|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2012)|
|Headquarters||Boston, Massachusetts, United States|
President & CEO
Earthwatch Institute is an international non-profit organization that was founded by Robert A. Citron as Educational Expeditions International in 1971 near Boston (USA). It is one of the largest global underwriters of scientific field research in archaeology, paleontology, marine life, biodiversity, ecosystems and wildlife. For over forty years, Earthwatch has delivered a unique citizen science model to raise funds and recruit individuals, students, teachers and corporate fellows to participate in critical field research to understand nature's response to accelerating global change. Earthwatch's work supports hundreds of Ph.D. researchers across dozens of countries, conducting over 100,000 hours of research annually.
Earthwatch's mission statement is "to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment."
Earthwatch Citizen Science Projects are peer-reviewed, Ph.D led scientific field research which give everyday citizens the opportunity to join research teams around the world to collect field data in the areas such as wildlife conservation, rainforest ecology, marine science and archaeology.
By paying to spend time on a project (ranging from a few days to several weeks), volunteers, corporations and foundations support the critical field research both financially and by providing manpower to collect data. Participants gain first hand experience with science, the scientists and the research area of their projects.
Organization and history
Earthwatch headquarters are in Boston (Massachusetts), as well as offices in Oxford (England), Melbourne (Australia), Tokyo (Japan) and Hong Kong (China).
Since 1971, the worldwide organization has recruited more than 110,000 volunteers who have joined scientists in the field as research assistants, and between them have contributed more than 11 million hours of their time to front-line environmental research all over the world. Earthwatch supports more than 50 vital research expeditions in more than 28 counties.
Earthwatch volunteers partner with leading scientists in the field to conduct valuable research that makes a difference in the world across four vital areas:
- Climate Change - Climate change poses one of the greatest challenges to the planet. Earthwatch supports research that improves the understanding of how climate change is affecting different environments, and they find ways to help communities reduce their impacts and adapt to changes.
- Archeology & Culture - This research shines a light on the combined genetic, ecological, cultural, and linguistic variation discovered in the native biological and cultural communities. These research programs unearth the past in a way that safeguards the future.
- Wildlife & Ecosystems - Habitats and animals all over the world area threatened. The goal of this research is to create conservation plans and help protect our planet and its inhabitants in today's ever-evolving landscape.
- Ocean Health - This research seeks to protect marine biodiversity with a focus on those parts of the ocean most quickly impacted by society, such as the highly threatened coastal habitats including mangroves and coral reefs.
Current research expeditions being fielded by Earthwatch scientists and volunteers from around the world:
- Amazon Riverboat Exploration - Advancing strategies for community-based wildlife management and conservation in rural areas of Loreto, Peru that facilitate sustainable hunting for local communities, and ensure that nationally protected areas and conservation concessions work with local people and not against them.
- Animals of Malawi in the Majete Wildlife Reserve - How can we best help African wildlife return to and thrive in their native habitat?
- Archaeology of the Mongolian Steppe - What archaeological treasures await researchers at the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in Mongolia?
- Blazing the Biodiversity Trail in Brazil - What can scientists learn about conservation and biodiversity by observing the movements of wildlife in Brazil?
- Butterflies and Bees in the Indian Himalayas - What does climate change hold for the Himalayas? Help find out by examining pollinators and the crops that need them.
- Carnivores of Madagascar - A conservation and development program to secure survival of endemic carnivores, their prey, and habitat in and around Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar, focusing on the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox).
- Climate change and caterpillars - Over half of all described organisms in the world are involved in plant-insect-parasitoid interactions, yet basic ecological assumptions about diversity of these interactions still lack quantitative tests. This project addresses how climate change and extreme weather events disrupt tritrophic interaction diversity, leading to herbivore outbreaks, and disruption of interaction diversity causes unstable ecosystems and diminishes ecosystems services.
- Climate Change and Landscape in Borneo’s Rainforests - Assessing biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, regenerative capacity, conservation value and restoration requirements in degraded forests and forest fragments in Borneo.
- Climate change at the Arctic's edge - The project seeks to quantify the consequences of climate-induced environmental change, it will determine the status of treeline and permafrost in the study areas and the main processes affecting them.
- Climate Change in the Mackenzie Mountains - Scientists expect to see the greatest effects of global warming in the Arctic. What, exactly, will these effects be?
