Press Release

Eureka Moment Inspired by Earthwatch Leads to New e-commerce Venture

Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA [April 23, 2009] — Earthwatch, the international environmental organization, announced phase two of its partnership with technology start-up TurnTo today, just a year and a half after the non-profit helped to provide the inspiration behind the e-commerce venture.

TurnTo is based on a simple idea — that friends and others in your network are often the best source of advice when making a purchase online. The opt-in service drives word-of-mouth by showing prospects what trusted contacts have bought. TurnTo CEO George Eberstadt, a trustee of Earthwatch, was inspired to create the service when he volunteered to develop the organization’s social networking profile.

Eberstadt said, “I was struck by how often, when I mentioned Earthwatch, people said, ‘I’ve been thinking about going on one of their expeditions for ages. What’s it like?’ Turns out, lots of my friends were interested in Earthwatch and just didn’t know that I was a potential source of information. That’s when the first light bulb went off. TurnTo was born from the idea that any time anyone in my extended network visited the Earthwatch website, they should see me as a reference. The goal was to provide a simple non-intrusive way for people to help their friends and spread the word about Earthwatch.”

Caroline Chisholm, Head of Marketing and Communications for Earthwatch, said Earthwatch has been testing the TurnTo system for several months, and the feedback has been very positive. “So now we’re launching phase two of the roll-out,” Chisholm said. “We’re placing the TurnTo widget in many more locations throughout the Earthwatch website, and we’ll be actively reaching out to all our past volunteers and other members of the Earthwatch community to invite them to share their Earthwatch experience through the TurnTo system.”

“We’re delighted to be teaming up with TurnTo. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have been inspired to help Earthwatch because they heard about us through friends and family. In this digital age, the word-of-mouth effect is driven by social networking. People use the internet for all their needs — food, entertainment, real estate, even finding the perfect partner! Now, with a little help from their friends, people can also make choices about their volunteering options online,” Chisholm said.

Since 1971 Earthwatch has pioneered its unique ‘citizen science’ model, giving ordinary people the opportunity to work alongside leading researchers to investigate some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges.

For more information on the partnership, please visit or or contact Kristen Kusek on 978-450-1281, or

About Earthwatch

Earthwatch is an international environmental organization, engaging people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Earthwatch currently supports more than 100 environmental research projects in 35 countries and 20 US states by providing funds and volunteers who work alongside leading field scientists and researchers. Earthwatch projects are divided into four research areas, climate change, ecosystem services, oceans and cultural heritage. Since 1971 the worldwide organization has recruited over 93,000 volunteers in support of 1,350 field research projects in 120 countries. These volunteers have contributed over 11 million hours to essential field work.

About TurnTo

The TurnTo “Trusted Reference System” shows visitors to e-commerce sites what their friends have bought there. For the shopper, TurnTo provides trusted sources of advice at just the moment they are needed. For the merchant, these trusted references, presented at just the moment when the visitor is considering a purchase, increase conversion rates, accelerate the purchase decision, and improve the shopping experience. More information at: