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Best Save-the-Earth Trips
Climate-change study, Arctic CircleEarthwatch Institute
Where you go: Far, far north. For 11 days, volunteers are based at one of two project headquarters in Canadian polar territory—either a coastal station on Manitoba’s Hudson Bay, or a more remote lodge in the MacKenzie Mountains of the Yukon Territory. Both are surrounded by pristine, sweeping landscapes of tundra and boreal forests, where global warming puts the year-round permafrost and icepack at risk.
What you do: Most daily tasks involve data collection—like taking snow core samples, recording snowpack temperatures, and measuring snow density—that helps scientists monitor the effects of climate change in this critical environment. Volunteers don’t need to be lab geeks before they arrive, though; project leaders give thorough instruction each day before bringing volunteers into the field (usually via snowmobile-pulled sleds).
Roughing-it rating: Mixed. Though the temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees F during winter trips, and mosquitoes swarm during warm-weather months, both program base camps have comfy dorm rooms or cabins, and volunteers—according to one recently returned participant—“eat like kings.” (Those who prefer kingdoms with daily showers and e-mail access, however, should definitely request the Hudson Bay station.)
Cost: $2,950 for 11 days.