Groups Terms and Conditions

If you are a Group Organizer, participating Group Leader, Chaperone, or parent/legal guardian of a participating minor, please familiarize yourself with the following information.


Expedition Selection and Registration


Your Earthwatch Groups Account Manager will help organize an expedition that best matches your groups’ interests, desired destination, schedule, activity level and budget. Expedition and dates are chosen from the current year’s Groups Inventory and should be considered with the ability of all participants, including participating teachers, to meet the fitness requirements in mind. Once an expedition is chosen, it can be ‘held’ for up to 21 days before a commitment is made in the form of a signed Group Leader Agreement. This Agreement must be signed and returned within 14 days of receipt, or the project will be released. 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 Earthwatch Expeditions are scientific research expeditions, not tours or holidays. Earthwatch makes every effort to describe field conditions accurately but fieldwork in remote locations is a delicate business and prone to last-minute change. 


It is the responsibility of each participant, and their parent(s)/ legal guardian(s) for minors, to be clear about the physical demands of the expedition prior to registration, as some expeditions are more strenuous than others. 

All participants, and their parent(s)/ legal guardian(s) for minors, must review the project conditions and physical demands as described in the provided expedition briefing materials and determine if the participant can safely join or not. Participants, and their parent(s)/ legal guardian(s) for minors, should discuss the project conditions and physical demands with the participant’s doctor if they have a question or concern about their health and/or ability to do so safely. Earthwatch reserves the right to require a doctor’s approval for participation as needed. 

All group participants must complete their registration online via the MyEarthwatch portal; a specialized registration link will be provided in the Group Leader Agreement. Student participants under 18 years of age must be registered online by a parent or legal guardian, including basic contact information for both the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) and student. Group Deposit must be completed within 30 days from when the Group Leader Agreement is signed and is confirmed upon receipt of a $500 USD (£400/€450/$750 AUD) per student, non-refundable deposit; those registering within 90 days of the expedition start date must pay the full, non-refundable balance (see “General Payment Information” for more details).

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


Preparing for your Expedition


Each participant’s account within the MyEarthwatch portal contains important information about the expedition, including required forms, payment information, and an expedition logistics document, when published. 


All participant forms must be completed and submitted to Earthwatch via the participant’s MyEarthwatch portal no later than 90 days before your expedition start date. 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 within five (5) business days.

By signing the Earthwatch Participant Form, all participants and parents/legal guardians of minors agree to Earthwatch’s Participant Code of Conduct and Teen Behavior Agreement for minors. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in cancellation or dismissal from the team without a refund. 


General Payment Information


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 contribution and travel costs of participating teachers (‘Group Leaders’). Emergency travel medical and evacuation insurance for each participant is included in their contribution. Earthwatch is not responsible for medical or other costs not covered by Earthwatch’s insurance policy. Please see Earthwatch Insurance for more details.

The contribution does not cover the cost of travel to and from the rendezvous site, airfare, 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 the Account Manager for more information.

The air travel and contribution costs for teachers (‘Group Leaders’) to accompany students will be complimentary based on the following guideline. 

  • 1–5 student bookings = 0 free teachers
  • 6–8 student bookings = 1 free teacher 
  • 9 + student bookings = 2 free teachers 


Group Leaders may choose one of the options below when planning their expedition. The agreed-upon payment schedule will be described in the Group Leader Agreement and in relevant communications to all participants and their families.

Earthwatch requires groups to adhere to one option for all participants. Failure to complete payments by the due dates described below may result in cancellation of the group and forfeiture of all contributions to Earthwatch.

Option 1: Initial Deposit & Partial Payment Schedule
  • Submit a non-refundable Group Deposit equivalent to $500 per student within 30 days of signed agreement. 
  • 50% of the remaining balance to be paid 150 days prior to expedition start date. 
  • Final balance due 90 days prior to expedition start date. 
Option 2: Full Balance Paid During Registration
  • Submit full expedition contribution within 30 days of signed agreement, including non-refundable deposit equivalent to $500 per student. 

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


The group, Group Leader, or individual participant may also choose to start an Expedition Fund with a minimum $25 contribution. Once the Expedition Fund is open, volunteers and contributors including parents, colleagues, community members, etc., can donate 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 mailed in January of the year after their donation is made. Should a group cancel, all contributions made into its Expedition Fund must be used within three (3) years of the initial deposit or these contributions will be forfeited and considered a general donation to Earthwatch.

Note: All Expedition Fund donations are non-refundable. 


In the United States, Earthwatch Institute is a public charity and, usually, contributions of cash, securities and property donated by US citizens are tax-deductible. However, participants and contributors should always consult their local tax laws and/or tax attorneys or other qualified professionals for official tax advice.

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.


Cancellation, Transfer and Refund Policies 


If the group needs to cancel their expedition, please inform Earthwatch as soon as possible. Your cancellation must be confirmed with an email from Earthwatch; do not consider the expedition cancelled until this confirmation is received.

If the group is unable to recruit enough participants to reach the minimum required by the predetermined fielding date, the team will be subject to the Cancellation, Transfer and Refund policies described here. 

