Earthwatch - UK


The Organisation

Earthwatch is a non-profit organisation that recruits volunteers from the general public to work with scientists who are conducting research into endangered species, ancient cultures, public health, climate range, rain forests, coral reefs and a host of other vital subjects. As a volunteer, your participation in the research project as a full-fledged expedition member, collecting data, making observations and doing all the other work that scientists do. These are real on-going scientific research expeditions led by some of the world's leading scientists, collecting the objective, factual data that decision-makers need to manage the planet's resources for the future.

Earthwatch is present in Australia, Japan, USA and Europe. It also has a Centre for Field Research, which solicits, reviews and chooses the field research that volunteers underwrite. It costs an average of $5,000 to develop one research expedition. Earthwatch has set a goal to support an additional 30 scientists in 1997 in their quest for global sustainability.

Examples of our work

1. Animal Behaviour

In 1990 Earthwatch teams working with Dr. Wlodzieinierz Jedrzejewski participated in the first-ever radio-tracking of wildlife in Poland.

While working with Dr. Samuel Gruber in the Bahamas in 1992, Earthwatch Volunteers discovered that lemon sharks can return to home ranges from distant, unfamiliar waters. In 1993, they determined that something other than visual, olfactory; gravitational, or magnetic senses played a role in this remarkable homing. Next step is to figure out how these previously unknown navigation systems work.

Between 1984 and 1993, hundreds of Earthwatch volunteers helped Dr. Birut é Galdikas undertake the first long-term study of the endangered orang-utan in Borneo. They helped return ex-captive orang-utans to the wild and found, among innumerable discoveries, that orangs use tools and eat more than 400 species of fruit.

Teams working with Dr. Thomas Suchanek on the Pacific island of Enewetak in 1985 found that burrowing shrimp were dredging up buried lagoon sand that was still highly radioactive as a result of atomic tests carried out in the 1950s, a critical finding for the island's inhabitants, who were returned to the island only two years before and who depended on the lagoon's fish for food.

Teams observing the behaviour of two types of monkey in Costa Rica with Dr. Constance Becker found that white-faced capuchins, unlike mantled howlers, learn to exploit human-altered habitats - information that wildlife managers are using to design conservation plans for the two species.

2. Archaeology

Earthwatch teams under the direction of Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjolbye Biddle at St. Wystan's in England unearthed the only Viking fort ever discovered in England, proving that the Vikings pushed farther south than anyone had previously realised.

Earthwatch teams investigating prehistoric stone structures in Great Britain with Dr. Gerald Hawkins discovered previously unknown monoliths in Argyllshire and paved the way for a new discovery of stone-hole alignments on top of the massive lintels at Stonehenge.

On Huahine, in French Polynesia, crews excavated the first ancient, ocean-going canoe ever found in the Pacific, supporting Yosihiko Sinoto's hypothesis that the Marquesas were the dispersal center for eastern Polynesian migrations.

Because of work done on early church history by Earthwatch teams with Drs. Bailey Young and Christian Sapin, the French government awarded historical monument status to Saint Pierre l'Estrier in Saone-et-Loire.

The Guatemalan government declared the Maya temple of Uaxactun a national monument as a result of Earthwatch volunteers' efforts with Dr. Edwin Shook in uncovering and restoring it.

The Carthage Museum, constructed to save Carthage's heritage, was built entirely with Earthwatch funds, and all exhibits were the work of Earthwatch teams under Dr. John Humphrey.

Earthwatch crews were responsible for the contents of Dr. David Price Williams' Swaziland Museum, which has helped acquaint the Swazi with their history and prehistory.

3. Biodiversity and Ecology

Earthwatch volunteers examining prey species in California's Sierra Madres with Dr. Peter Busher provided critical data on the habitat needs of the spotted owl, which has been the focus of heated political debate in the American northwest.

Challenging the belief that forests get more diverse and structurally complex as one heads toward the equator; Earthwatch teams assisting Dr. Martin Quigley discovered instead that canopy disturbances, like hurricanes, affect diversity and complexity more than latitude and that diversity peaked 20 degrees north of the equator.

Dr. Skip Lazell and his enthusiastic volunteers discovered four snakes, two lizards, and frog unknown to science on the islands off Hong Kong. His teams found that - as in the West Indies - elevation is more critical than island size in determining the biodiversity an island can support, a critical consideration for those designing reserves.

Dr. David Inouye and 14 seasons of EarthCorps volunteers have proven that flies, rather than bees, are the prime pollinators of Rocky Mountain wildflowers. The finding substantially broadens biologists' view of pollination in fragile alpine meadows, one of the first ecosystems on Earth that global warming will affect, climatologists predict. Thanks to the information on Lake Naivasha's key lakeside habitats collected by Earthwatch volunteers working with Dr. David Harper; Kenya Wildlife Services adopted new conservation measures to protect the habitats, and local Kenyan farmers agreed to maintain a voluntary 50-meter-wide buffer zone.

