Earthwatch is an organisation providing research funding by allowing volunteers to pay to participate in scientific investigations. There are Earthwatch projects world wide in many different areas. The following information is taken from their website
Earthwatch was founded in 1971 in Boston, Massachusetts. A need to invent a new funding model for scientific research became apparent, as dwindling government funding was combined with an increased urgency in the need for scientific information and action.
Earthwatch started with just 4 hand-picked scientists from the Smithsonian Institute, and 39 volunteers working on these 4 teams. Last year, over 3,500 volunteers have worked on Earthwatch projects, which have grown to 140 projects in over 50 countries around the world. 
Earthwatch Australia was founded in 1982, firstly in Sydney and now Melbourne. Earthwatch was launched in 1971 in Boston, Massachusetts USA. There are other Earthwatch offices located in Oxford, United Kingdom and Japan 
Earthwatch Australia has earned the respect of organisations and agencies by involving local scientists, volunteers, business leaders and all those concerned with conservation across Australia. 
Earthwatch Australia has committed and dedicated staff. Our volunteer Board of Directors are responsible for the governance of Earthwatch Australia.
What we doEdit
Every day Earthwatch isEdit
- matching conservation volunteers from around the world to suitable research projects,
- collaborating with global partner organisations on their conservation and management plans,
- building networks of students and teachers to share expedition based-based curriculum and lesson plans
- communicating with scientists about proposed research projects, findings and research results
- engaging corporate partners and thousands of individuals to support our mission
Earthwatch manages the environmental and social impacts of our activities as a responsible organisation. 
Further research into species ecology, habitat management and the effects of climate change on our world is pressing.
Manta database spreads its wings
Researchers on Earthwatch's new Project Manta expedition have recently received photos of the 9th manta ray, named Clusius, proved to be travelling between Lady Elliot Island and North Stradbroke Island. Scientists expect this number to go up as the number of photos volunteers provide increases.
These results tell us that it is probably the same population travelling along the coast as opposed to different manta populations occupying different areas. This news is extremely exciting and important as currently nothing is known about the eastern Australian manta population movement, and this shows for the first time that this manta ray species can travel such great distances.
Harbouring the right habitatEdit
Earthwatch's new Sydney's Hidden Mammals research project has discovered the first confirmed recording of Rakali (Australia's native water rat) at a research site around Sydney Harbour with the lack of black rats and brown rats. These invasive species are usually prevalent in the main harbour, so this suggests that Rakali are excluding the introduced rodents from natural areas, thereby protecting our biodiversity from some of the worst invasive species in the world.
Stomaching a croc's diet
A recent study into the stomach contents of the Crocodiles of the Zambezi, led by Earthwatch scientists, has discovered a local variation in diet between populations, meaning they target different prey species in different areas. This highlights the importance of dietary studies in the compilation of management plans. The scientists have also investigated the blood biochemistry of the crocodiles, which will be useful information to inform diagnostic investigations in both zoo and farmed individuals, while a study into their genetic biology (loci and mitochondrial DNA sequences) has shed light on historical processes that may have been responsible for the current geographical distribution of individuals. The results suggest that the populations of crocodiles in the Okavango Delta and neighboring rivers represent the remaining vestiges of a much larger population.
Out of AfricaEdit
During November 2008, the Walking with African Wildlife team held the annual Animal Population Control meeting in Hluhluwe. The aim of this meeting was to debate population estimates, and assess population trends in order to determine which species need particular attention for conservation. Park managers were very impressed with the quality and quantity of data collected by Earthwatch volunteers, which indicated a fall in numbers of two species of antelope, the kudu and waterbuck. This has prompted a study to determine the possible reasons for this decline.
Putting marine mammals on the radarEdit
Our Dolphins and Whales of Abaco Island project has contributed marine mammal and sea turtle sightings data towards the United States Navy’s Marine Resources Assessment project. These data will be used by the US Navy’s Fleet Forces Command to help mitigate naval activities in The Bahamas operating areas. Internationally, the research represents the only long-term study of marine mammal fauna in the wider Caribbean region. The researchers’ data is also employed in the Agreement for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW agreement, within the United Nations Cartagena Convention), which aims to improve the management of national protected areas and species in the region.
