Volunteer with wolves - Love / hate relationships: Monitoring the return of the wolf to the German state of Lower Saxony
This wolf volunteering expedition will take you to the beautiful lowlands of Lower Saxony, a federal state in northern Germany, to help monitor and protect the returning wolf population. Working in small teams mainly around the famously picturesque Lüneburger Heide (Lüneburg Heath), you will record signs of wolf presence such as tracks, kills, and survey prey species such as deer and wild boar. You will also camera-trap the animals and collect samples to study wolf diet and for genetic analysis. The expedition base is a charming guesthouse with all modern amenities, right on the edge of the Lüneburg Heath.
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Expedition contribution: £1580 (ca. €1750 | US$2050 | AU$2590) excluding flights per dates as shown. A £300 deposit is required and the balance is due four weeks before the expeditions starts. Base currency British pound sterling, see XE currency converter for other currencies. More about this contribution and where the money goes.
Dates & meeting point: 23 - 29 Jun 2018 | 30 Jun - 6 Jul 2018 (7 days). Other dates. Participants can join for multiple slots (within the periods specified). The meeting point is the city of Bremen and participants have to organise their own travel there. More details on this and how to get to Bremen are in the .
Plains or gentle rolling hills of heath-, wood- and wetlands.
Weather expected during expedition
Daytime temperatures between 10 and 30°C with an average of eight hours sunshine per day and up to ten days with rain per month.
The expedition base is a guesthouse with all modern amenities on the edge of the Lüneburg Heath. Accommodation is on a twin-share basis.
Up to 12 team members + 1 local scientists + 1 expedition leader.
Skills & prerequisites required
None. You don't need to be a scientist or have any special qualifications - everyone can take part and there are no age limits whatsoever.
Fitness level required
Ability to walk about 10 - 20 km per day in the flat lowlands of Lower Saxony in heath, meadow, forest and wetland landscapes. There is also the option to conduct surveys on roadster bikes on loops of about 30-50 km in length, all in flat terrain, which can get sandy at times.
Team assembly point
Aims & objectives
(1) To ascertain total numbers of wolves in the study area
(2) To ascertain wolf group size, movements and activities
(3) To assess the interaction of wolves and livestock
(4) To assess the efficiency of herd protection methods
(5) To ascertain numbers of prey species within the carnivore habitat
(6) To assess predatory impact of wolves on game and livestock populations
After an absence of several hundred years, wolves started returning to the state of Lower Saxony in 2006, from Poland via former East Germany. The species is protected by EU and German law and official wolf monitoring studies conducted by the Environment Ministry via the State Hunting Association have shown that the wolf is now also breeding again in Lower Saxony. Another study concluded that there are many more areas in Lower Saxony suitable for wolf re-colonisation and recent experience has shown that the wolf is so adaptable that it even colonises areas previously thought unsuitable for supporting wolves. In addition young wolves are actively looking for new areas to found packs in and more wolves are pushing into the state from healthy breeding populations in the east. All this means that the threat of real and perceived conflict with humans, livestock and game species is ever increasing, as is the need to educate and inform local people. More wolves are spotted in the wild by people, there is increased media coverage and livestock is being predated upon. This has resulted in a measurable decrease of wolf acceptance amongst local people, especially hunters and livestock owners, who play a crucial role in wolf survival.
If the wolf is to have a future in Lower Saxony, people must be educated about the wolf's movements and habits so that human-wolf conflict can be reduced as much as possible or avoided altogether. The expedition, through working with the state's Wolfsbüro (wolf bureau), makes an important contribution to this by providing science-based answers and strategies.
Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Red deer (Cervus elaphus)
Wild boar (Sus scrofa)
Fallow deer (Cervus dama dama)
Other landmark species present: Red fox, badger, brown hare, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, osprey, raven, pine marten, stone marten, racoon dog, otter.
Activities are usually decided the night before and then confirmed in the morning, depending on the weather. The whole set-up of the expedition is quite flexible so that you can participate according to the weather conditions, your skills and general fitness and how you feel on the day.
In the morning the expedition team will divide into sub-teams of two or more people, who will be assigned a route to cover during the day. You will then be taken to the start of your route and set out on foot or bike according to the terrain and your preference & existing skills. When you find tracks or other signs of wolf or other study species, you will record them using GPS receivers, cameras and notebooks. In the case of wolves, you will then follow the tracks for as far as possible in order to collect further data on their movements and activity. On other days you will also assist in a systematic assessment of prey numbers, you may be involved in camera trapping or you may participate in assessing livestock protection methods. You will return to base in the late afternoon to log results and discuss findings with the rest of the team and the scientist. It may be possible to stay overnight in the field/rustic guesthouse with a small team during the week, but this will be decided at short notice.
