Apply for Funding
We 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. We pride ourselves on our capacity for long-term support of research projects, averaging between 7-8 years of support across the projects available for public recruitment.
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.
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 are not able to fund the following:
- Scientist salaries
- Student tuition
- Institutional overhead
- Capital equipment
- Post-fielding data analysis
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 and data collection;
- 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 partner groups;
- Be run in English, with all communications by field staff and supporting documents in English;
- Educate volunteers about the project’s science and 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 pre-proposals must be submitted by the PI, who will be responsible for all scientific oversight of the proposed research and analyses. All PIs must either have a Ph.D. in the field of the proposed research and an affiliation with a university, government agency, or science-focused NGO, or collaborate with a co-investigator that meets those qualifications. We encourage graduate student participation on projects and are particularly interested in helping support early-career scientists and scientists local to the research nation. University labs (advisors + grad students) provide a strong and successful approach for our model. In that context, we encourage graduate student participation in projects as research technicians, and are able to include per diem stipends in the research budgets for these roles.
We strongly encourage scientists with an interest in working with 15- to 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 scientifically qualified personnel. We encourage the presence of the PI in the field, though trained field staff may lead some of the teams. The researcher 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.
Research Ethics Standards
Working with Animals
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. We are interested in supporting the development of novel noninvasive methods and technologies, including, but not limited to, eDNA sampling, camera traps, acoustical monitoring tools, etc., as long as volunteers are involved in their deployment, data collection, and some of the initial analyses.
Working with Human Subjects
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. We encourage PIs to assess and publish on the Earthwatch model of citizen science in the context of the PI’s focal research.
Improving Ecological Sustainability
Projects must be designed to minimize their carbon footprint and operate in as ecologically sustainable of a manner as possible. This includes transportation, accommodations and food, and interactions with local communities.
Update on Request for Proposals Process
Important note to scientists: The COVID-19 crisis has not only impacted our ability to get research teams to the field, it is limiting our capacity to review pre-proposals for projects beginning in 2022. We have therefore made the difficult decision to suspend our Request for Proposals announcement this year (for 2022 projects) to enable our staff to prioritize managing existing projects through this unprecedented period. We fully intend to announce our RFPs next year (2021) for new projects to begin in 2023. Thank you for your understanding.