Citizen Science: Getting Started & How to Participate

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Citizen Science: Getting Started & How to Participate

What is Citizen Science?

On a walk outside, you notice an unfamiliar bird fly across your path and land on a patch of grass nearby, poking around for crickets. To you, documenting an unfamiliar species’ location is a small discovery, but to a scientist this is a significant step in research. Scientists cannot be everywhere at once, which is why they rely on the eyes and ears of volunteers—citizen scientists. Your participation helps scientists collect the data they need while providing a fun learning experience for you. There is a project for everyone of all ages to join and participate in. From bee watching to baking bread, we’ve pulled a variety of citizen science projects to get you started. For more resources to find the right project for your interest, visit SciStarter or Zooniverse.

Getting Started

Bumble Bee Watch

Help researchers track and conserve North America’s bumble bee population. Community scientists can create an account to upload their bumble bee photos, identify the species and have researchers verify the identification. These data help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees, as well as find remnant populations of rare species before they become extinct. Discover the vital role these gentle pollinators serve in keeping our environment healthy. Learn more here: Bumble Bee Watch

Project BudBurst

Observe the nature that surrounds you using an interactive map, monitor plant life cycles and plant-animal interactions over time. Collaborate with other community scientists in BudBurst, a community-focused, data-driven approach to plant conservation across the U.S. Learn about your environment while helping researchers answer important questions. Scientists, horticulturists and educators rely on the data you collect for current climate research efforts. This project is great for families, outdoor groups, plant and phenology enthusiasts, educators and anyone looking to spend time outside or learn about the natural world around you. BudBurst also has an app for quick and easy participation on the go. Learn more here: Project BudBurst

Globe at Night

Have you recently seen the Milky Way arched across the night sky, or has it been just a little too bright? Light pollution not only affects our view of the stars, but it wastes energy and disrupts migration and breeding habits of animals. With Globe at Night, citizen scientists from around the world can measure and submit their night sky brightness observations while raising public awareness about the impact of light pollution. Learn how to participate here: Globe at Night


Any birders out there? NestWatch is a nationwide nest-monitoring project that helps scientists study bird biology and monitor populations of breeding birds. The data collected allow us to understand the impact of various threats on the winged creatures and how we can take the necessary steps to protect them in this constantly changing world. Nurture your bond with nature and monitor nests a few times a week. Learn more here: NestWatch

Sourdough for Science

Humans have been baking bread for thousands of years with different cultures all over the world creating their own unique textures and flavors. Citizen scientists around globe learn how microbes affect the rise and flavor of bread at home or in the classroom. Create your own sourdough starter from scratch and, over the course of 14 days, take a series of measurements to track the growth of your “microbial zoo.” Your data will help scientists discover the mystery behind microbes affecting the taste and texture of bread. Learn more here: Sourdough for Science