This month we focused on spring and the environment with the celebration of Earth Day. Now the month is over and it is time to get away, but that does not mean we have to stop doing things that help the environment. There is actually a fantastic way to get out there, see the world, and experience something new all while doing some good. We found the Earthwatch Institute, they have been helping the environment for 40 years and you can help too. There are SO MANY fun volunteer vacation opportunities available to choose from. You can choose from expeditions in Archeology and Culture, Climate Change, Ocean Health and Wildlife and Eco-systems. There are expeditions here in the US and all over the rest of the world. As a volunteer you are expected to make a minimum contribution depending on the value of the expedition, and all donations are tax-deductible and help to support the research that you will be working on during your vacation. If you have always been interested in the scientific side of things, but are not a scientist, this is your chance to be one for a week or two or even just a weekend, depending on which expedition you choose. There are so many options depending on what you love, what you are passionate about, and how much time you have to give. Here are a few of our favorites just to give you an idea of what can be done.
1.) Exploring Boston’s Urban Forest – If you want to start small and just do something for a day then this is great. With the expedition you will help to build a database of information that helps to understand how trees positively impact urban areas. You will also help to determine what care is needed for trees to survive in a stressful environment.
2.) Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun – Weekender – If you want more than a day, but still not ready to try a full trip then this weekend deal is for you. With this expedition you will spend the weekend observing marine mammals from shore and by boat. You will learn to identify individual whales and dolphins by photos and how to estimate their distance from you. You will observe them in their habitat and around commercial boats and human activity. This information is used to help further protect these amazing animals from human interference.
3.) Mammoth Graveyard in South Dakota – Now for the real fun stuff that takes some more time. If you have ever wanted to help uncover fossils and dig for a Wooly Mammoth then this is the trip that will give you the opportunity to get down in the dirt. Using trowels and brushes and some very high-tech equipment you will help to unearth remains of creatures from the past.
4.) Swimming with Sea Turtles in the Bahamas – On this expedition you will help scientists to discover habitats that are important to the Green and Hawksbill sea turtles. They will use this information to create plans that will protect the habitats from development and to do this you get to jump into the water and swim with these amazing turtles. Not only do you swim with them, you actually get to catch them (something only allowed if you are working with these scientists). Get some snorkeling in and see some amazing coral reefs and other sea life while you are at it.
5.) Butterflies and Bees in the Indian Himalayas – On this expedition you will be working in the majestic Himalayas collecting data about plants at different elevations along with the activities of butterflies and bees. This will help scientists to develop agricultural policies for the region that will help to protect the declining bee population.
6.) Thinking Like an Elephant in Thailand – If you love elephants then this expedition gives you the opportunity to get up close with them. You will work closely with elephants to collect behavioral data. You will also assist the caretakers on their daily routines and prepare food for the elephants. This research will help to ensure the needs of the elephants are thought of in the local Thailand communities and develop strategies to mitigate human-elephant conflict.
7.) Tracking Beavers Through German Waters – On this expedition you will search from shore and boats to find signs of beaver life. You will then observe the behaviors of the beavers you find as well as count them. You will take environmental samples of the areas soil and water to find out more about how the beavers live. All this information will help to increase the knowledge of the beavers in the area and assist in plans for managing the beavers that are friendly to the beavers as well.
8.) On the Trail of giant Pandas in China – On this expedition everything you do will help to keep the Giant Panda population alive. You will work with captive pandas that are meant to breed and increase the panda population by observing their behaviors as well as preparing and delivering bamboo to the pandas and keep their living area clean. You will get to monitor video from a sister panda base where the pandas are then trained for reintroduction into the wild. This is a once in a lifetime experience that will help to reinforce the goal of keeping up the population of pandas in the wild.
9.) South African Penguins – Penguins are my favorite animal and I would love to be able to help protect the South African penguins. They are the second largest colony of African penguins on the planet. On this expedition you will conduct population surveys to determine breeding success and help the penguins in the process. On your recreational days you will get to take a boat to enjoy some of Africa’s premier tourist spots.
10.) Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef – If you love to scuba dive, there is no better place to do it that the Great Barrier Reef. On this expedition you will work at a variety of dive sites and survey different areas tagging and photographing diseased areas of the reef. These areas are then monitored over time. All of this research will help to determine how the reef recovers from cyclones, seasonal changes, and the impact of light, temperature, and water quality.
So take a look at the Earthwatch Institute site and see all the other volunteer opportunities they offer. There is definitely something for everyone. Take a trip, do some good, and help the world change for the better. In return you will have a once in a lifetime experience, gain an incredible amount of knowledge, make new friends, and be changing the world in the process. Now get out there and change the world for the better!