While hiking the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail, and then completing the first trek of the Andes Mountain range from equator to southern tip (7,800 miles in 667 days), Gregg Treinish had plenty of time to ponder. One recurring thought was how to give back to the places he had trod. The former backcountry guide felt expeditions were, for the most part, selfish. Even when he was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2008, Treinish didn’t feel his journeys resulted in meaningful impact for anything or anyone other than himself. “On every expedition I’ve been on, it was something I talked about with climbers and divers and boaters and everybody,” Treinish says. “They all wanted to be doing more for the places they were visiting. But there was never an easy way.”

Two years later, he formed a hypothesis based on his background as a wildlife biologist. “There’s tens of thousands of athletes that go outside every single day,” Treinish explains. “They’re hikers, climbers, boaters, skiers—they’re people who are going to every square corner of this planet. And anywhere they go, there’s a scientist who needs them to collect data.”

He founded Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation in 2011 to pair adventure travelers with conservation scientists in need of data collection all over the world. Besides extreme athletes, Treinish also envisioned ASC working with schools, military vets and even families on vacation. Turns out he was onto something—more than 1,000 travelers have since gathered data for more than 100 researchers. In one project, thru-hikers collected grizzly bear DNA on the Continental Divide Trail, and in another, rowers retrieved plankton samples from the Arctic Ocean.

Treinish’s matchmaking services are free. “Anyone traveling anywhere in the world can come to us and ask for a science component to their trip, whether they’re doing a day hike or climbing Everest,” Treinish says. “All you have to do is fill out a form. And scientists can do the same.”

A short film on Treinish’s initiative, part of the MoveShake Series by Red Reel, premiered at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival in May, snagging a “Moving Mountains” award. Watch it at moveshake.org. Learn more about ASC at adventureandscience.org.