Earthwatch Research Proposal

Welcome to the Earthwatch Research Proposal

Earthwatch's research proposal review processes are guided by our mission to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Proposals are reviewed based on scientific merit, expected project outcomes and impacts, appropriateness of volunteer activities, and safety and logistical viability. All research proposals should have outputs/impacts that clearly align with current global environmental agendas and priority conservation targets. For more information see All proposals must be completed by the lead PI.

As part of this stage in the application process you will be invited to an interview with Earthwatch staff. Additionally, all research proposals will undergo external peer review prior to full approval. Earthwatch proposals are tenable for 3 years and potentially renewable beyond that period. All projects are subject to annual performance reviews and evaluations.

The proposal has six sections:

  • Section 1: Project Design
  • Section 2: Impacts
  • Section 3: Field Logistics
  • Section 4: Project Budget
  • Section 5: PI and Staff Information
  • Section 6: Peer Review and Additional Materials


Filling out the Proposal

You must be online to complete and move through this form. Before filling in any questions, you may wish to create a ‘log in’ account. This will allow you to save your progress as you go and return to it at a later time. We also recommend that you read  the entire proposal requirements prior to beginning. If you have any questions please contact your assigned Program Manager or Research Manager.

The character limit for each question is listed underneath it; the form will count your current number of characters.

* Indicates Response Required

Create a Login Account (highly recommended)
New Users / Returning Users CLICK HERE to setup or return to your account for this form.

Creating an account enables you to partially complete this form and return later to finish the form. An account will also enable you to return to this form and view your submitted results. The account you establish is only for this  research proposal form. Creating an account is optional (but highly recommended).
Background Information
All proposals must be completed by the lead PI. 

SECTION 1: Project Design

Please provide as much detail as peer reviewers will need to properly assess your research proposal. Please cite references to support your proposal. To see the questions we ask peer reviewers follow this link.

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SECTION 2: Project Impacts

Earthwatch has identified 12 Measures of Success (MoS) to express achievements across the diverse portfolio of projects we support; details can be found in the questions below. Please set targets against each of these Measures of Success for the coming three years to the best of your ability. Your project may not address all MoS, but we are looking for reasonable progress against a significant number of them. You will be required to report out on these achievements in annual Field Reports that you will complete at the end of each field season.
1. Increasing Scientific Knowledge
MoS 1.1: Total volunteer research hours (internal metric that we will assess).
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2. Developing Environmental Leaders
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3. Partnerships
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4. Contributions to Policies or Management Plans
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5. Expected Long-Term Impact of Project
This section may not be applicable for your project during its early years. We appreciate that impacts are more likely to be achieved by longer-running projects and would like to get an understanding of your desired long-term impacts. Depending on the subject of your research only some of the categories below may be applicable.
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SECTION 3: Field Logistics

In this section, please provide Earthwatch with an overview of the volunteer experience. We are looking for clear signs that this will be both an engaging and well-managed experience for volunteers. It is important to show that you are prepared to have a group of non-specialist participants in the field for an extended period of time. This includes having laid out a plan for all logistics including, but not limited to: food, transport, and accommodation. Additionally, you must have an awareness and preparedness for mitigating potential dangers/hazards on site and ways to communicate with Earthwatch, or sources of aid from the field.


Volunteer Participation

Earthwatch recruits participants and prepares them to assist researchers in the field. Earthwatch participants can be adults, students (graduate, undergraduate, or high school), teachers, or corporate employees.

Typical projects field 4 to 10 teams per year that span 7 to 14 days, each accommodating from 4 up to 20 participants.

High school students are a key participant group for Earthwatch; it is advantageous to be open to student participants (age 15-18). It is also advantageous to be open to occasional larger groups of participants.

We are seeking projects that are interested in working with Earthwatch and citizen science volunteers for at least 3 years.

f. Potential team length(s) (select all that apply) *


a. Type of Accommodation: Please indicate the accommodation type(s) available. *
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It is Earthwatch's experience that good food is essential for good morale! It is expected that research staff share meals with their teams.
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Field Site
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Project Requirements
Field Communications
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SECTION 4: Project Budget

This section details the project costs, including what Earthwatch field grants can and cannot cover. As part of your proposal you are required to submit a project budget. Earthwatch uses a standard budget template which has been designed in line with the grant disbursement model. Earthwatch can support you in understanding and completing this template. For successful proposals, the Principal Investigator (PI) will negotiate a final budget in partnership with Earthwatch. You can find the budget template on our website along with other resources relating to project set up. Once your project has been approved from a research perspective the final stage of your project approval will include finalisation of project budget and team dates.

Annual grants cover project expenses while in the field including: equipment (limited), tools, and supplies; research permits; scientist transport to the field; support staff; food and housing for principal investigators, staff, and Earthwatch participants. Grants do not cover scientist salaries, student tuition, overhead, capital equipment, or post-expedition data analysis. Full details of the Earthwatch funding model including what is, and is not covered can be found in the budget template.


SECTION 5: Principal Investigator and Staff Information

Please list the Lead PI, Co-PI(s), and other staff on your project. For the lead PI and Co-PI(s) you are required to attach a zip file with up-to-date CVs.

Lead Principal Investigator (Lead PI) - The PI has ultimate project oversight and responsibility for the research objectives, operations, risk management, health, safety, and participant experience. All Lead PIs must have: 1) a Ph.D. in their submitted field of expertise; 2) a professional affiliation with a college, university, governmental or non-governmental research organization, and 3) experience managing volunteers/students in field research efforts.

Co-PI - The Co-PI(s) collaborate with the lead PI for project oversight and responsibility. Projects may have Co-PIs that share responsibility equally, or they may provide support for the lead PI. We strongly encourage graduate student participation in projects as Co-PIs. We are also particularly interested in helping support emerging scientists from developing nations.

Field Team Leader - A Field Team Leader is a project staff member who is entrusted with leadership and responsibility for Earthwatch participants in the PI or Co-PI's absence.

Field staff must have up-to-date first aid training and formal certification when leading volunteers in the field.

Lead PI:
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Staff 2:
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Staff 3:
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Staff 4:
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Scientist CVs:


SECTION 6: Peer Review and Additional Materials

Referrals for Peer Review

All proposals will be peer reviewed by reviewers of your recommendation and reviewers selected by Earthwatch independently. You must submit two reviewers whom you have contacted about reviewing your proposal. Your reviewers should be experts in the same field as your proposal. Your reviewers should not be directly involved in this research project or be biased towards you and/or this research.
Reviewer 1:
Reviewer 2:
You may also indicate someone you wish to exclude as a reviewer of your proposal.
Excluded Reviewer:
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Additional Materials

Please attach a zip file with any additional attachments you would like to submit to support your proposal, including: copy of your research permits or letters of endorsement obtained from the appropriate authorities to conduct research at your study site (if permits are required); supporting figures or sample data sheets; maps; and photos (of staff, the research, and/or the location. For successful proposals, these materials may be used in marketing materials to attract participants to your project. 

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