Groups cancelling with more than 150 days prior the expedition start date may have 50% of their non-deposit contributions refunded, transferred to another eligible expedition, or placed in an Expedition Fund to be used within three (3) years of the cancellation. Deposits may be transferred, on a one-time basis, to another eligible expedition or placed in an Expedition Fund. Deposits are not refundable.

Groups cancelling within 150 days prior to expedition start date are not eligible for refunds, transfers, or Expedition Funds. 


On rare occasions, an expedition may be canceled by Earthwatch. If Earthwatch cancels your expedition for any reason within Earthwatch's control, we will refund 100% of what you have paid at the time of cancellation or assist your group in transferring balances to another eligible expedition. 

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


Earthwatch takes no responsibility for cancellation or amendment penalties a travel company may charge if travel plans change as a result of cancellation by either the group or Earthwatch. Travel arrangements are subject to the terms and conditions of the agency through which travel was booked. 

Group members are responsible for protecting themselves against airline and travel agency cancellation fees. Participants are encouraged to buy flexible, refundable tickets. Earthwatch also strongly advises the purchase of Trip Cancellation insurance; visiting comparative websites such as may be helpful in doing so.


In addition to the policies above, please note all refunds are made to the original form of payment and may take several weeks to process. Be advised, our refund policies are designed to ensure our scientists receive reliable funding for their research and hosting duties so, 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.


If a student needs to cancel, the Group Leader may offer a replacement to Earthwatch for review. The suitability of a replacement depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the time remaining until the expedition's start date, ability to complete forms and payments on time, the availability of permits, equipment, and accommodations.




Earthwatch expedition costs do not include airfare. Groups may arrange their own travel itinerary or utilize Earthwatch’s external travel partner, Gordian Travel International. Should you require assistance reserving airline tickets, your Program Coordinator will refer you to our external travel partner, Gordian Travel International, and will provide logistical support to ensure the accuracy of your itinerary. All flight options, fare quotes, final purchase decisions and payments will be made directly with Gordian Travel International. 

Group Participants must follow the rendezvous and departure guidelines as stated in the logistics document or as communicated by an Earthwatch representative. Any deviations from these guidelines may result in additional fees, a request to rebook your travel, or a decrease in field time. We recommend purchasing adequate third-party travel insurance, and refundable or exchangeable tickets, to minimize disruptions and losses in the event of a flight change or cancellation. 

Any payments for travel arrangements are subject to the cancellation and refund policies of the individual service providers, and Earthwatch takes no responsibility for refunding or reimbursing these costs in the event of a participant’s cancellation. 

Group Leaders who receive a complimentary space on the expedition will also receive complimentary airfare with a maximum fare of $1,000 for the United States, Central & South America and Caribbean and $1,500 for Europe, Asia, and Africa. All Group Leader airline reservations will be at the lowest reasonable rate. Travel should not be booked until Earthwatch has shared the up-to-date expedition Logistics Document for your program. If transportation is purchased prior to this and is not in line with our required logistics, Group Leaders are responsible for adjusting travel and will incur any potential change fees. Group Leaders must pay for their airfare and will be reimbursed by Earthwatch after returning from the expedition. Receipts must be submitted to Earthwatch within 30 days of return from the expedition in order to be reimbursed up to the maximum amount. All submitted receipts must include the name/details of the item for which you are requesting reimbursement, plus the date of the transaction. If either are missing, we cannot accept the receipt for reimbursement. Once you submit your receipts, we will send you a check up to the amount of your travel reimbursement cap. This can take 6–8 weeks to process, so please plan accordingly.  


Participants are responsible for making sure their passports are up to date and for securing any necessary visas. In some cases, passports must be valid for a minimum of six (6) months beyond the stay in the destination country. The expedition may be based in a country in which a visa is needed or flights enroute to your expedition may include a country requiring a transit visa. If you are unsure about the applicable requirements, check with the 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 a visa is necessary for your expedition, it must be a tourist visa (unless stated otherwise in the logistics document). List the purpose of your visit as 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. 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 allow ample 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 enroute to another country, you must complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form online at least 72 hours before departure from the U.S.


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 (1) guardian or alone, they may need a notarized letter from all legal guardians stating 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 airlines 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. Group Leader and participants must keep informed of the requirements to avoid problems at immigration. If a minor is refused entry into a country or onto a flight because of lack of documentation, there is little Earthwatch can do to help other than assist with travel arrangements to return home.


Medical decisions are the responsibility of each participant, and which travel vaccinations to receive should be made between the participant and their doctor. Health conditions around the world are constantly changing, so keep informed and consult a 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. Please also take note of Earthwatch’s current COVID Safety Protocols & Vaccination Requirements.


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 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 participants. The project’s conditions and essential eligibility requirements are clearly described in the logistics document 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 as well as relay emergency messages from home. 

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


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 project safety protocols in the field. Earthwatch Institute supports the right of the Earthwatch scientists, project staff or Earthwatch staff, to remove participants 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, or intentions on the expedition are also grounds for rejection of future reservations or dismissal from an expedition. 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 Participant Code of Conduct and Teen Behavior Agreement.


If you have any questions or concerns about these Terms and Conditions, please contact your Earthwatch representative.


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