Skip to main content

Citizen Science

If you're not sure what you'd like to observe and report, take a look at some general sites to get a feel for what piques your interest: 

  • iNaturalist – puts the power of tracking observations, linking with experts, and recording your data as a citizen scientist into the palm of your hand through easy apps and other online resources about almost every taxa on the planet.
  • CitizenScience.gov: The central portal for three major Federal crowdsourcing and citizen science (CCS) activities: 1) the Federal Catalog of CCS projects, where citizens can learn about ongoing activities in their area; 2) the CCS Toolkit for Federal employees to design new projects; and 3) the CCS Federal Community of Practitioners.
  • Nature's Notebook is a national plant and animal phenology observation program helping scientists, educators, policy makers, and resource managers to understand how plants and animals are responding to climate and other environmental changes.
  • Citizen Science Central is a nationwide clearinghouse for all kinds of public-participation projects in a variety of topic, ranging from astronomy to zoology.   Find a project you'd like to join, or register your research project and solicit citizen scientist volunteers.
  • Bioblitzes are a fun way to join other NatureWatchers and experts in a day or days of intensive recording of species in a particular area.  BioBlitzes are scheduled between spring and autumn and are coordinated by different environmental groups across the country.  Search online for the calendar of BioBlitzes
  • Great Nature Project Join National Geographic for a project as big as the world itself! Document biodiversity around the world through photography.
  • SciStarter offers "Your Research Mission," with a different citizen science project highlighted daily, or choose a project to assist from a variety of locations or times (beach, home, at night, at school).
  • Project Noah is a tool to explore and document all types of plants and animals, allowing contributors to upload their photos, georeferenced to a map, to share with and learn from citizen scientists everywhere.
  • The YardMap asks you to draw maps of your backyard, park, farm, favorite birding location, school, or garden to better understand how to manage landscapes sustainably for urban/suburban birds and other wildlife.
  • DiscoverLife is a free, online tool to identify species, share ways to teach and study nature's wonders, report findings, build maps, process images, and contribute to and learn from a growing, interactive encyclopedia of life that now has over 1.2 million species pages.
  • Encyclopedia of Life is another free, online collection of information about all life on Earth in text, images, video, sounds, maps, and classifications.

The influences of changing phenology can have detrimental effects on food supplies and ecosystem sustainability.  Plants that flower earlier than their pollinators can suffer from reduced or no pollination, which results in low or no seed or fruit production.  Increased temperatures can lead to plant ranges slowly drifting northward or to higher elevations over time.  Reporting when and what you see in plants throughout the seasons is a very important step to helping both humans and animals adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.

  • Track Monarch Butterflies through Journey North
  • Project BudBurst runs spring through autumn to monitor plants as the seasons change.  NatureWatchers collect ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants (plant phenophases) targeting 97 native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses.  This data gives scientists insights into prevailing climatic characteristics in a region over time.  The site also houses some great online plant identification guides!
  • The Great Sunflower Project gathers information about urban, suburban and rural bees and other pollinators visiting sunflowers in your yard and garden.
  • The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Butterfly Counts gather data to help monitor butterfly populations, give butterfly enthusiasts the opportunity to meet one another and network, and raise awareness through butterfly-themed events.
  • The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is a citizen science project involving volunteers from across the United States and Canada who collect data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat, with a focus on monarch distribution and abundance during the breeding season in North America.
  • Project FeederWatch gives you an opportunity to be a home-based Nature Watcher.  Report the birds visiting your feeders during the winter to early spring (from November to April).  FeederWatch data help scientists track movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. 
  • The eBird registry is one of the largest biodiversity data repositories in the world.  Both recreational and professional bird watchers contribute to this site, providing extensive records across North America and internationally.
  • NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.
  • Join an annual tradition with Audubon Christmas Bird Count from December 14th to January 5th. Counts take place within "Count Circles," which focus on specific geographical areas and always include at least one experienced birder.
  • Bird Sleuth K-12 (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) has lessons, resources, and journal pages to build science skills around birds and their habitats.