Citizen Science

10 Popular Citizen Science Projects

February 17, 2015

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Fireflies in the Catskills. © s58y / Flickr

As our Citizen Science column nears its first birthday, I thought I’d take some time to write a retrospective of the most popular posts. All of these are continuing projects – it’s not too late to participate!

  1. Firefly. Photo by Flickr user Jesse Christopherson through a Creative Commons license.

    Do you have magical memories of firefly lit nights? In many places across America, fireflies seem to be disappearing.

    Help scientists to understand why and preserve the magic for future generations with this project from the Museum of Science in Boston.

  2. Jellyfish on the beach. Photo by Flickr user Peter Roome through a Creative Commons license.

    Scientists at MBARI are changing the image of jellies and studying the distribution of these little-understood creatures.

    If you see jellies on the beach or in the water, don’t touch them (yes, many of them sting) but take a moment to appreciate their beauty. Catch a photo if you can and report your sighting to Jellywatch.

  3. A Monarch butterfly in the Boston Public Garden. Photo by Flickr user Nietnagel through a Creative Commons license.

    Monarch butterflies migrate so far (some populations go from Canada to Mexico) that the journey can’t be completed in one generation. This incredible migration is threatened.

    How are they able to complete such a journey and what is stopping them? Those are the questions that Journey North is looking to answer. Submit your monarch sightings and plant native milkweed in your area for the monarchs.

  4. A common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). Photo by Flickr user Steven Robinson through a Creative Commons license.

    Bat calls aren’t usually audible to the human ear, but Bat Detective volunteers made recordings and used ultrasonic microphones and sonograms to make them audible and visible.

    Crack the case by highlighting sections of their recordings that include bat calls.

  5. A pigeon looks out over New York from the Empire State Building. Photo by ZeroOne/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

    There’s more to urban birds than pigeons (but pigeons are cool too!). The Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBs) project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gets residents of cities excited about nature, science, and birds.

    If you live in or near a city, participate by recording your bird observations in the green spaces (large or small) of your neighborhood.

  6. Plastic and related trash that washed ashore on the turtle nesting beaches of Sangalaki Island, in the Derawan Island chain off East Kalimantan, Indonesia. ©Mark Godfrey/TNC.

    Did you know that every time you do your laundry, each item of clothing made from synthetic fabric releases nearly 2,000 plastic microfibers? That plastic travels into our waterways, oceans and the fish we eat.

    The Microplastics Project from Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is tracking microplastics and working towards solutions. Assist them by collecting and submitting water samples.

  7. Trae Menard leans out of a helicopter with a paintball gun over a patch of healthy Australian tree ferns (Cyathea cooperi) in Lumahai Valley, Kauai, Hawaii. The Nature Conservancy is considering the use of targeted herbicide to reduce the number of invasive tree ferns in this region. Photo © Ethan Welty for The Nature Conservancy.

    Are you ready for a challenge? Help The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii’s staff locate invasive trees that threaten native plants and birds. These trees stick out like a sore thumb over the native canopy; mark them for eradication.

    You’ll be rewarded for taking part in the Hawaii Challenge with beautiful images of the species that you are protecting.

  8. Bumble bee (Bombus huntii). Photo © USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

    What can bumblebees in a museum teach us about climate change? To understand how climate change impacts wildlife, we need to know where animals used to live.

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has vast collections of bumblebees, tagged with handwritten collection dates and locations. In the Transcription Center, you transcribe the data, making it widely available for study.

  9. Horseshoe crabs spawning in Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Photo by Gregory Breese/USFWS.

    This project requires that you travel to a lovely beach in New Jersey or Delaware. While there you’ll be surveying the horseshoe crabs that come ashore to spawn in the Delaware Bay.

    Horseshoe crab blood is used in important human medical tests and their eggs provide food for migrating seabirds, so monitoring and conserving populations is critical. Make plans to visit in May or June!

  10. A California Condor and it's chick. Photo by Pacific Southwest Region USFWS through a Creative Commons license.

    California condors almost didn’t make it. Even today they wouldn’t be around without captive breeding programs and treatment for lead poisoning. That’s right; lead poisoning is still a major threat for these iconic western birds.

    You can help scientists understand how lead poisoning affects condor behavior by looking at camera trap images on Condor Watch, identifying the wildlife, and noting their posture. Your contribution will advance early detection and treatment of poisoned condors.

Lisa Feldkamp

Lisa loves all things citizen science and enjoys learning about everything that goes on four legs, two wings or fins - she even finds six and eight-legged critters fascinating at a safe distance. She has a PhD in Classical Literature and Languages from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and enjoys reading Greek and Roman literature or talking about mythology in her spare time. More from Lisa

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  1. I would nominate iNaturalist for a great citizen science project – it unites naturalists globally to make observations of nature, confirm others observations, allows access to data for research and then uploads validated data to other places to make availible for researchers and other projects ie Atlas of Living Australia, GBIF, etc

  2. Lets all encourage the passion in protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans and other species alike. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  3. I live in the portland Oregon area . I want to get involved in citizen science . How do I do this ?
    Thank you

  4. How can I become a Citizen Scientist in my area? I live in Overgaard, Arizona 85933 (P.O. Box 1474) Would prefer to work with wildlife other than birds. Thanks so much for replying!

  5. Are there any Citizen Science projects that deal with climate change, such as estimating carbon capture by trees in forests or large parks?

  6. Are there any Citizen Scientist that help to estimate carbon capture by trees and forests?

  7. Citizen Science is the best approach to inclusive participation in research in the 21st century.
    Involving non-scientists in data collection makes it easier for the general public to accept the findings and policies derived. Citizen Science addresses the SDGs principle of ;” Leaving no one behind”. I enjoy reading and i plan to involve citizen science in my up coming research on “climate change and non-communicable diseases”. It is a realistic data collection method.