Study Climate Change at the Arctic's Edge


Canada: Churchill


Expedition Summary
Help show how much and how fast climate change is affecting the Arctic - and what that means for the entire planet.

Expedition Details
In this inimitable Arctic landscape, you'll study climate change at sites ranging from the tundra into the forest by monitoring changes affecting the gases stored in these peat-rich ecosystems. Summer and fall teams will use ground-penetrating radar, microclimate data loggers, and soil coring to measure the permafrosts organic carbon levels. You'll also live-trap small mammals, evaluate growth rings in trees and shrubs through sampling, and monitor plant development. February teams will experience the Arctics edge in its most dramatic season. Traveling by gamutik (sled) towed by snowmobiles, you'll classify ice crystals, and measure snowpack thickness, density, and temperature. You can also learn how to build an igloo and sleep in it comfortably, even when the temperature outside is -30 or -40 degrees Celsius.

Meals and Accommodations
You'll be based at the Churchill Northern Studies Center, featuring dramatic scenery and a dome for watching the Arctic sky, where you may catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. You'll stay in dormitory rooms with up to eight beds in each, a quiet lounge for reading, and shared modern washroom facilities with hot showers. Meals will be provided by the Centers cafeteria and will be varied, typically including a choice of salads, desserts, and a vegetarian alternative, along with fresh breads and evening snacks.

About the Research Area
Churchill is located at the northern edge of the forest-tundra near the geographical center of the North American continent. Its on the coast and within the Hudson Bay Lowlands, the largest peatlands in North America, situated at the mouth of the Churchill River. Many different biomes can be found in the vicinity, including forest, forest-tundra, tundra, wetland/peatland, estuarine, and marine.

The land around Churchill is emerging from Hudson Bay as the earths crust rebounds from the weight of the last ice ages glaciers at the rate of 80-100 centimeters a century. As land rises, raised beach ridges are formed and stand out in relief against the lowlands. Plant diversity is high for this latitude because Arctic, sub-Arctic, and Boreal species all meet in the region. Accordingly, Churchill is a favored area for the study of primary plant community succession.


Global warming is most dramatically visible at the edge of the Arctic, where peatlands run in a broad strip around the globe. These wetlands contain as much as 20% of the worlds carbon, usually locked in permafrost. But as the permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane  the most pernicious greenhouse gases  may be released, which in turn could increase the rate of global warming, with devastating implications for the planet. What happens to the peat here will not only alter the local ecosystem, but also the entire biosphere. You can help Dr. Peter Kershaw and colleagues monitor ecosystem responses and gather data on the potential impacts of this phenomenon  before its too late.

Program Duration

1-2 Week


Inquire for specific dates.

Travel Types

  • Ecology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Eco Tours
  • Volunteering


No experience is necessary - all you will need is enthusiasm and the desire to make a difference. For over 40 years Earthwatch Institute has pioneered the involvement of ordinary people in peer-reviewed scientific research worldwide. By joining an Earthwatch Expedition, you have a unique opportunity to get up-close and personal with some of the world's rarest animals and visit remote and beautiful locations, while directly supporting conservation science. We offer life enhancing experiences in nearly 50 countries each year, with projects for teens, adults, and families.


  • English

Cost in US$:

3,625 to 5,625 USD (based on site/# of days)

Cost Includes:

  • Written materials abroad
  • Written materials pre-departure
  • Registration fees
  • In-country staff support
  • In-country orientation/Training
  • Pre-departure orientation/Training
  • Excursions
  • Emergency evacuation services
  • Medical services
  • Medical insurance
  • Food
  • Housing

Program Fees Include:

Our volunteers not only contribute essential funds that help to cover the cost of the research, but also, through their inspiration and effort, they provide the people power without which many of our vital projects simply couldn't take place. We are a non-profit organization but accommodation, meals, insurance, training and transport in the field are also included in your contribution cost. As a non-profit organization that supports scientific research, your contribution and airfare costs are usually tax-deductible for U.S. citizens.

Experience Required


Volunteer Types

  • Academic Reinforcement
  • Adult Education
  • Animal Welfare
  • Archaeology
  • Biological Research
  • Community Health
  • Consciousness-raising
  • Conservation
  • Culture
  • Eco-tourism
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Global Warming
  • Health
  • Marine Conservation
  • Natural Resources
  • Parks
  • Planting
  • Public Education
  • Public Policy
  • Research
  • Tourism
  • Tree Planting
  • Water
  • Wildlife Surveying
  • Youth
  • Youth Development

Typical Volunteer

Earthwatch expeditions appeal to a variety of people, including students, retirees, families, educators, and anyone seeking an exciting journey that enables them to give back to the environment. Our expeditions have a wide range of activity levels, from hiking intensive to easy expeditions with limited physical activity. There is an Earthwatch expedition out there for everyone!

Age Range

Teen (age 15 - 18) and adult (age 18-90) teams available.

This Program is open to

Asian, Worldwide, Kiwi, South African, Australian, Canadian, European and American Participants. This Program is also open to Families, Couples and Individuals.

Typical Living Arrangements

  • Apartment/Flat
  • Group living

Participants Travel


Typically Participants Work

in Groups of 6-11

Scholarships are Available

Very limited fellowships may be available, mainly for high-school students and educators. Visit our website for more information.

Application Process Involves

  • Other
  • Phone/Video Interview
  • Physical Exam/Health Records
  • Written Application

Typically The Application Process Time is