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CH 2: Start with the Basics

If you have decided that citizen science is the best fit for your project, you’re probably eager to get it started. Let’s first address the basics; what are your project objectives? Are there preexisting projects or protocols? How will your project be funded?


Before starting your project, articulate what outcomes you wish to accomplish.

  • What do you want to study and what is the problem or question you are trying to resolve?
  • Do you want to reach a certain number of volunteers? Promote student learning? Outreach to a unique group?
  • What data will you collect? How will collecting this data help achieve your project goals? What is the appropriate grade of data quality needed for your project?
  • How will you display your results to clearly show the connection with your objectives?

Thinking through your objectives helps you achieve them in a targeted manner, which paves the way for better results.



Determine if you need information monthly, seasonally, or annually. For example, you might need a lot of baseline data the first few years and then can cut back and rotate through sites/districts annually.


Preexisting projects

Perhaps there is already a similar citizen science project that answers your question. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when there are projects out there that have been tested and improved over many years. Here are resources to help you find other citizen science projects.

  • Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Catalog: This catalog tracks citizen science projects involving federal government agencies. If you only wish to see Forest Service projects, click the “View by Agency” dropdown menu and check “Forest Service”.
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Citizen Science Central: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also tracks citizen science projects. This includes citizen projects about birds but also mammals, invasive species, air quality, water quality, weather and other categories.
  • SciStarter: The website features a searchable list of citizen science projects.
  • This website allows viewers to search their list of active citizen science projects.


Preexisting protocols

There may already be protocols that meet your needs or can be easily modified to do so. Listed below are resources to help you find some pre-existing protocols.

  • Forest Service Monitoring Protocols: This page lists all agency-wide monitoring protocols, some of which can be adapted to meet your needs.
  • National Environmental Methods Index (NEMI):  NEMI is a searchable database that allows scientists and managers to find and compare analytical and field methods for all phases of environmental monitoring.
  • GLOBE: NASA’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program offers curriculum and citizen science protocols for teachers and citizen scientists about earth science topics, including the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and soils.
  • How will you display your results to clearly show the connection with your objectives?



As with any project, the budget should be clearly laid out in the project plan. This of course includes roles and responsibilities – who does what, when, and at what cost?

Partner organizations (Chapter 3) can be key in providing goods and services through direct investment, in-kind contributions, or applying to external grants for additional funding not otherwise available to the Forest Service.

Check out this 1-page overview to learn more about Crowd Funding.

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