The expedition will take place in Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen), a German state (Bundesland) situated in northwestern Germany, which is second in area, with 47,624 square kilometres and fourth in population (8 million) among the sixteen German states. The state capital is Hanover (German: Hannover).
Lüneburg Heath (German: Lüneburger Heide) is a large area of heath, geest and woodland in the northeastern part of Lower Saxony. It forms part of the hinterland for the cities of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen and is named after the town of Lüneburg. Most of the area is a nature reserve. The extensive areas of heathland are typical of those that covered most of the north German countryside until about 1800, but which have almost completely disappeared in other areas. The heaths were formed after the Neolithic period by overgrazing of the once widespread forests on the poor sandy soils of the geest, as this slightly hilly and sandy terrain in northern Europe is called. The Lüneburg Heath is therefore a historic cultural landscape. The remaining areas of heath are kept clear mainly through grazing, especially by a north German breed of moorland sheep called the Heidschnucke. Due to its unique landscape, Lüneburg Heath is famous in Germany and beyond.
Another landscape that the expedition will cover includes deciduous woodlands that contain trees with broad leaves such as oak, beech and elm. They occur in places with high rainfall, warm summers and cooler winters and lose their leaves in winter. As some light can get through, the vegetation is layered. Beneath the taller trees is a shrub layer. The shrub layer contains species like hazel, ash and holly. Grass, bracken or bluebells can be found in the ground layer. Animals present include various species of deer, wild boar, red fox, badger, brown hare, golden eagle, osprey, raven, pine marten, stone marten, racoon dog and otter. There will also be wetlands such as bogs that accumulate peat, a deposit of dead plant material - often mosses, and in a majority of cases, sphagnum moss.
And finally (almost)
Our expeditions are not about playing the primitive, neither are we a military style 'boot-camp'. Our expedition leader and the local scientist will be by your side and we believe strongly that we get the best out of our expedition teams by making them comfortable, safe and well fed. You won’t be living in the lap of luxury, but we will do our best to make you feel comfortable and at home in your working environment, as this is the key to a well-balanced and successful expedition.
And finally (briefing)
For even more details such as activities, staff, accommodation, the assembly point and how to get there, and lots more, please access the expedition briefing by providing your full name and e-mail.
Biosphere Expeditions will never share these details with anyone.
Sign up to this expedition now
Results & achievements
The inaugural expedition in 2017 exceeded all expectations in terms of wolf signs found, other data collected and interest from the media and local people. Over 160 wolf signs were found in four weeks and the expedition report (expected by mid-2018) will detail all findings.
As an organisation Biosphere Expeditions has had a great many achievements on four continents. Also, scientific reports and publications for this expedition are on the reports & publications page. As far as we are aware, Biosphere Expeditions is the only organisation in the world that has a direct and transparent link between the work done by citizen scientists and an expedition report. Each expedition year is matched by an expedition report for that year, which deals with the two main areas that expedition participants contribute to: funding and data collection. Chapter 1 of each report, written by Biosphere Expeditions, reviews the expedition logistics and publishes an expedition budget, which shows in a clear and transparent way income and expenditure for each expedition and the percentage of income spent on the project. Chapter 2 onwards, written by the expedition scientist, shows who collected what data, how they were analysed, what the conclusions were, as well as the conservation recommendations and actions flowing from this, and what future expeditions should do. In this way, each expedition comes full circle for its participants.
Awards & accolades
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has won the "Best Volunteering Organisation" category of the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards.
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has also won multiple National Geographic awards and accolades such as "Best New Trip" and "Tours of a Lifetime".
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has also won multiple Travel+Leisure awards and accolades such as the "Conservation Award" category of Travel+Leisure's "Global Vision Awards" or "Best Adventure Outfitter" and "Best Save-the-Earth Trip" accolades.
> more awards & accolades
Back to the wild
Die Wildnis ist zurück
Safari in der Heide
Losungsproben gegen Fragezeichen
Wolfstourismus: Spurensuche in der Heide
Various local press
“Whether wolves will stay in the densely populated and cultivated landscapes of Germany is a question of whether people will accept their presence. This acceptance will depend on science being able to provide answers and strategies to minimise human/wolf conflict, for example livestock predation. For this we need to gather valid scientific field data about the wolf population, wolf movement patterns and the effectiveness (or not) of various livestock protection strategies. The Biosphere Expeditions project and its citizen scientists, working hand in hand with the State's wolf bureau and supporting the existing network of wolf consultants, will make an important contribution to this. Besides, it is very encouraging to have so many extra (and truly international) citizen scientist hands, eyes and ears helping us to reach our ultimate goal of wolves and humans existing side-by-side in Germany.”