- Climate Change in Wytham Woods - Carbon/Animal Ecology - Part of the HSBC Climate Program which aims to find methods of managing forests that will maximize the benefits we derive from them into the future. Investigating the effect in the UK of fragmentation and management history on response of temperate forest to climate.
- Conserving Koala Country - Investigation of the response of koalas to environmental change in the Great Otway National Park and surrounding private land (‘the Otways’), to provide information critical for the conservation of their populations and habitats.
- Conserving Leopards and Monkeys in South Africa - Help gather critical information to protect leopards and monkeys under threat in South Africa.
- Coral Communities in the Seychelles - Despite being recognised as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world with huge economic value, reefs are threatened by both anthropogenic and natural phenomena. This project examines key characteristics of reefs and associated communities, around Curieuse Island, to advance understanding of species’ responses to future climate changes and how the local community are affected.
- Costa Rican Sea Turtles - Understanding the behaviour of leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the impacts of human activities on these turtles on the beaches of the Pacific coast.
- Encountering the Prehistoric People of New Mexico - Join pioneering excavations of prehistoric quarries in the Valles Caldera and discover how humans interacted with this volcanic landscape 10,000 years ago.
- Excavating the Roman Empire in Britain - Excavation of a previously unknown Romano-British site of significant importance discovered in Devon. Research on this site will contribute to the understanding of life in the Romano-British world.
- Exploring an Active Volcano in Nicaragua - How does an active volcano shape the world around it? Peer into the crater of the Masaya Volcano to find out.
- Exploring Boston’s Urban Forest - Cities are made up of buildings and streets – but between and among human structures are thousands of trees that make up the urban forest.
- Exploring Lions and their Prey in Kenya - Can inventive livestock management bring balance between lions, other predators, and prey back to the Kenyan savanna?
- Following Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos - How are foods introduced by humans literally changing the face of the iconic Darwin’s finch in the Galápagos Islands?
- Investigating Threats to Chimps in Uganda - Explore interactions between people and chimpanzees and other primates in the rainforest of Uganda to improve human–primate relationships.
- Investigating Whales and Dolphins of the Norwegian Arctic - Amid spectacular scenery, study the behaviors and needs of arctic whales and dolphins.
- Loons and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010 released over 250 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The impacts on resident and migratory wildlife are likely to last a decade or more. This research project monitors the survivorship and health of common loon breeding populations along the Louisiana coast, and will contribute to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Resource Damage and Assessment process.
- Loons of the Canadian Prairie - What can we learn about the loons of Louisiana’s coast when we follow them 2,000 miles north to their summer breeding grounds?
- Mammals of Nova Scotia - This project is designed to address how temperate ecosystems, and their biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife, which are prevalent in most parts of the industrialised world, are being affected, and often degraded by human activities and climate change.
- Mammoth Graveyard in South Dakota - Generating information on morphological adaptations of the Colombian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) as its habitat was reduced by sea level rise in the post-Pleistocene era.
- Of Mountains and Marmots: Climate Change in the French Alps - This project will investigate the population dynamics of marmots (as a model species) in the alpine region - a region strongly affected by changes in climate. The results will provide valuable information to help predict wildlife responses to climate change and support effective conservation management.
- On the Trail of Giant Pandas in China - The giant panda is one of the most iconic endangered animals in the world. In the Sichuan province of China, volunteers work with pandas in captivity, and help them adapt to life in the wild, so that they may breed, and live longer and healthier lives.
- Origins of Angkor - Excavating the village of Ban Non Wat in Thailand, and the surrounding area, looking at changes in socio-environmental interactions and resource use, and relating this to present day issues
- Project Manta - The manta ray is the world’s largest ray; it is an iconic species with a worldwide distribution however recent demand in Asia for manta ray products has led to significant population declines in many regions. This project is a comprehensive study of manta rays (Manta birostris and M. alfredi) to simultaneously enhance knowledge of the species, develop a Manta Identification Database, generate economic and social benefits and provide a basis for long-term monitoring of its environment.
- Puerto Rico's Rainforest - Sustainable management of timber production in the Las Casas de la Selva Tabonuco forest, using line-planting techniques that ensure maintenance of biodiversity, and conservation of the soil.
- Recovery of the Reef - Research to unravel fundamental microbial mechanisms responsible for Black Band Disease (BBD) pathogenesis in coral populations through a combined field based and laboratory approach to investigate the environmental and microbial drivers of developing BBD lesions.
