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