Citizen Scientist: 3 Projects for You and Your Family

What is a citizen scientist?

If you look up to scientists and researchers with the awe of a twelve year old at a Justin Bieber concert, then chances are that you have heard this term before. Science-minded individuals are often observant people, and tend to make notes of the things they see in the natural world. Researchers want this data! The power of thousands of citizens making their own science observations to help researchers is exciting. Volunteering as a citizen scientist is easy, satisfying, and fun. Following are three volunteer opportunities that I have personally participated in. Make your observations count, and check out the following national projects.



I have participated with eBird for several years now and I recommend it to any bird lovers. An easy online tool for submitting your birdwatching data, the features of the site are fascinating as you can explore all data submitted by every user. Observation data is compiled and you can explore data for individual species, groups of species, your observations, totals for the country, states, counties, and many other combinations. Almost as fun as the birding is browsing the data after you submit your observations. Millions of observations are submitted each month, so the data available to both you and researchers is vast.

This project is by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

FrogWatch USA

Similar to the previous project, FrogWatch USA is a citizen science project that allows volunteers to submit their observations of local frog and toad species online. All that’s needed to participate is a little frog and toad call knowledge, which can be learned from websites and even Youtube. As a park naturalist, one year I led weekly FrogWatch data gathering hikes. Children love participating in this project, and it’s a great opportunity to get them outdoors and tuning up their senses, all for the good of science.

This project is by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Wildlife Watch

Though the previous two programs dealt with special groups of animals, this citizen scientist project is much broader in scope, going further than simple text-based observations to accept photos and stories from volunteers. It allows volunteers to submit their observations on animals, plants, and natural phenomena like tracks, scat, and nests. This extensive project is quick and easy to use and the website is child-friendly for submitting data, with interactive maps and checklists complete with large, quality pictures for the easiest of observation sharing.

This project is by the National Wildlife Federation.

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