Did you know you can contribute to scientific knowledge while on vacation? It's true! There are certain science field trips that are open to the public. If you possess a curiosity about the natural world and are willing to assume the role of a citizen scientist for one or more days, read on.
Researchers say they cannot complete their work without the help of volunteers. They face internal budget and manpower limits, so they must turn to people like you to meet their data-gathering goals.
Here is a brief introduction to 6 different providers of citizen science vacations and their websites.
For more than 40 years, this charitable organization has lead world-class research focused on the environment in multiple spots throughout the world. All types of individuals, from amateur scientists to those representing corporate partners, are encouraged to join in their expeditions.
One example project involves studying climate change at the Arctic's edge. For a period of 7 days or more, you will be tasked with recording data from observations of the local plant and animal life. The trip prices include room and board (expect dormitory rooms with bunk beds and buffet style meals), research permits, and travel insurance. Flights, visas, and vaccinations are not usually included.
If you are interested in a family-friendly science-themed vacation, take a look at the options offered by the Oceanic Society. Since 1969 this organization has concentrated on measuring ocean health and the impact of humans on marine habitats and wildlife. You and your children can gain a better understanding of our world's oceans and develop a closer connection to nature.
How about a family trip to Mexico, Belize, or Costa Rica to study dolphins, manatees, or sea turtles? Scheduled annually during the month of August, this expedition is limited to 14 people, so early registration is a must! Some age minimums may apply. Very basic accommodations are provided land-side; your days will be spent aboard a boat guided by the research leaders. All meals are provided, air fare is not included.
If you are visiting the central Gulf Coast of Florida and have one or two days to spare, contact the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium located on City Island overlooking beautiful Sarasota Bay. Here is a respected independent marine research organization whose scientists are committed to conservation through education. Ask them about their research charter boat trips that focus on the capture, measure, tagging, and release of sharks, rays, tarpon, and other fish species in the gulf and intercoastal waters. Space aboard is very limited so make your reservations well in advance!
The Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) at the University of Miami offers approximately 60 field expeditions a year in southeast Florida and The Bahamas. The Florida trips are single-day and last 8 hours. There is a donation required per person which is tax-deductible. Volunteers can include children from ages 10 and older.
A pre-boarding checklist will answer your questions about what to wear, what to bring, and what not to bring. The boat leaves in the early morning and heads out into the Atlantic Ocean. Participants will learn about different types of sharks, eat lunch, prepare bait, and then help pull in fishing lines as individual sharks are brought up for observation, measure, tag, and release.
This organization uses ecotourism as a means to raise awareness of endangered animals and ecosystems as well as to provide volunteers for citizen science trips. Starting with the Great Orangutan Project in Malaysian Borneo, there are now over 35 projects to choose from across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. You can volunteer as an individual, a family, or as part of a group.
One of the most popular of the destinations is the Kalahari Desert in the African nation of Botswana. Here volunteers learn how to track wild animals and collect data in the bush, make fire, and use the night sky for orientation and directions. Deposits are required to hold reservations with the balance due 60 days prior to trip departure.
For nearly 20 years Biosphere Expeditions has offered volunteers a wide variety of conservation projects that come with a "feel good" factor. Length of commitment ranges from a single day to two weeks or more. For example, you can assist with studies about Asian elephants in the country of Thailand. A typical day will be spent hiking through forests to locate the animals and collecting data on their behavior, diet, and methods of communication. The next trip is scheduled for October 2017, and there are only a limited number of vacancies. A deposit is required upon booking, and the balance is due one month before departure. Review their website for volunteer requirements, fitness levels, and what to expect per trip.
For many more options - including projects that do not require travel farther than your own backyard - a great online resource is SciStarter. Browse their database and you will discover opportunities that will appeal to many interests and all age levels!
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