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Become a Citizen Scientist!

Updated on January 10, 2013

Citizen scientists across the globe share information about our own backyards

Researchers all over the world are asking for our help as citizen scientists. By simply observing what we see in our own neighborhoods and back yards, and sharing what we see with researchers we can all contribute to a better understanding of the world and our environment.

A small scientific research team only has enough staff to collect data from a few sources, but when everyday people volunteer to act as extra sets of eyes and ears for these teams, the amount of knowledge gained is significant!

Whether you are a casual bird watcher, a back yard gardener, an amateur astronomer, a teacher seeking to engage students in hands-on science, or simply a curious and observative person; there is an abundance of citizen science projects that you can easily volunteer for. Most of these citizen science projects allow you to spend as much, or as little time as you wish volunteering. Whether you have only minutes to spare, or if you have hours to dedicate, the information you gather is much needed, and appreciated by these projects!

Our world climate and animal habitats are shifting faster than ever and the more people that can participate by observing what is happening where they live, the wider our dedicated scientists understanding of our changing world will be.

Dozens or hundreds of volunteers collecting data is vastly superior to teams of two or three!

I would like to highlight some of my favorite citizen scientist projects. It's very easy to get involved in this important scientific research. Oh, and did I mention how much fun it can be?

Many thanks to MyAngelG on Flickr for sharing this photograph under cc licensing!
Many thanks to MyAngelG on Flickr for sharing this photograph under cc licensing!

Calling All Bird Watchers!

Opportunities for citizen scientists abound...

The first Robin we spot in spring, a hummingbird whizzing by, the bright flash of a red cardinal. Birds can't help but catch our attention. Whether you are an avid backyard birder or an apartment dweller peering out your windows, you can share what you see in your day to day life.

As our global climate changes, and birds habitats are being built upon or destroyed, studying the numbers of and locations of birds we see is becoming an increasingly important way of helping scientists understand the impact of human civilization and climate change on our natural environment.

Thanks to dawnzy58 on flickr for allowing me to use this picture under cc licensing!
Thanks to dawnzy58 on flickr for allowing me to use this picture under cc licensing!

Citizen Science Projects For Bird Watchers

Here are some of my personal favorites

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began more than 100 years ago and is the oldest wildlife census to address the health of bird populations. In 1900 it was a common tradition on the Christmas Holiday to conduct "side hunts". A side hunt was a competitive, no-holds-barred bird killing contest; randomly felling birds regardless of type, rarity or if they were going to be used for human consumption.

Dismayed at this practice, and noting the declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank Chapman sought to start a new tradition; one that would catalog and count birds, rather than slaughter them en masse.

The first Christmas bird count started with just 27 volunteers. Having recently celebrated its 110th anniversary tens of thousands of citizen scientists now participate in this research.

There is a wealth of information on the web site, and instructions on how to become a volunteer for this annual bird census.

The Great Backyard Bird Count enlisted the help of nearly 100,000 citizen scientists in 2009. These volunteers counted over 11 million birds they spotted in their communities. The website is filled with information and includes a special section just for kids. Participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count with children is an engaging way to share a love for nature and science with budding young minds.

Project Feeder Watch is a citizen scientist effort sponsored by Cornell University. The website has a library of fantastic pictures that fellow citizen scientists have contributed while participating in the project. It also features a special section aimed at incorporating the project into a unit for home school families.

One in Four People Are Back Yard Bird Watchers...

Are You One of Them?

See results

Do You Tend to a Garden? - Researchers want to know "how your garden grows"...

Thanks to *susie* on flickr for sharing this with cc licensing.
Thanks to *susie* on flickr for sharing this with cc licensing.

For those who are who are fortunate to have our own gardens, regardless of if they are large or small, there are many opportunities to participate as citizen scientists. When we tend to our gardens it is almost impossible not to tune ourselves into the life surrounding us!

Whether you are taking note of when the first buds burst on your trees, or counting the number of pollinators you see visiting your garden on a given day; contributing this information to research projects can tell scientists a great deal about how climate change is impacting the life cycles of the plants and animals around us. The scientific term for this field of study is phenology.

dawnzy58 on flickr  has shared this lovely photo of sweet william buds using cc licensing
dawnzy58 on flickr has shared this lovely photo of sweet william buds using cc licensing

Project Budburst has a variety of citizen science projects available to participate in. This project is aimed toward the back yard gardener.

They collect and compile data from thousands of gardeners all across the United States.

If you can share tidbits of information from your garden about the first leaves you see pop, or the date at which certain plants begin to blossom in your area, this citizen science project may be a wonderful place for you to begin!

digital cat on flickr captured this amazing photo of a pollinator in action.  CC license.
digital cat on flickr captured this amazing photo of a pollinator in action. CC license.

In recent years there has been much concern in scientific and agricultural communities surrounding the mysterious dying off of the important pollinators in nature. The Great Sunflower Project is enlisting citizen scientist volunteers!

If you are willing to plant a few sunflower plants in your garden and gather information about how many bees are visiting them, you can aid in this research.

Without pollinators, our lush gardens would be lifeless. Farmers crops would fail. Help understand what may be happening with the bee population by spending a few minutes contributing to this important effort.

If you do... would you be willing to share some observations with researchers as a citizen scientist volunteer?

