secondary parties. Schools and other organizations collecting payments on behalf of participants’ families are advised to consider method of collection with this in mind.

Cancellations, Transfers and Refund Policy 

Participant Cancellations and Transfers 

If you need to cancel your expedition, please inform Earthwatch as soon as possible. Your cancellation must be confirmed with an email from Earthwatch; you should not consider your expedition cancelled until you have received this confirmation. 

Cancellation, transfer, and refund policies are dependent on the number of days remaining until the expedition start date. Participants cancelling with 90 or more days’ notice may have their non-deposit contributions refunded, transferred to another eligible expedition of their choice, or placed in an Expedition Fund to be used at any time within three years of the cancellation. Deposits may also be transferred on a one-time basis to another expedition or an Expedition Fund; subsequent transfers will result in forfeiture of the initial deposit, and a new one will be required to reserve your space. 

Participants cancelling within 90 days prior to expedition start date are not eligible for refunds, transfers, or Expedition Funds. If you used a promotional offer when registering for your expedition, your reservation is subject to the terms and conditions of that offer. 

Earthwatch Cancellations and Transfers 

On rare occasions, your expedition may be canceled by Earthwatch. This usually occurs if the expedition does not meet the minimum number of participants required. If Earthwatch cancels your expedition for this reason or for any other reason within Earthwatch's control, we will refund 100% of what you have paid at the time of cancellation or assist you in transferring your balance to a new expedition of your choice. 

Earthwatch cannot offer refunds for cancellations due to circumstances beyond Earthwatch’s control that would make travel or participation in the program unsafe or inadvisable. 

Earthwatch can take no responsibility for any cancellation or amendment penalties that your travel company (or one commissioned on your behalf by Earthwatch) may charge you if you have to change your travel plans as a result of cancellation by Earthwatch. Your travel arrangements are subject to the terms and conditions of the travel company through which you booked your travel. Volunteers are encouraged to buy flexible, refundable tickets. We strongly advise you to purchase Trip Cancellation insurance. 

Refund Policy 

In addition to the policies above, please note that all refunds are made to the original form of payment, and may take several weeks to process. Be advised that our refund policies are designed to ensure that our scientists receive reliable funding for their research and hosting duties, and in some cases it may not be possible to return funds, even under hardship. Please see “Travel” section below for more details on travel-related cancellation and refund policies. 

Participant Replacement 

Policy Participants who need to cancel may refer a replacement directly to Earthwatch for review. The suitability of a replacement depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, time remaining until the expedition start date, ability of replacement to complete forms and payments on time, the availability of permits, equipment, and accommodations, and permission from the partner school. Provided Earthwatch finds the replacement suitable, the payee will receive a refund in keeping with the exchange policy above, or the paying contact for the replacement participant may reimburse the paying contact for the cancelling participant directly. 


Arranging Travel 

Group leaders may arrange their own travel itinerary or request travel planning assistance from Earthwatch for an additional non-refundable $50/traveler service fee. Participants and groups who book their own travel are expected to follow the rendezvous and departure guidelines as stated in the expedition briefing or as communicated by an Earthwatch representative. Any deviations from these guidelines may result in additional fees or a decrease in field time. We recommend purchasing adequate third-party travel insurance and tickets that are refundable or exchangeable to minimize disruptions and losses in the event of a flight change or cancellation. 

Earthwatch expedition costs do not include airfare unless travel planning services are requested prior to registration. These services include researching and reserving itineraries, airfare, hotel rates and other costs with the assistance of a third party travel partner; collecting travel-related costs directly from participants; and negotiating participant- or airline-driven changes to the original purchased itinerary as needed. Any payments collected by Earthwatch for the purposes of securing travel arrangements are subject to the cancellation and refund policies of the individual service providers, and Earthwatch can take no responsibility for refunding or reimbursing these costs in the event of a participant’s cancellation.

In the event that Groups Leaders request to have their airfare covered by participants’ contributions, Earthwatch may withhold this portion of payment when offering transfers, credits, or refunds in order to prevent unexpected cost increases to remaining team members. A participant must have paid their full Earthwatch contribution in order to be eligible for any partial or full refund for travel costs. 

