Citizen science brings together two important Forest Service values – using sound science to guide our decision making and connecting our work to the public we serve. The Agency has a long history of engaging volunteers in the scientific process on a wide variety of citizen science projects, including studies of wildlife, cultural resources, watershed health, and silviculture. Citizen science offers a great opportunity to work side-by-side with our communities to increase education and interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and to encourage the next generation of environmental stewards. Volunteers of all ages and skill levels help fulfill our mission by collecting data we couldn’t collect on our own and by bringing new, innovative ideas to resource management.
Efforts to institutionalize citizen science within the government has led to the creation of a Federal Citizen Science Toolkit meant to provide resources and guidance applicable to all agencies. To provide information specific to the Forest Service, the Forest Service Citizen Science Toolkit was created. This guide references the 2017 Crowdsourcing and Citizen Act and builds upon other citizen science toolkits such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science Toolkit.


Defining Citizen Science

The term citizen science is defined in the 2017 Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act as a form of open collaboration in which individuals or organizations participate voluntarily in the scientific process in various ways, including:

  • formulating research questions
  • creating and refining project design
  • conducting scientific experiments
  • collecting and analyzing data
  • interpreting the data results
  • developing technologies and applications
  • making discoveries
  • solving problems

If you wish to learn about terms related to citizen science, legal considerations, and the policy supporting citizen science, visit Additional Resources.