Data provided by Earthwatch volunteers on our Macaws of the Peruvian Amazon project are furthering scientific understanding of nest attendance, reproductive success, chick growth and nest types, and will contribute to an insight into psittacines (parrots) in general. The teams have also helped to take the first video data on the nesting habits of scarlet macaws at the Tambopata Research Centre. The footage will be used to document the interactions between siblings in order to understand how sibling rivalry and parental decisions affect chick starvation.
Taking the murrelet under our wingEdit
Research carried out on the critically endangered Kittlitz's murrelet, a seabird of the alcidae family (which includes puffins and guillemots,) in Prince William Sound, Alaska, will help conservationists understand its habitat requirements. Found only in a few areas in Alaska and Siberia, the decline in the species’ population is thought to be closely linked to the massive glacial recession underway in northern latitudes due to climate change.
Data from a long-term monitoring programme as part of the Australia's Forest Marsupials project is being used to calculate population viability models, and has been used in the preparation of a management and recovery plan for Leadbeater’s possum. Additionally, data from the Variable Retention Harvesting Experiment (Cutting Experiment), whereby patches of retained forest are surveyed for birds, reptiles, small mammals, and arboreal marsupials before and after harvesting, will be used to assess the efficacy of alternative harvesting systems, improving co-operation between research and forestry operations.
Shelling out for jewelleryEdit
Fieldwork on the Earthwatch project Fiji's Ancient Seafarers has uncovered the major discovery of a pottery ‘jewellery box’ hailing back to the Lapita people who populated the region from around 1100 – 550 BC. It was identified as a deliberate burial, and the pot contained nine shell rings, five bracelet-like items and five drilled shell pieces that may well have formed a necklace. Nothing like this has ever been found before in a Lapita site. The abundance of this shell jewellery discovery suggests that (at one point in its 500-year history) Bourewa island (part of the Fiji archipelago) was a manufacturing centre for shell jewellery. Landowners have agreed to protect the location, making it the only Lapita site to be preserved in this way.
Protection in the plantsEdit
In 2008, volunteers on the Samburu Communities and Wildlife project contributed to 219 interviews with 76 traditional medical practitioners. The result was 58 plants species subsequently identified as being used for the treatment of various illnesses in different communities in Laikipia and Samburu regions of northern Kenya. When plant samples were extracted and tested against micro-organisms known to cause these diseases, many of the plants were indeed found to be effective. They were potentially useful in killing the bacteria relating to the organisms causing malaria, typhoid, wound infection and even the one causing cystic fibrosis.
Out of the blueEdit
Researchers working for Earthwatch in Japan, supported by Earthwatch Japan, are making cooperative conservation actions for endangered butterflies, with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Japan and Japan's Self-Defense Force. A notable inclusion is the Reverdin’s blue, listed as a category II extinction risk ("vulnerable") in the Japanese Red Data Book of threatened species. The Reverdin's Blue lives in some parts of Kanto and Chubu Regions of Japan. Unfortunately its habitat is shrinking year by year and there are many areas where the species is already believed to be extinct.
Researchers on the Crocodiles of the Zambezi expedition have recently been asked on two separate occasions to remove crocodiles from a community fish farm, and the successful relocation of these animals has demonstrated to villagers that crocodiles do not have to be killed outright. Commonly the creatures have been persecuted due to the villagers’ fear of them. The team also contributed to two television documentaries in 2008.
A Tuscan triumphEdit
With the help of Earthwatch volunteers, the Madonna della Tosse fountain in Tuscany has recently enjoyed a restoration, marking a very important step for conservation of the fountains in the area, which used to be provided in each town for the people who travelled through. The recovery was completed in just three months as part of our Fountains and Tabernacles of Tuscany expedition, and has become a symbol of a renaissance of interest and pride for the local cultural heritage.
On the Lions of Tsavo project in Kenya, Earthwatch-collected information has helped the Born Free Foundation submit a proposal for additional ranger teams who will de-snare and patrol all of the ranches between the Taita-Rukinga sanctuary and Tsavo West National Park in response to widespread poaching. The protection of this keystone species will indirectly offer protection for many other wildlife species
Learning the lemur's dietEdit
Volunteers on the Lemurs and Forests of Madagascar project have recorded that the lemurs (varecia v. variegate) feed on a plant species not yet included in the list of food eaten by the animals. This discovery of a more diverse food source has led to a better understanding of the feeding ecology of the species, and will help to ensure an effective habitat for the lemurs.
