Volunteer Abroad Conservation Work in the USA

Preservation of California's Nature Reserves

Volunteering in California

This international volunteer project will give you a few weeks of excitement in California. You and other volunteers from around the world will play an active role in a variety of nature conservation projects in the western USA, living in the heart of California's breathtaking natural landscape. The downtime between projects will give you ample opportunity to enjoy Californian beach life at your base in Santa Cruz, Surf City USA. Your work on the project will take you to regions well away from the beaten path, giving you an insight into California which few will be able to match.

California is the state of superlatives: “Mount Whitney” (approx. 4420 m) is the highest mountain in the USA outside Alaska and is only 80 kilometers from “Death Valley”, the lowest point in the USA (85.5 m below sea level). California is renowned for its numerous national parks, beaches and sunny, warm weather. One of the most impressive sights is Yosemite National Park with its steep granite slopes, majestic waterfalls, mountain pastures, the legendary giant sequoias and rare animal species. To the east towers the Sierra Nevada, which extends over 500 kilometers southwards, and offers over 250 days sunshine per year. You will have the opportunity to discover the wonders of nature here during your voluntary service stay in California, at the same time contributing to their preservation.

Services Our Services at a Glance


  • Placement in the project
  • Accommodation during the project
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • All meals during the project – volunteers help to cook
  • Assistance with selecting travel insurance
  • Project-related transport
  • Assistance with booking flights
  • On-site orientation and project training
  • Pre-departure information pack
  • English-speaking support by long-term experienced staff
  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • 24/7 support throughout the project

Not included

  • Flights
  • ESTA fee/visa fee
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses and optional excursions

Santa Cruz

Start DateDurationCostNATUCATE-ID V.US-005
6 Weeks 1.300 €


To participate in voluntary service in California an application in the form of a cover letter will be required. If you are interested, we will send you the appropriate NATUCATE-form. In addition, all applicants must have a good knowledge of English. Work on the projects can be exceedingly demanding physically. Some of the project locations are only accessible after long treks and weather extremes can vary. In the summer months it is very hot in the desert and depending on the area, heavy snowfall may occur in the winter. This is why a doctor’s certificate, confirming your state of health and physical fitness, is required to complete your application.

Details Voluntary service in California

Volunteering in the US

Depending on when you start your voluntary service in the California nature reserves, you will either be collected from the airport in San Francisco by a member of staff from our partner organisation in North America or you will make your way to Santa Cruz on your own. We will be pleased to help you in arranging your transfer. The individual projects last from four to nine days, though some more remote projects may last several weeks. During this time you will be working up to ten hours per day. The projects involve different tasks: e.g. erosion control, erecting dry walls or new fences, maintaining footpaths or removing non-native plant species (neophytes).

Naturally these projects may be physically strenuous and you may need to adapt to extreme weather conditions, but this is more than compensated for by working together in an international team in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. Sometimes you will spend the night during the projects on camp sites with sanitary facilities, sometimes in the wild. Meals are always prepared by the group. At the end of your project you will return to Santa Cruz and will have three to six days off, depending on the duration of the preceding project. You can work as a volunteer between six and twelve weeks in the USA on a tourist visa. If you would like to work longer than twelve weeks you will need a B1/B2 visa.


Accommodation during the project

Generally speaking, Santa Cruz will be your base between projects. You will be accommodated in one of the volunteer houses in a shared room. This means that you can spend your free time with international volunteers from all over the world and get to know Santa Cruz and the surroundings together. On the days between projects the participants are responsible for feeding themselves and there is a kitchen for this in each house.

Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.

Leisure time

Leisure time

Between projects we would highly recommend that you explore the magnificent scenery in the area with other volunteers. There are plenty of opportunities for this: Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada or Death Valley. NATUCATE will gladly help you with your plans and we can give you valuable tips for an unforgettable journey through the western USA.


Project background

California is also known as the “fruit garden of America” due to its hot and sunny climate and the wide variety of fruit and vegetables which grow in the area. It is one of the most diverse states in the USA, particularly relative to its size. The California landscape includes mountain ranges like the Sierra Nevada, foggy coasts, scorching deserts like Death Valley, and the fertile Central Valley. California is a popular destination for daytrippers and tourists looking for adventure because of its geographical diversity and the resulting variety of animal and plant species. However, tourism and conservation frequently don’t see eye to eye. Because of this, the only way to keep the largely untouched natural landscape as it is is to regulate tourism and set up protected areas. Establishing hiking trails and fencing off conservation areas is some of the work which is necessary in this area.

Got questions? — We'll call you back