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No PhD required.

Hannah Walhout
August 06, 2018

More and more travelers are waking up to an uncomfortable truth: climate change, overtourism, and human incursion are posing an increasing threat to some of the earth's wildest and most beautiful destinations.

But it is possible to use your vacation time for the good of the earth (while still getting the thrill of adventure travel) with a burgeoning citizen-science expedition trend. Conscious travelers can explore some of the most stunning locations on the globe — while helping researchers and local communities understand and protect the world around them.

Here, we've rounded up some of the most exciting opportunities available now.

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Protect the Peruvian rainforest.

Peru-based ecotourism company Rainforest Expeditions operates the remote Tambopata Research Center, an Amazonian retreat where the cost of a stay includes meals, river transportation, and a variety of field activities. In the surrounding Tambopata Nature Reserve, near Peru's border with Bolivia, guests help the resident scientists conduct bird censuses, collect Jaguar behavioral data using night cameras, survey the health of the forest canopy using small drones, and more. Three-night stays from $1884.

Rachael Biggs

Study elephants in Kenya.

Earthwatch Institute, an organization that supports fieldwork around the world, offers an expedition centered around elephants and sustainable agriculture in Eastern Africa. Travelers study human-animal conflict in and around the Tsavo Conservation Area, in southeastern Kenya, where local farms can have a precarious relationship with the region's population of native elephants. Visitors then partner with farmers and conservationists to devise strategies to protect crops while minimizing the impact of agriculture on the herds. 12-day trips from $2,995.

Kelvin Aitken

Map coral reefs in Oman.

The Musandam Peninsula, a rocky exclave jutting into the Arabian Gulf of the United Arab Emirates, is home to a magnificent but little-studied reef ecosystem. With citizen-science nonprofit Biosphere Expeditions, scuba-certified travelers can stay on a research boat, conducting survey dives in the Gulf of Oman and synthesizing data that directly assist conservation efforts. Research gathered on this coral reef diving expedition will be used by local NGOs and inform government policy, helping protect the area's corals and colorful sea life. Seven-day trips from $2,770.

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Monitor Siberian tigers.

There are only about 530 individuals of this species left in the world. Natural World Safaris, a widely-respected wildlife tour operator, offers a Siberian tiger tracking expedition in Far East Russia, where conservationist Alexander Batalov leads small groups around the remote Durminskoye Reserve to set and collect camera traps, documenting the animals’ movements. While it's not common for visitors to actually see these rare creatures in the wild, Batalov will introduce you to the region's other native fauna — snowy owls, red deer, wild hogs — and will help you interpret the camera footage you retrieve. Seven-day trips from $3,150.

Para la Naturaleza

Find treasure in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican nonprofit Para la Naturaleza manages dozens of nature reserves on the island, offering free citizen-science activities like wildlife censuses and forestry seminars for locals and tourists. Travelers interested in archaeology can help unearth artifacts from pre-Columbian sites, like Playa Jayuya in the Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve. The organization also recently launched a new program, called Habitat, aimed at replanting the island's forests post-hurricane and resorting the ecosystems of its native flora and fauna.

Our series Reasons to Travel Now highlights the news, events, and openings that have us scoping out plane tickets each day.

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