The flora and fauna surrounding Poás volcano in Costa Rica may be useful in providing an effective indication of its activity, reports Dr Hazel Rymer, lead scientist on Earthwatch's Volcano expedition.
Over the years, scientists including Dr Rymer have observed and measured cycles of increases and decreases in the gravity above Poás. These gravitational distortions, usually associated with magma movements, make it possible to predict future volcanic activity. Currently there is a gravity build-up resembling one monitored in the 1980s, which resulted in an environmental crisis at Poás in the 1990s when the park was closed because of dangerous sulphurous gas emissions.
Dr Rymer is also looking for small genetic changes in the plant life around Poás, similar to those that occur as a result of traffic pollution. These changes could provide a cheap, efficient and environmentally-friendly way of monitoring the volcano’s activity.
The team are investigating the processes that control volatile flux from magma and quantifying the long-term environmental and ecological effects in order to gain a better understanding of the hazards posed by gas emissions which will allow for more effective mitigation procedures to be adopted, including the cultivation of acid tolerant crops to neutralise soil, the evacuation of livestock and advice on the full evacuation or time-limited exposure for the human population as necessary.
Steppes for protectionEdit
Earthwatch scientists working on our Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe project are conducting ground-breaking research into numerous little-studied species. We are gathering vital new knowledge on animals such as the globally threatened cinereous vulture. Our efforts have led directly to the Ikh Nart Reserve’s designation as an Important Bird Area in Mongolia, and the federal government is now considering upgrading the status from Nature Reserve to a National Park.
Giving hyaenas reason to laughEdit
The Northwest Parks and Tourism Board in South Africa are continuing to support the work of our South Africa's Brown Hyaenas project and several parks have approached the research team to expand their surveys to provide more information on this mammal for conservation action. It is hoped this research on the species’ genetics will inform the team of the viability of populations inside protected areas and what action is needed in maintaining this viability to ensure their survival.
Earthwatch is working to restore and manage mangrove plantations and explore the capacity of different mangrove species to store carbon, which could help mitigate the effects of climate change. The new plots are already producing wild seedlings, indicating that the project should result in self-sustaining, valuable woodland providing key habitat and shore protection in areas that have been barren for over 30 years. Mark Huxham, the Earthwatch scientist leading the Tidal Forests of Kenya project confirms there has been an 87 per cent survival rate of the trees at the site, and his conservative estimates predict 180 tons of carbon will be absorbed over the 25 year forest growth. Because mangrove forests collect peat, they will continue to act as carbon sinks for many years to follow. We are involved with the local community to ensure the plantations can be sustainably managed in the long term.
Message in a bottlenoseEdit
As a result of research supported by Earthwatch volunteers in our Dolphins of Greece project, an international cooperative for marine biodiversity (ACCOBAMS) has recently recommended that the Amvrakikos Gulf be considered a candidate Marine Protected Area, specifically to protect bottlenose dolphins.
Mexico (Baja Peninsula): Volunteer efforts pay off for black sea turtlesEdit
After a six-year campaign, conservationists are celebrating the designation of the Bahia de los Angeles in Baja, Mexico, as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Hundreds of Earthwatch volunteers contributed to this success by helping gather data during the Black Sea Turtles of Baja expeditions. The bay is home to numerous marine species as well as birds and other coastal wildlife. This new protected status for the area may also help the critically endangered vaquita, (the world's smallest and most endangered cetacean), a shy porpoise found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California and believed to be close to extinction.
Kenya: Earthwatch puts clean water on the map for local communitiesEdit
Earthwatch scientists and volunteers have developed a comprehensive new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database that will help local communities in the Samburu region of Kenya gain sustainable access to improved water supplies. Compiled over several years, the maps detail permanent and temporary water sources and will help reduce the outbreak of serious diseases such as cholera by avoiding the use of contaminated water supplies.