4. Birds

When conservation groups went to court on behalf of the palila, the most endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper, the evidence collected by Earthwatch teams working with Dr. Charles Van Riper helped convince the judge to order the removal of 500 bighorn sheep that were eating the bird's chief food tree.

In Parque Nacional Soberama Panama, Dr. James Karr and his volunteers found that biodiversity of rain forests depends on variation in the habitat, not on stability. Variations in vegetation structure and climate create more niches, hence more diversity - an important consideration in conservation efforts.

On Christmas Island in 1982, crews documented a 90 per-cent drop in 18 seabird populations from the 16.5 million estimated in 1990. Why? The late Dr. Ralph Schreiber and his wife Anne Schreiber linked the crash to an El Nino event that wiped out the birds' food supply.

As a result of volunteers' work with Dr. George Archibald, the Vietnamese government created a national park to protect the drastically endangered eastern sarus crane, whose numbers have since increased by 25 percent.

Earthwatch work with Dr. William Bowerman prompted the U.S. Department of the Interior to legally protect bald-eagle nesting sites around the Great Lakes.

Because of the work done by Earthwatch volunteers with Dr. Peter Driscoll, the government of Queensland declared Moreton Bay a marine park to protect the 50,000 shorebirds documented by the volunteers. The site also won RAMSAR status as a wetland of international significance.

5. Coral Reefs

The data collected by Earthwatch teams at Tobacco Caye, Belize, with the late Dr. Howard Winn and colleagues was instrumental in the government's decision to designate surrounding parts of Belize's barrier reef, the second largest in the world, a marine reserve.

1993 teams helping marine biologist Thomas McGrath in the Bahamas found some of the first solid evidence showing that global episodes of massive coral bleaching, in which coral expel life-sustaining algae and die, was linked to periods of prolonged high sea temperatures and unusual water clarity; which may have exposed reefs to excessive solar radiation.

Scuba crews working in the Philippines with Dr. Alan White in 1992 documented the ways in which the Tubbataha reef had benefited from protective management measures implemented over the previous two years - evidence that convinced the Filipino government to safe-guard other endangered reefs.

Five years of Earthwatch sponsored research in Fiji with the late Dr. David Kobluk showed that some coral communities can recover from hurricanes in just five years, though some coral species disappear and others multiply by as much as 10,000 percent in the process- information that can aid in restoring reefs from manmade damage.

Earthwatch divers sampling corals off Maui, Hawaii with Dr. Paul Forestell found that natural factors are more important than human impacts in determining organism density, while its vice versa for organism diversity data that officials are using to help conserve these fragile ecosystems.

6. Culture and Tradition

Earthwatch volunteers helped Fabio Carrera finish photographing and documenting each of Venice 3,219 coats of arms, roundels, and bas-relief sculptures, which have been put into a computer database that determines which pieces to conserve first and at what cost.

Working with Dr Josephine Flood, Earthwatch volunteers helped Australia's Wardaman people preserve their culture by documenting and preserving more than 14,000 paintings and petroglyphs created by the Aborigines' ancestors.

In Black Canyon, California, six seasons of Earthwatch volunteers helped Wilson Turner create the first comprehensive rock-art record in the U.S., comprising almost 10,000 different petroglyphs - a critical tool for preserving the art from deterioration and theft.

In Chinchero, Peru, Earthwatch teams helped Ed and Christine Franquemont rescue the Chinchero culture by building and stocking a museum and crafts centre that has helped instil a sense of history and pride in a people who were afraid of losing their cultural identity to increasing Westernization.

Volunteers working in north-eastern Brazil with sociologist Dr. Kazadiwa Makuna created the first documentation of the Bumba Me Boi ceremony ever undertaken and made extensive video and audio recordings.

7. Dinosaurs and Other Fossils

Because of Earthwatch volunteers' work with Dr. Larry Agenbroad in Hot Springs, South Dakota, the New World's largest deposit of Colombian mammoths is now a National Natural Landmark. So far they've dug up 51 Colombian mammoths. With Ageubroad, proud townspeople spearheaded efforts to raise $1.1 million to erect a museum over the site.

Teams excavating the deep Natural Trap, Wyoming with Dr. Miles Gilbert unearthed the first cheetah-like cat ever found in North America and tracked evidence of rapid warming at the end of the Ice Ages, which may have pushed some giant mammals to extinction.

In part as result of the finds of Dr. William Sill and his Earthwatch team - including a complete skeleton of a Herrerasaurus, two partial skeletons of the primitive dinosaur Eoraptor, and various mammal-like reptiles - the Ischigualasto valley in north-central Argentina is being considered for designation as a World Heritage Site.

