EARTHWARCH INSTITUTEOur mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. 

Earthwatch is an international environmental charity which is committed to conserving the diversity and integrity of life on earth to meet the needs of current and future generations. We work with a wide range of partners, from individuals who work as conservation volunteers on research teams through to corporate partners, governments and institutions.

Earthwatch has a global reach, with offices in Oxford (UK), Boston (USA), Melbourne (Australia) and Tokyo (Japan).

Earthwatch Institute (Europe) is the working name for Conservation Education & Research Trust (CERT), a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number: 4373313) and a registered charity (number: 1094467). Registered office: Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7DE England.

Who we are:

Earthwatch Institute is a global environmental organisation.



The mission of Earthwatch Institute is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education in order to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.


A world in which we live within our means and in balance with nature. 

Core Belief:

Future decisions regarding the environment must be based on objective science and must engage and empower people and organisations to act responsibly if they are to be sustainable.

Core competency:

The ability to bring together institutions and individuals to understand and inform critical environmental issues by combining world class scientific field research with experiential learning programs that inspire the leadership needed to promote personal and organisational change.



Earthwatch was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1971. A need to invent a new funding model for scientific research became apparent, as dwindling government funding was combined with an increased urgency in the need for scientific information and action.

The innovative idea of engaging general public into the scientific process by bringing together individual volunteers and scientists on field research projects was developed, not only to provide this alternative means of funding, but also providing a dedicated labour force for field scientists.

This bridging between the science and the general public also helped increase the public's understanding of science, and their knowledge of environmental issues, transforming values, attitudes and behaviour. An increased motivation and commitment to the conservation cause ensued, creating a growing network of people who were not only passionate about the world that they lived in, but wanted to do something about it.

In 1971 Earthwatch started with just 4 hand-picked scientists from the Smithsonian Institute, and 39 volunteers working on these 4 teams. Last year, over 3,500 volunteers have worked on Earthwatch projects, which have grown to 140 projects in over 50 countries around the world.

Earthwatch moves to Europe

1984 was another landmark year for Earthwatch, as a meeting of scientists, academics, and businessmen at the Royal Geographical Society chaired by one of the influential US founders, Brian Rosborough, led to the founding of Earthwatch Europe. The charity registered its name in 1985, and was chaired by the eminent conservationist Max Nicholson, with a board of trustees including Sir Crispen Tickell and Herschel Post.

Max Nicholson believed passionately in the Earthwatch model, and quickly moved to recruit Brian Walker as the first European Executive Director - his last job before retirement, after a string of top jobs in the development and environmental fields, including two terms as Director General of Oxfam. You can read Brian’s detailed account of the history of the European office here.

The European office opens

1990 marked the opening of an Earthwatch office in Oxford, employing a small team of 6, with a handful of office volunteers. Brian immediately positioned Earthwatch as an NGO that was prepared to talk to the corporate sector- at a time when most environmentalists were reluctant to talk with the business community. Brian started a Corporate Environmental Responsibility Group, which has grown from a membership of 6 to 33.

This new group aimed to engage companies on environmental issues by demonstrating the business case for conservation, and by providing education programmes to help raise understanding and awareness of environmental issues within companies. This model has been a key feature of Earthwatch's European success.

Brian Walker also harnessed the concept of ‘fellowships' - funded placements on Earthwatch projects for different sectors of society. The fellowship programmes now include teachers, conservationists and scientists from developing countries, corporate employees, students, and disadvantaged members of the community. These programmes enable Earthwatch to engage a whole range of individuals in conservation, and now the European office sends about 600 funded individuals onto projects every year.

Another key innovation was the development of ‘community action projects' for returning volunteers. This provided funding and advice for individuals to start their own environmental project in their local community. This model has been successful in developing a wider network of conservation initiatives and support, by engaging friends, family, and the local community in the conservation cause.

The present day

Today, Earthwatch in Europe has grown to a turnover of £4.5million, with c. 60 staff, volunteers and interns. The office receives a range of funding, from general public, corporates, governments, foundations and trusts. The European office sends out over 1100 volunteers to work on its research projects each year, contributing the equivalent of 55 years of scientific research. Under the direction of its Executive Director, Nigel Winser, Earthwatch is now looking at how to maintain this level of growth, and to expand its activities to continue the quest to engage ever-increasing numbers of individuals and organisations in the Earthwatch mission towards a sustainable environment.

Board and Governance

Earthwatch Institute's Board of Trustees are responsible for the governance of the charity and overseeing its strategy and direction. The Trustees meet quarterly with members of the charity's Executive Team. Trustees are normally elected for a three year period with the possibility of being re-elected at the end of that time.


David Macdonald Professor David Macdonald DSc
Director, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Department of Zoology
Trustee of Earthwatch since June 2007 and Chairman since 2010
Herschel Post

Herschel Post, MBE
Former International Managing Director, Business Development, Christie's International
Trustee of Earthwatch since 1987 and Chairman 1997-2010

Louise Barrett Louise Barrett
Business Coach
Trustee of Earthwatch since June 2004
Richard Donkin Richard Donkin
Author and Journalist
Trustee of Earthwatch since 1997
John Hemming Dr John Hemming, CMG
Former Director of the Royal Geographical Society, London
Trustee of Earthwatch since June 2004
Whitney L Johnson Whitney L. Johnson
Chairman of EWUS and Principal, PlumRiver LLC
Trustee of Earthwatch since March 2007
Chairman EWUS Board
Daniel Rubenstein Professor Daniel I. Rubenstein
Chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University USA
Earthwatch PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR , Zebras of Kenya
Trustee of Earthwatch since October 2003
Charles Swingland
Charles Swingland
Trustee of Earthwatch since December 2003
Sagarita Chatterjee Sagarika Chatterjee
Senior Analyst, Governance & Sustainable Investment at F&C Management Limited
Trustee of Earthwatch since December 2007
Tony McMahon Tony McMahon
Trustee of Earthwatch and Honorary Treasurer of Earthwatch since 2009
Robert J. Stack Robert J. Stack
Former Chief Human Resources Officer, Cadbury Schweppes Group
Trustee of Earthwatch since 2009
Andrew Christie Andrew Christie
Chairman of Ark Therapeutics Group plc.
Trustee of Earthwatch