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   Groups Terms and Conditions



Earthwatch expects all team members—participants, staff, and program Team Leaders—to:

  • Treat all people with respect
  • Foster a safe, productive, inclusive and positive environment for learning and research
  • Abide by all applicable laws

Participants are expected to participate in program 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 Team Leaders.

Disruptive behavior or verbal, physical, or any other type of abuse, intimidation, harassment, assault or other 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.


It is essential to the Earthwatch mission that people participate in solving the environmental challenges we face. To this end, Earthwatch is continuously working toward improving inclusivity and accessibility on our programs.


Earthwatch promotes respect and inclusion for all people.

Earthwatch does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation or any other reason prohibited by applicable law and respects participants’ right to privacy.

Discrimination will not be tolerated on Earthwatch teams or in interactions with members of the local community. Please also be aware that local anti-discrimination laws and customs may vary from country to country.


Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgement.

For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-gender 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.


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


Local statutes, customs, practices, ordinances, and regulations with regard to the use, possession, sale, or purchase of alcohol are applicable to all participants and program Team Leaders on Earthwatch programs. Participants and Team Leaders on Earthwatch programs must comply with the law of the country in which a program is located regarding the minimum age required to purchase and/or consume alcohol. Consumption of alcohol is prohibited during research and other program activities and should be restricted to recreational or mealtimes.

In addition, restrictions on the use, possession, sale, or purchase of alcohol may be set by the Earthwatch scientist and will be described in the online Expedition Briefing.

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

For Teen Teams: The consumption or possession of alcohol, by participants or Team Leaders, is prohibited on Earthwatch Teen Teams, regardless of local minimum age requirements.


Smoking is only permitted in designated areas which vary from site to site; restrictions will be described in the online Expedition Briefing. Cigarette remnants must be disposed of properly.

Note: Smoking in the presence of minors is not permitted.


Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated on Earthwatch teams or in interactions with members of the community.

Sexual harassment refers to verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment, including but not limited to: unwelcome sexual advances; pressure for sexual activity or requests for sexual favors; inappropriate or unwelcome physical contact or exposure; explicit or suggestive speech or gestures, including inappropriate jokes, teasing or insinuations; gender-specific, demeaning or derisive remarks or slurs; explicit or suggestive images that are displayed, e-mailed or texted.

Remember that different people have different ideas of what is, or is not, appropriate. What may be joking to one person may be unwelcome and offensive to another—including other participants, the local population, Team Leaders, or other program staff. It is important to be sensitive to the reactions and non-verbal cues from others. Any participant who is found to have engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment may be immediately removed from the program at their own expense.

Anyone who believes they have been affected by or witnessed sexual harassment should report it to the Earthwatch scientist, other Team Leaders, or Earthwatch right away.


Team Leaders (including PIs, field and support staff and facilitators), their colleagues, visitors and associates, are prohibited from becoming romantically involved with Earthwatch participants for the entire program duration.

Because Team Leaders hold positions of authority, the relationship that exists between participants and Team Leader is analogous to a student-teacher relationship. Intimate, romantic, or exclusive relationships can create an uncomfortable work environment and negatively affect team dynamics.


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 after daylight hours or during recreational time; any restrictions will be described in the program’s online Expedition Briefing.

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.


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”). Exceptions or limitations for some teams may be made at the discretion of Earthwatch and the Earthwatch scientist.


Participants are not allowed to drive program vehicles during an Earthwatch program. Participants are not permitted to operate or ride on motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, quad bikes or aircraft.

Participants who drive their own vehicles to the rendezvous point or program site, 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 another participant’s vehicle is strongly discouraged and is also done at the participant’s own risk.

In select circumstances, participants may be able to drive boats under the direct supervision of a qualified crew member and in accordance with local regulations.


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 the Earthwatch scientist what is acceptable to them.


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.


Neither Earthwatch nor program staff may refuse a participant for discriminatory reasons (race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, etc.). However, Earthwatch and the Earthwatch Scientist reserve the right to refuse an applicant’s participation in an Earthwatch program 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.


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, other Team Leader, or Earthwatch staff.

A participant is subject to removal from the team at their own expense if:

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

In the event a participant is removed from an Earthwatch program, the participant (and/or their parents or guardians, if appropriate) will be responsible for making and paying for any necessary accommodation, travel, or other arrangements associated with their departure. The participant will not be eligible for a refund of the contribution for the expedition, nor any expenses incurred by participation on the expedition. Dismissal from a project will jeopardize the participant’s ability to join other Earthwatch programs in the future.

In the event a minor is dismissed from a program, Earthwatch will contact the participant’s parents or guardians prior to dismissal.

(June 2023)


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.