- Safeguarding Whales and Dolphins in Costa Rica - Climb aboard a motorboat and sail a tropical “inner sea” in search of endangered dolphins and whales in Costa Rica.
- Scouting Foxes, Badgers, and Hedgehogs in England - What is really going on with the creatures you see scampering in your garden?
- Shark conservation in Belize - The project seeks to engage stakeholders with shark conservation and collect data that will influence policy makers to establish marine reserves to ensure the continued persistence of endangered sharks in Belize.
- Snorkeling to Protect Reefs in The Bahamas - How can we protect fragile coral reefs and still benefit from their resources? Help scientists answer this critically important question.
- South African Penguins - Investigating the reasons behind the rapid decline of the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) over the last decade and potential mitigation strategies.
- South Africa’s Hyenas - Understanding the ecology and ecosystem functioning of scavengers in the North West Province, particularly brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea) to increase public appreciation for the value and function of scavengers within ecosystems.
- Swimming with Sea Turtles in the Bahamas - Where do endangered sea turtles thrive? Help scientists find out and protect these critical habitats.
- Thinking Like an Elephant in Thailand - Working to reduce human elephant conflict, through understanding elephant behaviour, and supporting youth education programmes.
- Tracking Beavers Through German Waters - How do beavers shape Germany’s Lower Rhine—and can we keep them from clashing with the people who live there?
- Tracking Costa Rica’s Mammals - Can farmers help revive Costa Rica’s forests? Elusive wild mammals hold clues.
- Uncovering the Mysteries of Ancient Colorado - What caused the biggest shift in human history: from hunting and gathering to farming? Dig into the ancient past for clues.
- Unearthing Ancient History in Tuscany - What can we learn about Italy’s ancient people from the ruins they left along the coast of Tuscany? Help us dust off clues.
- Walking with African Wildlife - Understanding the ecological processes that facilitate and maintain diversity of animals within the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa.
- Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun - How can we do a better job of sharing the ocean with whales and dolphins in one of the U.S.’s most populous areas?
- Wildlife in the Changing French Pyrenees - Help discover and protect this delicate Alpine environment from climate change, and from ourselves.
- Wildlife of Australia’s Rainforest - What is the impact of climate change on the habitats and wildlife of Australia’s rainforests?
- Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe - In Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Earthwatch scientists have worked to study and conserve the area's wildlife, including the "near-threatened" argali—the largest mountain sheep in the world. Their efforts have been so successful that results from the work have been used to develop improved conservation management policies in the reserve, and the research team has expanded their studies to include several other species as well as work in another nature reserve.
Previously Funded Earthwatch Expeditions
Earthwatch has been successful in completing environmental scientific research throughout its history. Some recently completed research includes:
- Animals in the Outback - Investigating the impacts of integrated pest management strategies on native fauna species in an open (non-fenced) system in Australia for development of an optimal predator control program.
- Arabian Leopards on the Edge in Oman - Build national capacity for safeguarding the long term viability of the Arabian leopard and its habitat in Jebel Samhan through provision of baseline habitat and population data to establish a conservation plan for mitigating human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss and other threats, and to set up a framework for long term population and habitat monitoring.
- Australia's Vanishing Frogs - Assessing the status of seriously threatened frogs in the rainforests of eastern Australia, and investigating frog populations that may be resistant to a fungus contributing to amphibian decline in Australia.
- Before and After in Belize: Testing a Marine Reserve - Providing information needed for local conservation and management of queen conch (Strombus gigas) and lobster (Panulirus argus), and testing the effectiveness of marine reserves for conserving and managing fisheries.
- Canopies, Climate, and Critters of the Ecuadorian Rainforest - How many species of plants and animals make their home in the magnificent rainforests of the Ecuadorian Andes?
- Cheetah Conservation in Namibia - Securing habitat for the long-term survival of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and its ecosystem through multi-disciplined, integrated programs in research, conservation and education.
- Climate Change in Brazil’s Atlantic Forests - Part of the HSBC Climate Partnership which aims to find methods of managing forests that will maximize the benefits we derive from them into the future. Investigating effect of fragmentation and the history of forest management systems with respect to climate change in a tropical biodiversity hotspot, at Rio Cachoeira Reserve.
- Climate Change in Chesapeake Bay Forests - Part of the HSBC Climate Program which aims to find methods for managing forests that will maximize the benefits we derive from them into the future. Investigating the effect of management history on response of mixed deciduous forest to climate.