Barbados, Caribbean: Endangered hawksbill turtle populations on the increaseEdit
Data collected on the Hawksbill Turtles of Barbados project suggest that the number of nests of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle in Barbados have increased significantly as a result of efforts by Earthwatch and other conservation organisations. Recent findings suggest that Barbados is now the second largest rookery of hawksbills in the wider Caribbean.
Australia: Earthwatch volunteers collect data to produce detailed animal distribution maps in threatened ecosystemEdit
Earthwatch volunteers working in the North Queensland Wet Tropics UNESCO World Heritage Site have provided a staggering 46,987 individual records of vertebrates, including numerous species of mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. Teams also collected an additional 100,000 insect records, which will almost certainly contain a number of species new to science. These data were collected by multiple teams as part of the Climate Change in the Rainforest Earthwatch expedition and have already been used in various publications, including a report that provides the most detailed distribution maps and ecological information to date on these species in northern Australia.
Mongolia: New information may help save threatened vultureEdit
Evidence gathered by Earthwatch teams on the Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe project shows that the threatened cinereous or Eurasian black vulture migrates up to 12,000 miles away from its homelands. These new data will contribute to understanding the bird's behaviour and help Earthwatch scientists and conservation decision makers to better understand its conservation requirements. This research project also hopes to investigate further the factors influencing the vultures' nesting success in order to assist the recovery of the species.
Australia: Changed Logging Practices to Protect Endangered PossumsEdit
Research undertaken in the forests of Victoria on Earthwatch's Australia's Forest Marsupials project has not only discovered an entirely new species of possum but has also led to changes in logging practices in the central highlands - with experiments underway to find more environmentally friendly methods which are less harmful to wildlife.
Brazil: Largest ever biometric survey of peccaries will help to conserve Pantanal wetlandsEdit
The Pantanal in Brazil is the world's largest freshwater wetland, protected by UNESCO World Heritage status, and home to various species of peccary and feral pig. Recent studies have shown that their role as fruit eaters and dispersers affects the biodiversity of certain forest habitats. Earthwatch volunteers working on Conserving the Pantanal have sampled a total of 233 white-lipped peccaries, the largest survey of its kind for this species. These efforts have yielded valuable information regarding individual mammal's age, weight, diet and other biometric parameters, which will help researchers and scientists to develop a conservation plan for these mammals in the Pantanal.
Kenya: Secured RAMSAR status for Lake ElmenteitaEdit
In September 2005, Earthwatch teams enabled Lake Elmenteita to be designated a RAMSAR wetland of international importance. The lake currently supports more than one per cent of the global population of lesser flamingoes and more than 20,000 water birds, as well as providing a habitat for locally threatened species.
Spain: Mediterranean shipping lanes diverted to protect dolphinsEdit
Through extensive dialogue with oil companies, the Spanish navy, the European Union and Spanish fishermen, scientists from Earthwatch's Spanish Dolphins project secured agreement from the International Maritime Organisation to divert shipping lanes off the southern coast of Spain from the start of 2007. This monumental agreement has safeguarded crucial foraging grounds for common and bottlenose dolphins.
Tanzania: Wildlife Corridors to Protect African BiodiversityEdit
Thanks to data collected by Earthwatch teams in the Usambara Mountains the Amani Nature reserve has been expanded and wildlife corridors have been designed to help protect the astonishing biodiversity in the region which is currently under threat from increasing habitat fragmentation. The project has also contributed to the formation of a community-based conservation project in the region and the training of local technicians in monitoring techniques.
Costa Rica: Vastly expanded a conservation areaEdit
After more than 10 years of research by Earthwatch teams in Costa Rica, Las Baulas National Park, the most important nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific, has been expanded from 10,700 hectares to 110,000 hectares and consolidated to provide a necessary buffer between the beach and any human development. "Without Earthwatch, I believe that Leatherback turtles would already be extinct in the Pacific" said the project's lead scientist Dr. Frank Paladino.
Botswana: Nesting sanctuary for crocodiles establishedEdit
In 2005, research from Earthwatch teams prompted the government of Botswana to establish a nesting sanctuary for the Nile crocodile. The sanctuary is to be situated in a part of the river away from human disturbance.
Kenya: Innovative Monitoring of LionsEdit
In 2005, Earthwatch teams pioneered the use of special tracking collars on lions allowing the teams to collect detailed information about lion movements around Tsavo national parks. This work has potential practical implications for mitigating the conflict between lions and cattle station owners in the area.
