Scientific Research Expeditions

I was wondering if anyone ever went out on any expeditions for the purpose of scientific research? Or if there are any threads documenting this. Even in the states, whether it's animal tagging, telemetry studies, geology, GIS work, etc. I would love to be involved in any way possible. Thanks.
What exactly are you looking to do? I am a scientist and have lead many scientific 'expeditions' from outback Australia to Antarctica. I am in a fairly technical field (atmospheric science), so my team is usually scientists, graduate students, engineers and support staff (mountaineers, pilots etc) so if you want to be involved in this sort of work you really have to make a job out of it. However, there are educational type trips in which you learn about science, and maybe contribute in some small way to a bigger project, but I am not really sure you would call these expeditions - maybe science themed adventure tourism. Things like: or .

I have an undergraduate degree in Biology and a graduate certificate in Geospatial Analysis from the University of Florida. I would like to make a career out of this. I would just like some research experience under my belt before applying to graduate programs. I'm currently attempting to apply to master's programs but was just denied because they needed more PhD applicants, said I was very competitive with no tangible ways to improve my application, just no spots in the master's program. My GRE score is 324 (95th percentile verbal, 73rd quant). I am specifically interested in species distributions in response to anthropogenic disturbance or climate change. I also am toying with the idea of creating a raspberry pi connected to a CO2 sensor (they're not widely available for the raspberry pi and you have to go through a lab equipment company) and a GPS hat module to send data to an ArcOnline map through your smartphone while the sensor is attached to the outside of the vehicle, creating a crowd sourced ground level CO2 map.

I am also willing to be support staff to get this experience as I am a certified Wilderness Emergency Medicine instructor and Wilderness First Responder, though I can teach the EMT upgrade as I've been a WEMT in the past but am not currently nationally registered. I was also an Outward Bound guide for a bit so remote travel is not out of the question. Unfortunately I am not interested in the adventure tourism because I am seeking to develop more technical skills and add research to my resume. Currently, I am an AP Environmental Science teacher at one of the top 20 private schools in the country (10% of the students I teach personally were accepted to Ivy's early action), so I have summer's off.

I am also tangentially interested in humanitarian trips and have tossed around the idea of setting up a ham radio system in Swaziland with a friend of mine who owns a farm and school there. We would train locals as wilderness first responders since they're often more than 50 minutes from definitive medical care with the country only having 6 hospitals and use the radios to relay calls to the responders in remote regions where cell phone service is lacking.

So with that additional information...does the advice change at all or should I look into the adventure tourism more heavily?


Expedition Leader
Air quality and water quality consulting are good fields for traveling.

Apply to more grad programs if you want pursue more school. There are lots of good programs out there and you'll get in.

Also check out Engineers Without Borders and similar programs.

If you enjoy teaching where you are I would try to applying to some summer internships with USGS.
If you are interested in making a career out of this as opposed to going on an adventure, that is a whole different kettle of fish. First piece of advice - don't apply for a masters program, apply for a PhD program. As the PI on these sorts of programs, masters students are of little use to me as Research Assistants as it takes a year or two to get a student up to speed - at which point a masters student is leaving. A PhD student still has 3-4 years left, which is when they provide the most value to the research project, and when the students gets the most out of it. If you decide the field is not for you, you can still leave with a masters after the completion of your comprehensive exams 2-3 years in.

Second, this is only the a road I would go down if you are truly and primarily interested in the science, not the field work. For every month in the field, there is a year or more in the lab and in front of a computer calibrating instruments, writing code, analyzing data, and writing the papers - which is after all the ultimate goal of the work. If you are really interested in just the field work part, a technician or support staff path maybe a more appropriate position. NEON is often hiring for this sort of position to support their network of ecological/hydrological/meteorological field sites.

I would still recommend one of these adventure/educational tourism options as a first step to try out this sort of thing before committing many years of your life to getting a PhD. A couple thousand dollars and few weeks is a small price to pay to test out the career.

I don't mean to sound discouraging, but we get many folks who think this is the career for them, but once they actually face the reality of turning the data they collected into a meaningful scientific result they become less excited.

If you are interested in air quality and geoinformatics, would be a good place to spend some time.
I'll have to wait a bit on the internship. I'm not a full time student and USGS requires that, also there's a federal hiring freeze. I had a pretty decent shot at a watershed representative job at TVA but then the freeze took effect. I do enjoy where I'm teaching but my girlfriend just moved so now's as good a time as any to make some sort of jump. Thanks for the advice!
I hadn't seen your response when I wrote this Rando. This is something I have wanted since I first applied to a PhD out of undergraduate and they told me to wait one year because my biology professor wasn't aware of how to turn the rec in. They had just switched to online recs and he was like 80 and just wasn't game for figuring it out so in retrospect I should have just asked someone else. But yes I am primarily interested in the science, I have been a guide and enjoy field work but the writing, publishing, disemminating is something I thoroughly enjoy. Whether it's writing primers for the phosphoglucokinase gene in a new plant and then running pcr for days or drawing handling curves after watching birds choose differing seeds for hours, science is my main goal. I am not opposed to a PhD and would love to go on to one, I just thought Master's were less competitive so was shooting there first to publish before applying to a better school.