- Climate Change in China's Gutianshan Forests - Part of the HSBC Climate Program which aims to find methods of managing forests that will maximize the benefits we derive from them into the future. Investigating the effect of fragmentation and management systems on response of broad-leafed forests to climate change.
- Climate Change in India’s Western Ghat Forests - Part of the HSBC Climate Program which aims to find methods for managing forests that will maximize the benefits we derive from them into the future. Investigating the effect of fragmentation and management systems on response of mixed forests to climate change in a biodiversity hotspot.
- Conserving Grevy's Zebra in the Samburu District - Monitoring the distribution, population dynamics and interactions of Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), in Samburu, Kenya for conservation and management of the species.
- Costa Rican Coffee from Community to Cup - Exploring the value of forest fragments to pollination and the conservation of biological diversity in the Tarrazu coffee agroecosystems, as well as exploring the relationship between farmer management practices and soil quality, coffee productivity and quality, and the surrounding environment in the Los Santos/Tarrazú region.
- Daintree’s Hidden Coastline - Protecting Australia’s fragile Daintree River coastline from land clearing, pesticides, and climate change.
- Darwin’s Finches and Natural Selection in the Galapagos - Earthwatchers helped protect the iconic Darwin’s finches of the Galapagos Islands.
- Digging for the Deep World of Devon’s Roman Ruins - Earthwatchers investigated the function of a rich archaeological site from Roman times discovered in Devon, England.
- Discovering Italy’s Ancient Roman Coast - Filling key gaps in the knowledge of the industrial history and coastal economy of Populonia and its territory, from the early Roman period (250/200 BCE) to the early Middle Ages (600 CE).
- Dolphins of Greece - Studying the behaviour and ecology of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) in the Amvrakikos Gulf and investigating how human activities - mainly fisheries and pollution - affect the dolphins.
- Dolphins of the Egyptian Red Sea - The project seeks to provide the necessary scientific information to develop targeted policies and strategies for cetacean conservation.
- Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Cultural Heritage - Investigating the changing nature of agricultural production and development on Rapa Nui, learning the roles of climate and human-induced factors in causing the civilization’s failure.
- Encountering the Prehistoric People of New Mexico - This project aims to increase knowledge of long term human use of this unique high elevation volcanic environment in northern New Mexico, and to use that knowledge to better understand how humans have adapted to and transformed the landscape over 10,000 years.
- Exploring San Francisco’s Urban Forest - Why, exactly, do cities like San Francisco need trees? Help us discover the true worth of the benefits they bring.
- Fort Arbeia and the Roman Empire in Britain - Archaeological excavations of a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall, in South Shields, UK - part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site - to inform development, management and conservation of the site.
- Freshwater Turtles of the Kimberley - Determining the population status and conservation needs of freshwater turtles of the Kimberley Plateau, Western Australia, and provide insight into the freshwater biodiversity of the region.
- Geology and the Shaping of the American Southwest - Advancing understanding of the geometry of the faults that characterise the Rio Grande Rift basin. Yielding data on how to manage water supplies, particularly in light of industrial pollution.
- Great Ape Conservation in Cameroon - Working to protect endangered great apes outside of protected areas, and support alternative local livelihoods.
- Into the Al Hajar with the Arabian Tahr - Using the Arabian Tahr as a focal 'umbrella‘ species. The project will work closely with in-country scientists, to develop in-country conservation research capacity and provide pathways for the implementation of conservation management, including the development of a workshop mediated Arabian Tahr Conservation Action Plan.
- Leopards, Hyaenas and Primates: Mammal Conservation in South Africa - Understanding the ecology and status of biodiversity within the Soutpansberg Mountain Range, and developing management strategies for conservation and mitigation of human/wildlife conflict.
- Mangroves and Reefs of the Bahamas - The Bahamian archipelago is a fast developing region where the marine environment is highly impacted by human activities. This research is studying connectivity between mangroves and patch reefs, to determine fish movement between the two habitats and the factors important for ensuring good connectivity and therefore healthy fish populations on Bahamian reefs.
- Meet the Meerkats of the Kalahari - Understanding the dynamics of cooperative breeders and the impacts of disturbances on populations through research on Kalahari meerkats (Suricata suricatta).
- Melbourne's Microbats - Trapping and recording bats to establish baseline data on critical habitat requirements, and enable management of urban landscapes for bat habitation in Australia, for their conservation.
