Frequently Asked Questions


What is Earthwatch?

Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that connects citizens with scientists to improve the health and sustainability of the planet. For more than 50 years, Earthwatch has empowered nearly 100,000 volunteers to join leading scientists on field research expeditions that tackle critical environmental challenges around the globe—from climate change to ocean health, human-wildlife conflict, and more.

What is included in the cost of the expedition?

Your contribution covers important research costs, such as equipment, permits and supplies; food, accommodations, and local transport; safety and welfare management; travel medical and emergency evacuation insurance; and preparatory materials. Our scientists rely on your contributions in order to produce top-quality research while hosting teams of citizen scientists. Your contribution and most travel costs are tax-deductible in the U.S.

Who can join an expedition?

Anyone can join an expedition—no experience necessary!  All training will be provided upon your arrival.  We offer both adult expeditions and teen expeditions for 15- to 17-year-olds. Teens are also welcome on most of our adult expeditions if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Volunteers join us from all over the world.

What do the project Activity Levels mean?

The physical fitness levels listed below are guidelines only. Please refer to the specific project conditions and physical demands as described in the Online Expedition Briefing for detail of what to expect in the field.

Please give particular attention to the Essential Eligibility Requirements included in the Online Expedition Briefing.

These are the basic physical and thinking abilities needed to fully and safely participate in the program and are intended to help you decide if you are able to safely participate in the program. Participants on all projects must be able to follow verbal and/or visual instructions, independently or with the assistance of a companion.

Many of our expeditions take place in challenging climate/environmental conditions that can greatly intensify the fitness required for a given project.  For example, conditions may include extreme heat/humidity, high altitude, aridness, extreme cold, etc. Please be sure to review the Project Conditions carefully with this in mind.

Very Easy 

Mostly lab work; must be able to walk up to 1 mile/day (1.6 km) over flat terrain. Dexterity often required.


Some walking over uneven ground, small hills; must be able to walk up to 3 miles/day (5 km) with personal supplies up to 5 lbs. (2.3 kg). Dexterity, mobility and good balance required. 

For water-based projects: Must be able to swim or tread water for 5 minutes unaided by fins or buoyancy devices.


Must be able to walk, possibly in sand or uphill, with a light pack up to 5 miles/day (8 km); ability to stoop, bend or kneel often required; must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 10 lbs. (4.5 kg). Dexterity, agility and good balance required. 

For water-based projects: Must be able to swim at least 110 yards (100 m) unaided by buoyancy devices or fins.

Very Active

Must be able to walk up to 10 miles/day (16 km), possibly in sand or uphill, climbing over rocks or fences, and/or at high altitude; must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 20 lbs. (9 kg) for several days in a row. Dexterity, agility and good balance required. Must be able to move quickly if needed.  

For water-based projects: Must be able to swim at least 220 yards feet (200 m) unaided by buoyancy devices or fins. 

For snorkel/scuba projects:  Must be able to surface dive to at least 15 feet (4.6 m) multiple times per day or perform 2-3 dives per day at less than 65 feet (20 m). 


Must be able to hike up to 15 miles/day (25 km) for several days in a row, possibly in backcountry and/or uphill; must be able to carry equipment weighing up to 40 lbs. (18 kg). Dexterity, agility, stamina and good balance required. 

For water-based projects: Must be able to swim at least 550 yards (500 m) unaided by buoyancy devices or fins. 

For snorkel/scuba projects: Must be able to surface dive to at least 20 feet (6 m) consistently throughout the day or perform 4-5 dives per day at up to 65 feet (20 m).


Some projects may be able to accommodate varying levels of fitness due to some activities being more or less strenuous than others on the same project.  Please refer to the project description, including the Essential Eligibility Requirements, or contact Earthwatch for additional information specific to the research activities and fitness required.

How do I sign up for an expedition?

We highly recommend that you visit our website, find an expedition you are interested in and read the expedition details and briefing (you’ll find a link to the briefing at the top of the expedition page). When you are ready to book, you can either book online or give us a call at 1-800-776-0188.

How far in advance do I need to book an expedition?

Each expedition has a different degree of demand.  Some expeditions fill up a year or more in advance, so we suggest that you sign up as soon as you see an expedition you are interested in. Once you sign up, you will have until 90 days before the start of your expedition to complete payments and submit your participation and travel forms.

Do I need to have any prior scientific knowledge to participate?

No! You will learn all that you need to know when you get out to the field.

How is Earthwatch committed to my safety? 

At Earthwatch, we are committed to caring for the safety and welfare of all individuals involved in our activities anywhere in the world. Although risk is an inherent part of the environments in which we work, we believe that through careful risk management and diligent planning all participants can have a rewarding, educational and inspirational Earthwatch experience. 

Are promotions or payment plans available?

We do offer promotions throughout the year, so be sure to join our newsletter to stay informed.  You can also access promotions as a reward for being part of the Ambassador program. Join today to earn rewards for spreading the word about Earthwatch. We also make it easy for volunteers to pay all at once or in as many pieces as they would like: just pay a $500 deposit to reserve your space, then continue paying off your balance as often as you’d like up to 90 days before fielding.

Finally, many of our volunteers take advantage of our Expedition Fund. Starting an Expedition Fund is an excellent way to help fundraise for an expedition’s contribution cost. You can ask your friends, family, colleagues, and anyone else in your network to help support you going on an expedition. It is a great alternative to holiday and birthday gifts! Plus all contributions are tax-deductible!

How long are the expeditions?

Our expeditions vary by duration, with most running between 1 and 2 weeks. We also occasionally offer short-duration expedition of less than 1 week, so keep an eye out if you’re looking for a weekend getaway!

What are some other ways to get involved with Earthwatch?

Even if you can’t join us on an expedition right now, there are many ways to get involved with Earthwatch. You can join our Ambassador Program and help to spread the word about Earthwatch while receiving special discounts and rewards. Start an Expedition Fund with as little as $25 and begin saving for Earthwatch expedition today. Or donate to help sustain critical field research that protects endangered species, responds to the effects of climate change, and safeguards our sea and landscapes.



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