Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is the best time to reflect on our planet and give thanks for nature and all of its glories. What better way to celebrate our world and its wildlife than by offering a helping hand? Here are some ways to give back to and celebrate Mother Earth this Thanksgiving.

turkeys and duck at an animal sanctuary

Save a turkey

While Thanksgiving traditionally means turkey at the table, those who are vegetarian, vegan or simply interested in protecting turkeys can instead adopt or sponsor a turkey. Sanctuaries and rescue organizations devoted to the turkey exist across the United States and United Kingdom. The Adopt-a-Turkey initiative has become a popular Thanksgiving endeavor. By choosing to adopt or sponsor a turkey, you can help fund the care of this fine-feathered friend.

Related: Make your own tasty vegetarian turkey for Thanksgiving with this recipe

To help a turkey, visit Animal Place, Barn Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Dean Farm Trust Turkey Rescue, Farm Sanctuary, Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary, Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Hillside Animal Sanctuary, Spring Farm Sanctuary, The Gentle Barn, The Retreat Animal Rescue & Sanctuary or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. For a more comprehensive directory of farm sanctuaries that are also safe havens for turkeys, view’s farm animal sanctuary directory.

retired military dog chewing on a toy

Give a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) a home

MWDs are retired from active duty. Many have either worked in the field or trained with other MWDs, making them unique bearers of particularly honed skills. All adoptable MWDs have already passed rigorous behavioral tests to ensure they are temperamentally a good fit for civilian adoptions.  Because the MWD actually served in the United States military, a MWD is more than just a canine — he or she is a military veteran. When you adopt a MWD, you’re also providing a home to a military veteran and war hero.

Organizations that can help you rescue or rehome a MWD include Mission K9 Rescue, the MWD adoption program at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland Air Force Base and the United States War Dogs Association. Be sure to also inquire your nearest military installation to see if they have any retired or retiring MWDs available for adoption.

You also have the option to foster a military working dog. If fostering is more appealing, contact the 341st Training Squadron’s MWD Foster Program at JBSA-Lackland here.

image of Alitta succinea species

Name a species

Every year, new species are discovered. Typically, the first person to discover the plant or animal gets the honor of naming the species. But there are still countless other organisms requiring scientific names. For a fee, the general public can name a newfound organism.

By naming a new species, you complete the dual kindness of helping the scientific community establish a binomial nomenclature identification for a newfound living thing while simultaneously honoring the person you named the newfound organism after. Of course, giving a newly discovered species a name of your choice increases public awareness of biodiversity, raises much-needed funding for ecological conservation efforts and helps spread the science of taxonomy.

Organizations with programs devoted to naming new species include the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Discover Life in America (DLIA) nonprofit and the German nonprofit organization BIOPAT.

seeded plants blowing in the wind

Volunteer at a seed bank

You will undeniably make a hands-on contribution when volunteering at a local seed bank. Seeds are deposited for safekeeping in case of unforeseen global emergencies. The seeds can be replanted at some future time to ensure survival, rather than eradication, of certain crops.

Today, there are about 1,500 seed banks worldwide, the most famous being the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway, or Svalbard Global Seed Vault. AgProfessional offers a list of the planet’s 15 largest seed banks, where you can learn more about efforts to conserve plant biodiversity.

Some seed banks with volunteer opportunities include Irvine Ranch’s Native Seed Farm, London’s Kew Gardens, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB), Miller Seed Vault at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, the renowned Native Plant Trust conservation organization, Portland State University’s Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and the True Harvest Seeds charity.

person with binoculars near a river with mountains in background

Monitor vulnerable plants and animals as a citizen scientist

Citizen scientists help gather data to inform researchers about the protection and management status of flora and fauna species. Regular monitoring of plants and animals, especially vulnerable and rare ones, is essential to determine their population trends. In turn, agencies at the local, state and federal levels gain insight and implement needed modifications to habitat management and conservation plans.

Related: 6 ways to give back this Thanksgiving and beyond

For instance, the Smithsonian Institution and the Nature Conservancy have robust citizen scientist programs to assist with the monitoring of species distribution, abundance and threat by invasive species. Some, like the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI), annually have openings for volunteer plant hunters and junior citizens curious about botany.  Meanwhile, Zooniverse is the largest platform devoted to animal- and plant-centered citizen scientist collaborations.

Perhaps one of the most popular citizen science monitoring programs is Plants of Concern, administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden. Similarly, the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is another volunteer monitoring program that provides better understanding of the interrelationships between humans and ecosystems.

historic drawing of flowers

Participate in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Field Book Project

For those fond of history, especially natural history, consider volunteering with the Field Book Project. Field notes and diary entries, from the Victorian era and earlier, still need to be identified, cataloged and digitized. Volunteering with this endeavor guarantees access to original records of scientific discovery and primary source material notes on specimens and native environments from centuries ago. Your volunteer efforts with the Field Book Project will help increase the visibility of these long tucked-away scholarly resources that need to be rediscovered and shared with the global biodiversity research community.

Images via Taminwi, Rikki’s Refuge, Sgt. Barry St. Clair, Hans Hillewaert, Elena Escagedo, Glacier NPS and Biodiversity Heritage Library