One two-week team working with Dr. David Christophel uncovered 1,600 complete fossilized leaves, 40 million years old, from a coal deposit, providing a clearer picture of the period's climate and ecology.

In eight hours flat, between torrential rainstorms, Earthwatch volunteers under the guidance of Dr. Oscar Carranza dug up the most complete fossilized skeleton of an extinct horse ever unearthed in Mexico, covered it with a plaster jacket, and sent it off to the nation's Institute of Geology.

Teams working with Dr. Richard Lund in Montana discovered 47 species of sharks among the 88 total species of fish they found.

8. Endangered Species

Earthwatch volunteers working with Ralf Boulon and others on St. Croix's Sandy Point over the past 15 springs have saved tens of thousands of endangered leatherback eggs and hatchlings from nest erosion and predation. Stopped poaching of eggs for food. Helped make Sandy Point a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge. And earned Earthwatch the U.S. Department of the Interior's Conservation Award in 1987.

Earthwatch teams helped Dr. George Archibald show in 1992 that highly endangered sarus crane populations in Vietnam had declined by half in four years to an estimated 500 birds. Based on that dire news, the Vietnam government set aside Tram Chim, where the teams worked, as a national park, hired staff to manage it, and passed legislation to protect the birds.

Little was known about what female leatherback sea turtles do when they leave their nesting beaches until teams working in Costa Rica with Dr. Frank Paladino helped to fit several with satellite transmitters. Turns out the turtles use specific migration pathways in the open ocean - a finding with strong implications for conservation, for authorities can know when and where to restrict the long-line fishing and netting that often kills turtles.

Based in part on the efforts of Dr. Anthony Povilitis and his Earthwatch teams in, 1980, 1983, and 1991, the Chilean government formed a special reserve in south-central Chile to protect the huemul, or Andean deer, which is listed on the World Conservation Union's endangered species list.

9. Marine Mammals

In Hawaii, Dr Lou Herman's teams have proved that a dolphin's sight and sonar are so completely integrated that a dolphin can use either sense to form a mental image identifiable by the other sense. The discovery is a fundamental breakthrough in understanding a dolphin's navigation and perception of the world.

Since 1971, Earthwatch has supported humpback whale research worldwide with 640 volunteers and $710,300. Teams have monitored the recovery of this decimated species (estimated at 5,000 when they were protected) in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The news is good, with some humpback stocks doubling or tripling since the 1960s and returning to many of their former breeding grounds.

Dr. Peter Best's crews, sailing in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar in 1994, spotted an average of 21 humpback whales per day, convincing evidence that the Indian Ocean's whale sanctuary, established 15 years before, is working to bring the whales back.

Teams surveying dolphins off the west coast of Costa Rica with Alejandro Acevedo found evidence that the northern and southern hemisphere populations of humpback whale thought to be distinct-may interbreed, which would vastly increase the Pacific humpback gene pool. Good news for whales.

As a result of an Earthwatch supported survey of marine mammals in the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust asked Ken Balcomb and Diane Claridge to write a field guide to help educate the public about the importance of cetaceans as indicators of a healthy marine environment.

10. Global Change

With global warming threatening to melt the world's glaciers, which store 80 percent of the planet's freshwater, Earthwatch teams working in the Swiss Alps with Dr. Martin Sharp helped glaciologists create a model of how glaciers respond to melting.

Earthwatch volunteers helping Dr. Charles Fletcher established benchmarks against which to measure future changes in sea level in the Caspian Sea, which rose nearly one-and-a-half meters in the 1980s. With six out of ten people on Earth living within sixty kilometres of a coast, the work proved a valuable case study for forecasting how sea-level rise affects low-lying coastal communities.

Atmospheric chemists believe traces of acid rain recovered by Dr. Daniel Jaffe and his Earthwatch teams on Alaska's pristine North Slope blow there from factories in Eurasia
- tangible evidence of air pollution's extent that is helping policy makers in the global effort to curb emissions.

Earthwatch teams under Dr. Bhawan Singh established a baseline for monitoring global sea-level rise and its impact on Trinidad and Tobago, one of numerous low-lying island nations that will suffer catastrophic losses of land, potable water, and tourist income if global sea levels rise a third of a meter by 2100, as some climate models predict.

Teams worked near St. Petersburg with Dr. Mark Harmon to provide a complete inventory of potential carbon traps within the Russian taiga. Some climatologists believe the taiga could be a major player in the carbon cycle, which is critical for understanding global climate change.

11. Rain Forests

After collecting more than 1 million insects in Peru's Tambopata Nature Reserve with Earthwatch volunteers in the 'mid-1980s, Dr. Terry Erwin revised the estimated number of forest insect species in the world from 1.5 million to 30 million - an estimate that is commonly used today as the lower estimate of the world's total share of species.

