It can be extremely frustrating, watching the destruction of our environment and not being able to do a thing about it. Sure, you can give money, write letters and take part in rallies, but... wouldn’t you rather be out there on the front lines, where you could physically help save the threatened habitats, animals and cultures? Well, you can. In fact, you’ve been able to for the past 39 years. Next year, the US-based Earthwatch Institute will celebrate 40 years of giving people the chance to volunteer on environmental research projects all over the world.
Originally the projects were listed in a magazine, but have since moved onto a website. There, potential volunteers can search through descriptions of all the current and upcoming expeditions, and read field reports on past trips. Some of the expeditions require participants to be Scuba-certified, but other than that no special skills or education are required. While they cover everything from counting tree frogs to working with coffee farmers, the projects fall into four main categories:
Needless to say, if you just want to lie in the sun and be coddled (and there’s nothing wrong with that), then an Earthwatch expedition might not be what you’re looking for. Accommodations are typically in tents, dormitories, hotels or such, but not in luxury resorts. Volunteers are often expected to help with things like grocery shopping and cleaning, although often some time is set aside for them to go and be tourists. Naturally, some people would be amazed that volunteers pay an average of US$2,700 a trip to stay in modest accommodations and be put to work. Those people should talk to Warren Stortroen.
After 14 years and 60 projects, a few stand out. “‘Prehistoric Pueblos of the American Southwest’ has to be an all time favorite, “ he recalled. “Archeology in a remote and beautiful New Mexico canyon with a great staff and Principal Investigators, with many interesting finds and great camaraderie! I did this one five times... I've enjoyed many whale, dolphin, sea otter, and sea turtle expeditions, as well as many that involve wider ecological systems such as ‘Biodiversity of the Grenadines’ or ‘Amazon Riverboat Explorations’.”
If you’d like to take part in an expedition, or if you’re a scientist looking for funding and volunteers, then pay a visit to Earthwatch’s website.
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