Citizen Science, what is it and how can you help?

Citizen science are a number of activities where you can be part of and share your observations with many others and create a valuable compilation of information as a result. You don’t have to be a scientist to engage; many projects are very simple and involve things you are doing anyway (like bird watching, as one example). Anybody can start a Citizen Science project and engage others. We have prepared several below.

Citizen science helps us all to be more connected to what is happening in our ecosystems, and to share information about things that matter to all of us like the health of our water and how the pollinator population is doing in our region. Together, we can increase our understanding exponentially by seeing the big picture.

As our climate changes, these projects will become increasingly more valuable in order to give us predictions on how our ecosystems are changing and can also help us connect to one another and build community around the things that we all care about and that affect all of us. We can thus be more effective at caring for and protecting those things.

The US government has created a resource to help you to do that. This comprehensive site includes instructions on how to set up your own citizen science experiment, offers connections to other citizen scientists, and lists almost 500 citizen science projects around the world in a searchable database.
US Forestry Service
The US government and other organizations offer funding for citizen science projects, including the Forestry Service. This agency offers many ways to get involved in citizen science projects including a small listing of projects, toolkits on starting them, ideas and curriculum for science projects with kids, and more. Projects include everything from counting trees in New York City to monitoring bats in Tongass National Forest to increasing pollinator habitat in Atlanta.
Farmers can greatly benefit from citizen science performed on farms. Farmers have exchanged information via informal networks for eons. Extension Services are sources that collect data from local farmers. There are a growing number of citizen science projects to track pests, soil moisture levels, toxins and other things of concern to farmers. These can be found in the above databases. A few are listed in this article.
Some organizations have regular citizen science projects that are quite vast in scope. These projects can help scientists track changes in climate and ecosystems on a scope they would never be able to accomplish themselves.

Here are a few of our favorite citizen science projects:
The EarthEcho Water Challenge/World Water Monitoring
The EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly World Water Monitoring Challenge) is an international citizen science program with almost 2 million participants that runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The EarthEcho Water Challenge builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies with test kits provided by the organization. Test kits are $65 each, with discounts for bulk purchases and some kits donated.

They also offer lesson plans and a challenge regarding local biodiversity that offers thousands in prize money to participating schools.
Smart Citizen
Since 2012 Smart Citizen has worked to empower communities to better understand their environment by developing open tools for citizens. With our tools, users are better informed about the world around them.

We've created a unique ecosystem of sensing devices, software platforms, and engagement tools that genuinely enable communities to make sense of their environment.

Smart Citizen Kit allows people to easily measure and collect data such as air and noise pollution from their environment, and visualize it while sharing it with everyone on its dedicated platform. All of these, while being completely open-source and customizable to your needs. Built by communities for communities. The kit comes at a cost.
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, Snow
Ever wondered how much rain a storm dumped on you compared to those nearby? This website can help you find out.

The saying "Rain doesn’t fall the same on all" really proves to be true. How often have you seen it rain in your neighborhood and a few blocks away not a drop has fallen?

If you get the chance, please take a moment to tell a friend or neighbor about this exciting grassroots effort of citizens measuring precipitation right in their own backyards. It's easy to join, takes only five minutes a day and is a fun way to learn about this wonderful natural resource that falls from the sky. Your observations continue to give scientists an ever clearer picture of where and how much precipitation falls throughout our communities.

CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz) is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities. Our Web page provides the ability for our observers to see their observations mapped out in "real time", as well as providing a wealth of information for our data users.
Weather Underground
Weather Underground allows citizens to set up a weather station at their home or business and share results publicly. This service has been helpful to us to determine freeze patterns and micro-climates in my region. Inexpensive weather stations are notoriously inconsistent, so being able to look at many results beyond one’s own station allows one to get a sense of patterns. Because of the inaccuracy of backyard weather stations, this service has limited usefulness but it is easily accessed and the volume of data does provide some pattern understanding.
One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.
Project Budburst
A community focused, data driven approach to flora and fauna conservation. Offers citizen participation in understanding the ecological system you live in. This site includes curriculum, community level or individual projects, and more.