- Monitoring Brazils wildlife corridors - One of the largest threats to biodiversity is the fragmentation of natural habitat and the resulting isolation of small populations of animals. This research project aims assess the potential of the Araguaia river valley as a functioning wildlife corridor between the grassland Cerrado and the Amazon through a study of five key species (jaguar, giant river otter, giant piraiba catfish, Amazon river dolphin, and the black caiman), with the aim of recommending and implementing management policies along the corridor based on the results.
- Mountain waters of the Czech Republic - Evaluating trends related to pollution, climate change, and alternative watershed practices in the decline and recovery of the Jizera mountain ecosystems and the services they provide.
- Orangutans, Gibbons, and Borneo’s Bawan Rainforest - The island of Borneo is one of the most bio-diverse regions on Earth. It also suffers one of the highest rates of deforestation. By describing the biodiversity of the Bawan forest, this research project aims to justify its protection, and support local community livelihoods.
- Paradise Wood - Experimental Plantation in England - Studies to help forest managers grow trees successfully in light of predicted climate change.
- Protecting the Rivers of California’s Wine Country - How can nature and people coexist successfully in California’s threatened wine country?
- Protecting the Rivers of the California Delta - How can ecologists help to restore riverside habitats in Central California’s agricultural Delta?
- Rainforest canopies and wildlife in Ecuador - The project monitors large animal and bird populations of the Santa Lucia Reserve in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Because these animals need high quality forest habitat to survive, they act as “umbrella species” whose protection will also ensure the conservation of other animals and plants. Data collected will help determine whether existing areas offer sufficient protection in the face of climate change.
- Restoring Easter Island's (Rapa Nui's) Forests - Examining the role of prehistoric rock mulching and rock placement in gardens and agricultural fields by the Rapa Nui as a way of creating a sustainable. agricultural system.
- Sampling Vineyard Ecology and Biodiversity in Bordeaux/Wildlife and Wine in Bordeaux - Enhancing and monitoring biodiversity in wine-producing landscapes through the development of more sustainable practices and farmscaping methods.
- Saving Kenya’s Black Rhinos - Quantifying the impact of either increased or reduced herbivore density on the distribution of black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and on the ecosystem at the Olpejeta Conservancy.
- SCAP SW Earth and Skies through Time - Characterising planetary surface processes and mapping the geology of northern Arizona locations using remote sensing data from Mars Odyssey or the Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter.
- Spotting Songbirds in the Rockies - Avian, pika and alpine, and mountain lion research in the Rocky Mountain region. Resident and migratory songbirds have been declining for the past 30 years. Earthwatch scientists are monitoring their populations and working to understand the cause these declines.
- Sydney's Hidden Mammals - Syudy of the ecology, behaviour and social habits of the rakali (Hydromys chrysogaster) – a type of water rat - in Chowder Bay, New South Wales, Australia.
- Tagging the Terrapins of the Jersey Shore - Determining the effects of anthropogenic habitat disturbance on population dynamics and reproductive biology of the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) in New Jersey, USA for conservation development.
- Tidal Forests of Kenya - Community conservation project working to restore mangroves in Kenya.
- Trinidad's Leatherback Sea Turtles - Trinidad supports one of the last 3 largest leatherback colonies in the world. This project continues to evaluate the ecology and population trends of the Trinidad population of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), as well as investigating the effects of ecotourism on nesting turtles and the vulnerability of the colony and nesting beaches to climate change
- Turtles in Trouble - Generating information for policy makers on how waste becomes dispersed in the sea and advising pollution legislation, through researching the impacts of pollution on Endangered (IUCN Red List) marine turtles in Australian waters.
- Volcanology and Ecology in Iceland - Iceland’s Eastern Volcanic Zone is one of the most geologically active areas in the world.
- Whales and Dolphins of the Hebrides - Identifying particular areas of importance or “hotspots” for whales, dolphins and porpoises through monitoring their distribution and relative abundance throughout the waters of western Scotland.
- Whales and Otters of British Columbia - Understanding the interdependency between the southern feeding aggregation of grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) and their food supply (especially mysids).
- When Archosaurs Attacked and Reptiles Ruled Texas - The Arlington Archosaur Site (AAS) is unique in producing hundreds of fossils from a relatively unexplored section of Cretaceous rock, approximately 95-100 million years in age. This fossil site provides important information on ancient coastal ecosystems during a period of Earth history that was very different from today. With funding from Earthwatch, researchers continue to explore the site.
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