South Africa: Monitoring PenguinsEdit
2005 saw the successful trials of an automated recognition system for penguins on Robben Island in South Africa. By monitoring the thousands of penguins on the island, Earthwatch teams are helping to measure the impact of tourism, fishing and oil spills for conservation purposes.
USA: Protecting Marine MammalsEdit
After Earthwatch scientists drew attention to a mass stranding of 17 cetaceans in the Bahamas, the United States Navy admitted that sonar tests caused fatal trauma in the marine mammals and planned policies to prevent such injuries.
Cameroon: Uncovering New Plant SpeciesEdit
A decade-long botanical study, assisted by more than three hundred Earthwatch volunteers in the highland forests of Cameroon has discovered fifty endemic plant and fungi species and varieties new to science. The documentation of the rare and endemic plants that remain in these dwindling forest habitats provides vital data for conservation management.
USA: New Legislation to Protect CoastlinesEdit
Evidence collected by Earthwatch volunteers, working with Dr. Steve Leatherman on Cape Cod and Fire Island, contributed to the U.S. Congress passing the Coastal Barrier Resources Act to protect barrier islands.
Peru: Discovering New SpeciesEdit
Earthwatch teams working in the rainforest canopy found the area brimming with so much evidence of biodiversity that most scientists have now revised their estimates for the number of species of life from 1.5 million upward to 30 million.
Indonesia and Kenya: Reducing Greenhouse GasesEdit
Earthwatch volunteers have helped villagers in Kenya and Indonesia learn to build solar ovens, reversing deforestation, curbing the production of carbon dioxide and stemming the death toll caused by smoke inhalation from indoor cooking fires.
Capacity Building in Developing CountriesEdit
Many conservation organisations in Southern Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe have very limited funding for training staff members. The Capacity Building Program responds to this need and as a result raises the ability (or 'builds capacity') of these organisations to practice effective conservation. The program aims to:
- bring together conservationists, scientists and research staff from around a region or within the same field of research to share ideas, best practice and to learn by example
- equip participants with the skills and knowledge to collect and process environmental data
- provide young scientists with the inspiration and confidence to initiate their own research program.
Since 1995 over 1000 individuals worldwide have benefitted from a place on the Capacity Building Program. These participants have represented over 25 nationalities, have attended more than 35 different Earthwatch projects and have contributed over 100,000 hours to vital conservation research around the world.
Find out how this program contributes to a number of international conventions and publications.
Earthwatch Australia's capacity building program focusses on countries in southern and south eastern Asia.
Home > Our Work > EducationEducation is vital to Earthwatch's mission of achieving a sustainable futureIt is through education that we gain the understanding necessary to enact change and continue to strive for innovative and effective strategies for conserving our environment.
Earthwatch is committed to lifelong learning and our expeditions are a great way to experience the world, its people and cultures whilst contributing to valuable conservation research. Earthwatch expeditions reveal the environment from the unique perspective of scientists who are dedicated to working towards practical solutions to environmental issues.
We believe that engaging young people in the environment is essential to its sustainability and that students must be supported by enthusiastic teachers who are motivated by innovative ideas and stimulated by continual learning.
Earthwatch Australia has a number of educational programs aimed at students from high school and to postgraduate studies. Teachers also have the chance to gain important professional development opportunities through our TeachLive initiative.
Young people aged 16 - 18 from across Australia join student-only teams during the school holidays and learn first hand about conservation research. Click here for an example of outcomes achieved through previous support for this program.
This program aims to give tertiary students the chance to experience the challenges and rewards of scientific field research whilst widening their professional network and improving their teamwork and communication skills.
TeachLive is an innovative teaching and learning program which places teachers on Earthwatch research projects where they not only receive a unique professional development experience but also get to link back to their students in the classroom via a dedicated TeachLive website http://www.teachlive.org.au/.
Climate change related effects on rainfall and temperature are causing changes in plant flowering times and animal breeding and migration cycles. ClimateWatch is a monitoring program that will allow community groups, schools and individuals to develop their understanding of climate change and natural processes and contribute to the work of the scientific community by making and recording their observations of the natural world.