Earthwatch findings helped win legal protection for the Washpool, Australia, rain forest region. Based on the data collected by volunteers in one area, Dr. Roger Kitching estimated that Australia's rain forests may contain 4.15 million insects per hectare.

Earthwatch's multi-year ecological survey of Brazil's Ilha do Cardoso with Dr. Timothy Moulton helped inform protective management plans for one of the last patches of the Atlantic coastal rain forest, of which just two percent remains.

At a proposed reserve in Madagascar, which Conservation International has deemed the planet's #1 Biodiversity Hotspot, teams helping Dr. Christopher Raxworthy found a higher density of reptile species (51) than at any other site on the island, a fact that should help garner formal protection for the site.

Forty percent of the 300 species of katydids Earthwatch teams collected with Drs. David Nickle and James Castner in the Peruvian rain forest in 1990 alone were new to science. Such hard data give conservationists leverage to convince policy makers of the need to protect rain forests.

12. Resource Management

In Wales and Bulgaria, teams aiding Dr. Martin Haigh and his British and Bulgarian colleagues helped to restore hundreds of hectares of land sterilised by decades of mining, using a tree-planting technique now being adopted elsewhere.

Armed with aerial photos and topographic maps, Earthwatch crews assisting Dr. Adam Kertesz at Hungary's Lake Balaton mapped land-use changes over the past decade, showing how land use affects soil erosion and paving the way for new policies on lake development.

Teams working with Dr. Solomon Isiorho at Lake Chad documented an unknown underground reservoir, providing critical drinking and irrigation water in the drought-stricken Sahel region of Africa.

On the Black Sea in Russia, Earthwatch crews helping Dr. Anatoly Mandych classified 32 major land-use classes for use in the design of a landscape plan for the Abrau Lake Watershed.

Contrary to foresters' belief that logging is necessary to regenerate white-pine forests, crews working with Dr. Peter Quinby in Ontario established that these rare forests are self-sustaining and that natural stands regenerate better that those fragmented by logging. This strong argument for conservation spurred Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources to protect one of Quinby's pristine study sites and was instrumental in substantially reversing harsh logging practices.

13. Sustainable Development

In China, Dr. Lu Shenggao's teams introduced a new sustainable farming system in the Yangtze River delta that uses mulberry fields, fish ponds, and rice paddies to recycle resources. The new system reduced the demand for chemical fertilisers by 20 percent.

In one of the last patches of undisturbed rain forest on Fiji Earthwatch and UNESCO vol-unteers working with Dr. Randolph Thaman identified more than 650 rain forest plant and animal species that contribute up to 80 percent of Fiji's rural household income. The findings are helping to promote community-based conservation around a new national park.

Teams interviewing farmers in India under the guidance of Dr. M.V Reddy drew up a lengthy list of traditional cropping methods that have none of the ill-effects of Green Revolution techniques, such as chemical pollution and pest-susceptible crops. As a result of the work, local farmers are beginning to return to some of those methods.

In the Amazon town of Barcelos, center of the Brazilian trade in tropical freshwater aquarium fish, teams working with Dr. Ning Chao set up a conservation center with aquaria, exhibits for schoolchildren, and a research laboratory that is instilling regional pride in this sustainable industry.

In Papua New Guinea, Dr. Larry Orsak's teams helped tribal elders set up lucrative enterprises such as butterfly farms and trekker guesthouses that require the rain forest be left standing.

14. Wildlife Management

Teams aiding Dr. David Croft in Australia showed that kangaroos compete with livestock only during times of drought, providing powerful evidence that ranchers' annual culling of millions of kangaroos is unwarranted.

Earthwatch teams working with Dr. David Mech in Michigan and Minnesota over nine years collected mountains of data on timber wolves, information that is now informing the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

Earthwatch teams working with Carlos Lopez Gonzalez and Dr. John Laundré captured and attached a transmitter collar to the first jaguar ever radio-collared in Mexico.

Calling into question the wide-spread practice of culling elephants in order to restore degraded savannah in Africa, Dr. Raphael Ben-Shahar's teams found that fire, soil nutrients, and water drainage - not just elephants - regulate tree densities in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

In Western Australia, where the clearing of 14 million hectares of bush for farmland caused local extinction's of more than 100 plant and animal species, teams helping Dr. Denis Saunders showed how species that remain rely on critical patches and corridors of native vegetation for survival. As a result, local farmers have begun preserving remnants and planting new corridors.

Tracking mountain lions in Idaho over the past six years with Dr. John Laundré , Earth-watch teams have discovered that the big cats adhere to a routine and gravitate toward the same places as tourists (pretty wooded areas) -just two of numerous fundings that are helping biologists manage the puma in a rapidly shrinking world.

Information Source

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Earthwatch Europe
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