The Earthwatch Mission

Earthwatch Institute engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.

Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that places paying volunteers (or student/teacher grant award winners) of all ages on short-term research expeditions all over the world. As an Earthwatch volunteer, you can explore some of the most unusual places, like Belize, Estonia and Mongolia where you might excavate a million-year-old elephant fossil, comb tropical streams for calling frogs or track radio-collared pumas.

Each Earthwatch project sends you on an important, life-changing adventure where you’ll make friends from around the world and help conditions here on planet Earth.

Lori’s Earthwatch Experiences:

Traveling, adventure and environmentalism are some of Lori’s passions. As an Earthwatch volunteer, she’s experienced many once-in-a-lifetime events. So far, Lori has traveled down a river by boat for three days to live with Chamacoco Indians in Paraguay. At the Karcha Balut village, she learned to weave baskets from palm leaves. Lori taught in the one-room schoolhouse for a day. She also photographed special cultural ceremonies to help promote the new Chamacocco heritage museum.

(Click Pictures for Larger View)

Lori at Karcha Balut village with her Earthwatch team.

Lori taught a group of kids in a one-room schoolhouse. She had to speak Spanish. The children in Karcha Balut spoke three languages, none of which were English!

At Central Washington University, Lori volunteered the Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute with scientist Roger Fouts and his research team who work with a group of chimpanzees that communicate in sign language. This group includes Washoe, the first chimp to ever learn to sign. Here Lori observed and recorded how these extremely intelligent chimpanzees used different enrichment activities, including clothes, books and special treats. The goal of this research is  to see how to best stimulate the chimpanzees in captivity. She made meals for the chimps, like fruit smoothies and spent hours in long, rubber boots cleaning their areas. Lori’s  best memory was having Loulis, the youngest chimp, sign “tickle” as he tried to tickle her foot through a glass wall! This project taught Lori so much about the sad plight of chimpanzees in captivity and how vital it is to provide them the most enriching life possible.

Visit the chimpanzees at the Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute at:

For optimal  health conditions for the chimpanzees, all of their areas are kept extremely clean at the CHCI. Here’s Lori in her long, rubber clean-up boots!

The chimpanzees loved apples, oranges and kiwi!

Here Moja the chimpanzee puts on a tie-dye shirt. She loved to dress up and admire herself in the mirror.  She has since passed away and is missed greatly. Lori’s most recent Earthwatch project was trekking through Kluane National Park in the Yukon, Canada. Here, the goal of the research team was to find ways for Grizzly bears and humans to best coexist in the same areas. Collecting bear fur, tracks and scat (poop!) were part of her daily activities. Backcountry hiking also sent Lori bushwhacking through beautiful, yet rough, terrain in search of bear dens. Her biggest thrill was seeing her first Grizzly and Bald Eagle in the wild and watching the Sockeye Salmon spawn upstream. This project helped remind Lori of the importance of respecting wildlife and preserving what little pristine habitat they have left.

Visit Kluane National Park at:

Lori and one of her teammates collecting bear fur.

Back country camping in the amazing Kluane National Park. Photo: David Rein. (shot of tents in backcountry) 

Chow time! A Grizzly goes after a salmon. Photo: David Rein.

Lori in the backcountry in search of bear dens.


In the fall of 2008, I joined the LIONS OF TSAVO project, run by Dr. Bruce Patterson, field biologist, professor at University Chicago, and Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago. This project has been running on the Rukinga and Taita ranches outside of Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. The Greater Tsavo ecosystem of southeastern Kenya has the largest protected population of lions in the country. Unlike lions from grassland areas, males in parts of Tsavo do not normally have manes. Scientists are unsure for the reason for this maneless-ness and ecological and behavioral consequences are unknown.

Lori video taping a pride of 5 lions on a buffalo kill. 

Bruce's project documents the behavior of Tsavo's lions by following radio collared simbas on private land. By observing from vehicles, volunteers document the location of all wildlife, including lions and their adaptations to this arid woodland environment. The goal of Lions of Tsavo is to understand their behavior and ecology and how to minimize lion and human conflicts. Being on these two ranches also introduced us to the issues faced by Kenyans who live alongside the country's largest population of lions and elephants. The original camp--Campi ya Neka--at the foot of Satao Rock and just behind Satao water hole was moved this year to Camp Tsavo on Rakinga Ranch. Taita Ranch is now full of bomas groups of 1000 cattle led by Somali herders. The affects of these bomas-- destroyed vegetation and conflicts between lion and cattle is apparent and a concern for conservationists .

Lori and her team ready to take another game drive.
See Bruce's website for more detailed information: 
Please read my travel blog  for a more detailed, day-by-day, description of this amazing experience in Kenya!

Lori’s life-long love of animals and nature usually find their way into her stories. And, most of the amazing wildlife she’s met along the way usually end up as characters in her books.
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