• Make observations and discover the magic of nature wherever you are.
• Participate in Budburst projects and contribute to conservation action.
• Collaborate with fellow community scientists and groups.
• Contribute data to help researchers answer important conservation questions.
Butterfly Count
Butterfly counts occur across the country in specific zones and seasons. Help scientists determine the population level of butterflies in your region, which helps us all understand how our important pollinator population is doing. Easy to engage with! $3 fee to participate. Worth it!
Christmas Bird Count, AudubonBy Dan Pancamo - Flickr: Painted Bunting, CC BY-SA 2.0
One of the oldest, largest and most well established citizen science data gathering project - bring the whole family to participate in a fun and useful activity from Dec 14-Jan 5. This project has compiled 100 years of data about bird movement and populations, invaluable to helping us understand the impacts of human settlements and climate change on birds and the ecosystems they live in.
Share your bird sightings any time on a convenient app. Participate in Bird Big Days a few times per year. This App has recorded 500,000+ bird sightings and is helping scientists determine where birds go and when at an unprecedented scale with your help. This can help them predict many things of interest to all of us regarding weather, climate change, biodiversity health and more. Get help IDing birds and much more through this fun, easy app. Supported by Cornell Labs, Audubon and more.
The Great Backyard Bird Count
Held in February each year, this year’s count helps scientists document key data about migration and population, and allows you to follow the results reported by everybody. Easy interface, and fun. Get your neighbors and friends involved too!

Do you know of a great citizen science project or website? Let us know and we may add it here.

Have a story you’d like to share about a citizen science project or experience? Let us know!


Endangered Species Monitoring
Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project
Recently listed by the IUCN as endangered, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) involves volunteers from across North America and New Zealand in monarch butterfly research and recovery.
MLMP was developed in 1997 by researchers at the University of Minnesota to collect long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat. The project focuses on monarch distribution and abundance during the breeding season.
As an MLMP volunteer, your contributions will aid in conserving monarchs and their threatened migratory phenomenon, and advance our understanding of butterfly ecology in general. Learn more about broader monarch conservation efforts on the Monarch Joint Venture website.

State specific

The Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership
AKBMP is a collaboration between several organizations that offer opportunities for volunteer citizen scientists to contribute to endangered beluga monitoring efforts in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Together we design standardized scientific monitoring protocols, train volunteers to support monitoring efforts, and coordinate shore-based beluga monitoring activities at various sites throughout Cook Inlet. Working together to Recover the Cook Inlet Beluga whale population.
YouTube video.
Alaska has a number of citizen science programs and projects including:
Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network

The LEO Network is a group of local observers and topic experts who share knowledge about unusual animal, environment, and weather events. With LEO, you can connect with others in your community, share observations, raise awareness, and find answers about significant environmental events. You can also engage with topic experts in many different organizations and become part of a broader observer community.

LEO Origins

Arctic communities were among the first to experience significant impacts from climate change. In 2009, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) established the Center for Climate and Health to help describe connections between climate change, environmental impacts, and health effects. In 2012, LEO Network was launched as a tool to help the tribal health system and local observers to share information about climate and other drivers of environmental change. The database includes webinars and diverse citizen observations on bird and mammal die offs, unusual sightings, coastal erosion, breakup, storm effects and much more. In 2015, LEO Network was selected as a model program under the United States Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, to help raise awareness and improve communication about climate change in the circumpolar region. Today LEO Network is continuing to evolve and to build new partnerships with local observers - across the Arctic and around the world.

Alaska Arctic Observatory & Knowledge Hub

A partnership for residents of Arctic Alaska coastal communities to share expertise and knowledge of changing coastal conditions.

BioMap Alaska - Citizen Science for Alaska's Oceans

BioMap Alaska is a citizen science observation and information management tool. BioMap Alaska engages residents of coastal communities to voluntarily report observations and local knowledge of marine life. This project is intended to improve and expand upon science based monitoring activities, and to further cooperation and collaboration among local people, researchers, and resource managers. We provide a field guide of “species of interest” on which we are seeking information and web-based data logging so that observers can enter their observations and view these on an online map. Anyone who is interested can view the BioMap data.

Indigenous Observation Network

The Indigenous Observation Network (ION) is a collaborative research and monitoring project to preserve and protect the Yukon River for future generations and the continuation of a traditional Native way of life. Since 2006, the USGS National Research Program and Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) have been partnering to collect water-quality samples from the Yukon River and tributaries with the assistance of trained Indigenous citizens living in the Yukon River Basin. Through this partnership over 300 Indigenous citizens have been trained in water sample collection, which has resulted in over 1500 samples collected at more than 54 sites covering the entire 2,300 mile reach of the Yukon River since the program began. In addition to water-quality monitoring a permafrost monitoring project began in 2009 called the Active Layer Network. This project measures the thickness of the active layer on an annual basis and collects air and soil temperature readings as well as soil moisture measurements at 20 locations across the Yukon River Basin and Alaska and Canada. Note: Volunteers must be trusted local citizens that are recommended by Tribal Councils, Newsletter, YRITWC outreach.

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