Do You Tend a Garden?

See results

Henry David Thoreau on the Natural World - A noteworthy citizen scientist!

One of my favorite writers...Henry David Thoreau kept a keen eye on his natural surroundings. He certainly was one of the true citizen scientists of his time.

This is a lovely video in two parts. To quote Thoreau; "Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plane."

I believe more of us should follow his lead. When we take a very close look at our surroundings, we begin to appreciate how connected we are to the plants and animals in our world. When they suffer, we in turn will suffer!

A Citizen Science Project For Stargazers

Since it's inception, The NASA Citizen Scientists Project participants have helped map the cosmos. Thanks to these volunteers, thousands of new cosmic findings have been recorded. Amateur astronomers participating in this project have spotted objects in the cosmos ranging from supernovas to nebulas. If you keep a keen eye on the sky, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to share your findings.

Citizen science projects bring people together to help understand and improve our world.

Resources to Find Citizen Scientist Volunteer Opportunities

Whatever interests you have, there are researchers seeking your data! The USA National Phenology Network and and Cornell University's Citizen Science Central have listings of a multitude of projects that all of us can participate in.

The more people that volunteer to participate as citizen scientists, the more comprehensive the research will be. We can all do our part. We can all contribute in our own small ways to gaining a better understanding our planet, climate, and our changing environmental conditions! Have some fun, and learn a few things along the way.

Are you participating in a citizen scientist project? Would you like to? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Thanks For Visiting! - Let me know that you stopped by.

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    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      6 years ago from Osaka, Japan

      I had no idea so many people can be involved with research! Great lens!

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      Citizen science is such a great way to make use of an almost unlimited resource (humans) to add to our combined body of knowledge. I just discovered the eBird project, and of course am very keen on projects to help our pollinators. You've really made a great pitch for the concept, and this page is beautiful to look at, too! *blessed*

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting ... I'd love to be a citizen scientist. I'll have to check out what I can get into :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice lens. This is a big and well supported movement in the UK.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very well done and a great idea for a lens. I was not aware of these citizen scientist project. I think it's a great way to engage people in projects like these. I will have to look into this deeper...thanks for sharing!

    • norma-holt profile image


      8 years ago

      Gorgeous and well presented lens. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust and also on Save Planet Earth

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      What a fabulous lens! I hadn't realised there were so many ways you could be a Citizen Scientist. Blessed by an angel today

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Summer is finally upon us in Minnesota. I have been busy counting pollinators out in my yard with the kiddos! I almost forgot how much I love this over the long, long winter!

    • hlkljgk profile image


      8 years ago from Western Mass

      i had never heard of this, but i'm totally into it. thanks for the info!

    • Coffee-Break profile image

      Dorian Bodnariuc 

      8 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      Excellent lens! Very Informative and beautiful pictures. There is also some call to action. Congrats!

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks to everyone who has stopped by. I keep finding more citizen science projects that look interesting. I will keep you all posted!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      awesome lens. I really think what your are doing is awesome i feel like im meant to do something so much bigger tahn what i am right now. congrats on your sucess.

    • The-Java-Gal profile image


      8 years ago

      Never heard of citizen scientist, and I will be checking into it, as I love research. Great lens and congrats on super star lens.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information. Congratulations on the super star lens. Adding it to my Top 100 RMs Lenses List lens.


    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting. Congrats on Rocketmoms superstar

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      9 years ago from USA

      This is great! Nicely done!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      awesome lens! and congrats on the award!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      9 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      These activities sound like so much fun to participate in! Thanks for sharing them. :)

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @Kylyssa: Doesn't that sound fantastic. I remember as a girl growing up in suburbia, the first time I REALLY saw the night sky. A breathtaking and humbling experience, to say the least.

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @CrossCreations: It's so much fun! It's like a hyper-linked garden journal! I love seeing the data everyone collects compiled in one interesting.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      9 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      This is so awesome! One of my dreams is to move to the country, get a 16 inch telescope and hunt for supernovas.

      Wonderful lens!

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 

      9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This is very interesting, never heard of citizen scientist and you have explained it well here, make it sound alluring and so worthwhile. I may look into the gardening one. 5*s!

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @RobW1: Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed it! And a blessing too...warm fuzzies!


    • maryspeller lm profile image

      maryspeller lm 

      9 years ago

      What a fabulous blog. i am favoriting this and need to come back and read this again to get the full content. It is wonderful.


    • RobW1 profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for creating such a great lens, enjoyed it! Blessed!

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @norma-holt: Glad you stopped by...thanks for the lensroll! My Grandma used to tell me that if everybody just took care of their own backyards (figuratively), that the world would be a better off for it. We can all start somewhere to help this place we call home! :)

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @groovyfind: Thanks, and I hope you can get involved...there are so many citizen science projects out there...far more than I could cover here!

    • best-intentions profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @starlitparlit: Thanks so much. I believe everyone can help out, each in our own small ways! :)

    • norma-holt profile image


      9 years ago

      Its a great lens, very informative and well crafted, Love the pics as well. Top marks and lensrolled to Save Planet Earth

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 

      9 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Fantastic lens...very interesting!

    • starlitparlit profile image


      9 years ago

      Very interesting lens with loads of information. This makes it easy for almost anyone to help out science.


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