Peter Schütte, local scientist, Germany.
“A wonderful, well run and very important expedition.”
Fran Fitzpatrick, 24, UK.
“Joining the Biosphere Expedition was pretty exciting stuff. I’m passionate about wolves & I thought I would pick up few skills, contribute to wolf research on the whole. This I did (I hope!). I hope this will also help me do the same for the Himalayan, Tibetan & other wolves (unknown to me at least) in India. Thanks a ton!”
Lalitha Krishnan, 53, India.
“Thanks so much Peter and Malika for this thoughtfully designed expedition. I learned many things about wolves as an animal, but also about conservation and all the work it takes to manage human-wildlife conflicts, to protect endangered species, etc. One thing is for sure – I will never look at German forests the same way again.”
Christine Flamsholt Jensen, 36, Denmark.
“Thank you so much for an amazing experience. All in all – not just met some wonderful people in my one week at NABU Gut Sunder, but also worked up a treasure trove of memories… Fun, educational & you are contributing to science – what more can you ask for!”
Abilasha Mohandas, 32, UK.
“This was my first expedition with Biosphere Expeditions and it certainly left a bashing impression. I learnt an awful lot about wolves. Great team, a lot of fun. I will certainly return.”
Oliver Kunz, 49, Germany.
Expedition diary / blog
See what's gone on during past expeditions via the expedition diary and blog.
Frequently asked questions
What's the accommodation like and how do I get to the assembly point?
A description of the accommodation and some pictures are in the . All participants organise their own travel to the assembly point, which is an easy to find place in-country, and exact instructions on how to get there at what time are in the . > more
Is it just young people roughing it, i.e. will it be for me or am I too old/young/unfit?
A common misconception is that conservation expeditions are full of youngsters roughing it and boozing. With Biosphere Expeditions nothing could be further from the truth! Our typical participant is in his/her mid-30s to late 70s (average age 42.3, spread six months to 87 years). It is rare to have fewer than five nationalities, typically from Europe, North America and Australasia, on the expedition, all united by the common interest in wildlife, wilderness and conservation. If you would like details who is already signed up, then just get in touch. > more
Do I need special skills or fitness?
Apart from the ability to communicate in English and a diving qualification for our diving expeditions, there are no special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join our expeditions, and there are no age limits whatsoever. If you have special needs, please contact us to find out about the suitability of the experience of your choice. > more
How good does my English have to be?
If, with the help of a dictionary and a little patience, you can understand what we are talking about here, then don't worry - you'll be fine.
Will I be safe?
Yes. Although we are not in the business of controlling nature and expect you to take some responsibilities, safety is our top priority. Our three key watchwords are ‘safety, science, satisfaction’ - in that order. We always have emergency procedures and backup systems in place. Biosphere Expeditions has an excellent safety record with no serious accidents, long-lasting injuries or let alone deaths since its foundation in 1999. > more
Can people under 18 attend?
Yes, because there are no (upper or lower) age restrictions. With their parents' consent they can also come by themselves.
How do I sign up and when do I pay?
Signing up is easy: Use the and pay a deposit of £300; the full balance will be due four weeks before the start of the expedition. If you don't want to sign up online, you can also download paper forms to fax or snail-mail.
What's included and what's not included?
Once you have made it to the assembly point and we’re on our way, we pay for everything apart from the obvious such as personal souvenirs, luxury drinks, phone calls home, etc. (and in many places we go to there's no need for money anyway ;). Travel arrangements to the assembly point are for you to make and pay for. Additional costs may include passport, visa and airport fees, your personal gear and preparations, and travel insurance, but not much more. There are certainly no hidden fees from our end.
Where does my money go?
On average at least two-thirds of your contribution will benefit the project directly and locally, the rest will go towards administrative back-up, as well as researching and setting up new expeditions. Within six to twelve months after your expedition you will receive an expedition report with full details on how your expedition contribution was spent on running the expedition and supporting its research work. We can put as much as two-thirds into the project, because we are a non-profit/charitable research and conservation organisation, not a large scale tourism business, which means that we can keep expensive overhead costs to a minimum. We also do very little advertising and costly marketing, concentrating instead on press, media and research publication work. > more
> more FAQs and detailed answers in text and video format are on the FAQ page