Participant Code of Conduct



This document contains important information concerning the standard of conduct required for participants, scientists, field staff, and Earthwatch staff. By working with Earthwatch or joining an Earthwatch program, you agree to abide by Earthwatch policies including those enumerated in this document.


Participant Terms and Conditions   Teen Behavior Agreement   Group Terms and Conditions



Earthwatch expects team members to treat all people with respect and to foster a productive, positive environment for learning and research. Participants are expected to participate in project activities to the best of their ability in order to contribute meaningfully to the research. Participants are required to follow the instructions of the Earthwatch scientists, field staff and other Earthwatch staff. Earthwatch expects all team members to abide by all applicable laws. Disruptive behavior or verbal, physical, or any other type of abuse, intimidation, harassment or illegal activity will not be tolerated on Earthwatch teams.

Prior to fielding, if a participant’s oral or written conduct toward Earthwatch or project staff has raised concerns about the potential disruption of team operations or safety in the field, Earthwatch reserves the right to cancel that participant’s expedition place and retain 100% of what the participant has paid at the time of refusal.


Earthwatch promotes respect and inclusion for all people. Earthwatch does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or any other reason prohibited by applicable law and respects participants’ right to privacy. Discrimination will not be tolerated on Earthwatch teams. However, please be aware that local antidiscrimination laws and customs may vary from country to country.

Gender Identity & Expression

Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgement. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


Local statutes, customs, practices, ordinances, and regulations with regard to the use, possession, sale, or purchase of alcohol are applicable to all participants and project staff on Earthwatch expeditions. Participants and project staff on Earthwatch expeditions must comply with the law of the country in which a project is located regarding the minimum age required to consume alcohol. In addition, restriction on the use, possession, sale, or purchase of alcohol may be set by the Earthwatch scientist and will be described in the expedition briefing.

Excessive consumption of alcohol by staff or participants is not acceptable on any Earthwatch project. Earthwatch staff and the Earthwatch scientist have the discretion to remove individuals from the project who consume alcohol in a time and manner that endanger the safety and/or productivity of the expedition.

For Teen Teams: Consumption or possession of alcohol or smoking is not permitted on any Earthwatch Teen Team, regardless of local law.

Drug Use

Laws on drug use in most countries are severe and may impose lengthy prison terms or the death penalty. The manufacture, possession, use, purchase, or sale of illegal or recreational drugs or other illegal substances while on an Earthwatch expedition is strictly prohibited. Prescription drugs may only be purchased and used by the individual indicated on the prescription in keeping with their intended use guidelines.

Intimate Relationships

Please recognize that the relationship that exists between Earthwatch scientists and staff and participants is analogous to the student-teacher relationship. Romantic or exclusive relationships can create an unpleasant or unproductive work environment and negatively affect the team dynamics. Therefore, Earthwatch scientists, their staff, their colleagues, and their associates are prohibited from becoming romantically involved with participants during the entire period that the team is in the field.

Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment of participants, Earthwatch scientists or field staff, Earthwatch employees or local people will not be tolerated on Earthwatch teams. Conduct which is offensive, which harms morale, or which interferes with the effectiveness of Earthwatch expedition teams—for example: lewd or vulgar remarks, suggestive comments, comments regarding a person’s body, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, displaying derogatory posters or drawings, pressure for dates or sexual favors, and inappropriate and/or unwanted physical contact or exposure—is prohibited. It is important to realize that what may not be offensive to you may be offensive to other participants, the local population, or Earthwatch scientists and field staff. Any individual who feels subjected to sexual harassment or has any knowledge of such behavior should report it at once to the Earthwatch scientist, Field Team Leader, or other Earthwatch staff member.

Recreational Time

Project staff will generally accompany participants from the rendezvous to the end of the expedition. For recreational days, when no research activities are scheduled, Earthwatch scientists will offer either a team activity or a range of recreational activities that have been selected by Earthwatch. Participants may also remain at the project accommodations. Those who pursue other options may be asked to sign a release form.

If there is a period of time during a regular research day when no research activities are scheduled, adult participants may leave the project site on their own and may be asked to sign out of the project before doing so. Unless contacted for help, project staff will not search for a participant unless he or she fails to appear the following morning or for the next scheduled research activity.

Earthwatch will assess the general risks of adult participants leaving the project site, but cannot guarantee participant safety or an awareness of all issues. In some cases, due to local conditions, adult participants may have to stay at the project site during recreational time, which will be clearly communicated on site.

For Teen Teams: The project staff and/or Teen Team facilitator will supervise any planned team activity or a small choice of supervised recreational activities that have been selected by Earthwatch. Teens will also have the option of remaining at the project accommodations to rest, provided supervision is possible.

Participants and Driving

Participants are not allowed to drive project vehicles (including motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles) or aircraft during an expedition. In select circumstances, participants may be able to drive boats under the direct supervision by project staff and in accordance with the particular restrictions in place for each project.

If a project environment is such that participants can drive their own vehicles to the rendezvous, those who have driven themselves to the project may not drive their own vehicles to, from, or for project activities, including the transport of project equipment after arriving at the site. Participants may choose to utilize their own vehicles during recreational time at their own risk. Riding in other participants’ vehicles is strongly discouraged and is also done at a participant’s own risk.


Earthwatch considers participants less than eighteen (18) years of age to be minors.

Minors are not permitted to participate on any of Earthwatch’s standard teams unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, in which case the minimum age is fifteen (15). Guardians accompanying minors on standard teams must be 21 years of age or over. Minors on standard teams do not receive additional guidance or supervision from Earthwatch beyond what is offered to the adult participants. The total number of minors on standard teams may be limited on a project by project basis and some Earthwatch projects do not allow participation by minors in any circumstance; such limitations will be noted in the expedition briefing.

Earthwatch has developed teams specifically for 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds and which may include 18-year-olds who are in the same academic year (“Teen Teams”). Teams specifically for families (“Family Teams”) may include children as young as 10 years. Exceptions or limitations for some teams may be made at the discretion of Earthwatch and the Earthwatch scientist.

Intellectual Property Rights 

It is permissible to share photos, videos, and stories of your expedition with family, friends, local media, and in a public forum. Sharing your new perspectives and experiences is welcomed and encouraged.

However, please recognize that all information, data, and images shared or gathered in the course of your expedition’s field work become the intellectual property of the Earthwatch scientist. Co-opting or plagiarism of data, images, or information gathered during an expedition for use in a scientific thesis, master’s, or PhD work, or for profit or for the academic or business use of a third party without the permission of the Earthwatch scientist is strictly prohibited. Earthwatch scientists have the right to place additional restrictions on your ability to share data or certain research-related images.

Conversely, an Earthwatch scientist may give written permission to use data and images for academic or profitable activity. Earthwatch scientists have the right but not the obligation to review and edit materials involving information gathered on one of their expeditions. Please be sure to ask what is acceptable to the Earthwatch scientist.

In the Event of an Emergency 

Each Earthwatch expedition has safety protocols and emergency procedures in place. For their own safety and the safety of other team members, participants must adhere to the instructions of the Earthwatch scientists, field staff and other Earthwatch staff. In the event of an emergency, first aid may be administered and other immediate steps taken by expedition participants or staff members who are not licensed medical providers. While Earthwatch makes an effort to ensure that qualified people make the most informed decisions possible, judgments must be made in the event of an emergency situation in the field.

Earthwatch encourages team members to be vigilant in regard to their own safety and the safety of others. Participants may perform “Good Samaritan” actions, or actions taken to assist fellow participants during emergency situations in the field. However, Earthwatch does not encourage or expect you to jeopardize your own safety or that of others in attempting to rescue or assist your fellow team members.

Right of Refusal

Earthwatch reserves the right to refuse an applicant’s participation in an Earthwatch project at any time due to safety concerns, logistical limitations or in the interest of team compatibility. Earthwatch endeavors to include participants with disabilities where possible. Refusal of an applicant is an unusual event and is generally due to an applicant’s failure to meet the essential eligibility requirements of a particular project and Earthwatch’s inability to make reasonable accommodations. In the event that Earthwatch refuses an applicant’s participation for health reasons, Earthwatch will refund in full any deposit or payment made toward the expedition.

Earthwatch scientists have the right to refuse special requests, such as visits by media (film, photography, or print), special groups, or teams (students, donors, etc.), if they conflict with Earthwatch scientist schedules, safety, research objectives, or general performance of the team.

Right of Dismissal

A participant is subject to removal from the team at his or her own expense if:

  1. The participant’s behavior compromises the safety, research objectives or general performance of the team;
  2. the participant has misrepresented his or her qualifications, for example an undeclared or understated medical condition (whether physical or mental), which could compromise his or her safety or the safety of anyone else; or
  3. the participant has violated a stated policy or law.

The decision to terminate any work being done by a participant and require the participant to vacate the project site is at the discretion of the Earthwatch scientist, Field Team Leader, or other Earthwatch staff.

In the event of dismissal, the participant (and his or her parents or guardians, if appropriate) will be responsible for making and paying for any necessary accommodation, travel, or other arrangements associated with departure from the team. He or she will not be eligible for a refund of the contribution for the expedition nor any expenses incurred by participation on the expedition. If a minor is dismissed from a project, Earthwatch will contact the participant’s parents or guardians prior to dismissal.

(November 2019)

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