Visas and Passports 

Participants are responsible for making sure their passports are up to date and for securing any necessary visas. In many cases, your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond your stay in the country you are visiting. The expedition may be based in a country for which you need a visa or you may also need a visa to travel through a country en route to your expedition. If you are unsure about the applicable requirements, check with your travel company, the relevant embassy or consulate, or the U.S. Department of State's travel website, which lists entry requirements for U.S. citizens by country. 

If you do have to apply for a visa for your expedition, always ask for a tourist visa (unless stated otherwise in the expedition briefing). Remember that the purpose of your visit is for vacation, holiday or travel. Immigration officials do not always understand the concept of a “working vacation,” or even “volunteering.” Words such as “working,” “volunteering,” “research” or “scientific expedition” can raise questions concerning the country’s foreign labor laws and/or prompt questions about official scientific research permits and credentials, etc., to which participants will not be equipped to respond on their own. All required research permits for the project are in place and have been approved by the proper authorities. 

Obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months so be sure to allow plenty of time. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process. 

Note: If you are a citizen of one of the countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and are traveling to the United States or through the United States en route to another country, you must complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form online at least 72 hours before you depart for the U.S. 

Travelers Under 18 Years of Age 

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have procedures at entry and exit points to protect minors. Thus, if a minor will be traveling with only one guardian or alone, he or she may need a notarized letter from all legal guardians stating that the minor may travel unaccompanied or in the presence of a single guardian. Check with your nearest embassy or consulate of the destination country for its requirements. Be sure to check with your airline as well because most carriers have their own policies and documentation requirements for unaccompanied minors, e.g., a birth certificate. 

Important: Requirements of specific countries and airlines vary and change frequently. You must keep informed of the requirements on your own to avoid problems at immigration. If the minor is refused entry into a country or onto a flight because of lack of documentation, there may be nothing Earthwatch can do to help. 

Vaccinations Medical decisions are the responsibility of each participant and decisions about which vaccinations to receive should be made between you and your doctor. Health conditions around the world are constantly changing, so keep informed and consult your physician, a local travel health clinic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and/or The World Health Organization for the latest health information for travelers.


The contribution cost of your expedition includes our mandatory travel insurance, which provides coverage for emergency travel medical assistance and expenses in addition to emergency medical and security evacuation. This insurance may not be waived for any reason. For more information on these policies, please visit Earthwatch's Insurance Page.

In addition to this coverage, Earthwatch recommends that group members purchase trip cancellation insurance. Group members are responsible for protecting themselves against airline and travel agency cancellation fees. You may find it helpful to visit comparative websites such as


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 aspect 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. 

All Earthwatch project locations and participant activities are thoroughly evaluated for the safety and security of our participants. The project’s conditions and essential eligibility requirements are clearly described in the expedition briefing in order to assist participants in determining if they are able to safely participate prior to fielding. 

Should any problems occur in the field, all projects have an emergency response plan and communication protocols both with area health care facilities and with the Earthwatch office. Our emergency medical assistance provider On Call International can give advice, assistance or support at any time around the world. Earthwatch has a staff member on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week to assist participants and field staff and to be available to relay emergency messages from home. 

In the event of a safety incident occurring on an Earthwatch project, the management of that incident will be coordinated by Earthwatch and according to Earthwatch protocols. 

Right of Refusal and Dismissal 

Earthwatch Institute reserves the right to refuse reservations on its projects. Such a refusal would typically, but not exclusively, be due to safety concerns, such as an applicant's failure to meet the essential eligibility requirements of the project, logistical limitations or in the interest of team compatibility. 

Participants are required to adhere to the project safety protocols in the field. Earthwatch Institute will support the right of the Earthwatch scientist, other project leadership or Earthwatch staff to send participants away from a project should their behavior compromise the safety, research objectives or general performance of the team. 

Misrepresentation of one’s qualifications in any way, including but not limited to age, health, intentions on the expedition, etc. will also be grounds for rejection of reservations or dismissal from project. 

In the case of a participant’s violation of Earthwatch or project policy or deliberate misrepresentation, the participant will not be eligible for a refund. 

For more information, please see Earthwatch’s Code of Conduct and Teen Behavior Agreement.

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Earthwatch depends on donations—above and beyond what we raise from volunteers who participate on our expeditions—in order to deliver our global conservation mission. In fact, volunteer contributions provide only half of the total resources Earthwatch needs to sustain over 40 field research expeditions, a wide variety of educational programs, corporate sustainability trainings, and more each year.