Many people feel overwhelmed by the scale of environmental problems, and think they as individuals can't do anything to help. You can. There are lots of ways you can get involved and help make a real difference to the environment.
Join an ExpeditionEdit
Over the past 35 years Earthwatch has made a significant contribution to achieving a sustainable environment by educating and engaging thousands of people. You can become one of them, have an incredible experience and make a vital contribution to achieving a sustainable environment. Choose from over 100 expeditions all over the world.
Make a DonationEdit
We can no longer ignore the problems that humans have created on planet Earth. Together, we can - and will - find the solutions, but we need your help. We can’t do it without your personal financial support. Through one-off or regular credit card donations, direct debits, salary deductions or bequests you can contribute to helping Earthwatch make a lasting difference.
Climate change is affecting rainfall and temperatures across Australia. Consequently, flowering times, breeding cycles and other natural phenomena are changing. This will result in increased extinction rates and adverse impacts on forestry and food production. ClimateWatch allows the community to participate with scientists in a monitoring program to make and record observations on plant and animal indicators.
Grants Available for ResearchEdit
Earthwatch supports projects with funding and field assistants. To qualify for support you must be able to work with or use a team of volunteers and have an association with a recognised research institution or other organisation. Earthwatch cannot provide funds for field salaries of the principal investigator although we can assist with support of your research assistants in some cases.
To ensure our research addresses pressing global environmental issues, Earthwatch will preferentially fund projects that specifically focus on one or more of our four Research Areas.
Scientists will be expected to work with Earthwatch to ensure that the project's objectives fit the focus of one or more of these four priority research areas and directly contributes knowledge to attaining a sustainable environment. In addition, it is highly desirable that a project:
- leaves a legacy after the project's lifespan. This could include implementation of management plans or recommendations by local organisations arising from the research, or strategies to continue the research. An indication of how any post project outcomes will be monitored should be included
- maximises educational potential for project stakeholders, including the local community and partner organisations. Activities could include education workshops or talks for local schools and communities, opportunities for community members to visit the field site or contributing to local and national media about the impacts of the research
- demonstrates that it will build and enhance abilities, relationships, values and skills that will enable local organisations, groups and individuals to improve their performance towards attaining a sustainable environment. Such capacity building activities could include training of local institutions or community members, facilitating technology transfer, or enhancing wide access to information relating to and arising from the project
Earthwatch support assists scientists to collect information that contributes to the understanding of ecosystem services and resilience, species distributions and abundances, and the role of socio-economics in biodiversity conservation. We support ecologists, conservation scientists, archaeologists, palaeontologists, anthropologists, social scientists and others.
Find an expeditionEdit
Earthwatch Australia is one of four offices in a network supporting research worldwide. Presently Earthwatch supports approximately 120 projects worldwide including research on:
- The impacts of global climate change on tropical biodiversity (Dr Steve Williams, James Cook University)
- Understanding life history and demographic trends of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Ian Bell, Queensland Parks and Wildlife)
- Monitoring whale shark numbers and documenting their preferred habitat and prey at Ningaloo Reef. (Brad Norman, Ecocean)
We are currently seeking proposals for projects in Australia, the Pacific, South East Asia, Melanesia, China, Russia and New Zealand. Projects need to run for at least for 3 years and be able to accommodate 6 or more volunteer teams, 3-4 or more times per year. However we welcome enquiries that may stretch this model.
Earthwatch is an international not-for-profit environmental organisation which engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education in order to help to conserve the diversity and integrity of life on earth. We work with a wide range of partners, from individuals who work as conservation volunteers on research teams through to corporate partners, governments and institutions.
An Earthwatch expedition offers you the chance to explore parts of the world you might otherwise never see, to amaze yourself by the things you can do and to get your hands dirty in the name of making the world a better place.
Working alongside leading scientists, you will join a team of international volunteers working in the field on important environmental issues. Whether you are studying elephant behaviour in the Tsavo or protecting sea turtle hatchlings on the beaches of Costa Rica, you can rest assured that you will be making a difference at the frontline of conservation.
You do not need any special skills - just a spirit of adventure and a desire to help - we'll teach you everything you need to know. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and range from 16 to well over 80, so there is an expedition for everyone.