Have you ever witnessed the crocuses blooming a little earlier than usual or noticed a new species at your birdfeeder, and thought, “I wonder if others in my community are seeing the same things?” Wouldn’t it be neat if your backyard observations could be included in real scientific investigations? With citizen science, they can be!
Through citizen science, professionals collaborate with members of the public to conduct scientific studies. Citizen science is a fun, family-friendly way to get outside, explore the distribution of species (biogeography) of your local area, fine-tune your observation and analysis skills, and contribute to real science and conservation efforts.
Recent reports have even indicated that participation in citizen science projects has positive impacts on children’s cognitive and psychological development and their attitudes toward nature as adults. “Nature is not merely an amenity; it is critical to healthy human development and functioning,” says Nancy Wells, Cornell University assistant professor of design and environmental analysis.
This July, we’re challenging My Wonderful World campaign members to sign up to participate in at least one citizen science program. Below, we provide brief descriptions of a sampling of available projects.
Cornell Ornithology Lab’s
1. Birds in Forested Landscapes
BFL is a study of birds and the habitats that they live in. Participants record types of trees, sizes, ages, elevations and latitudes. Then, they observe the birds and habitats at three levels: the survey point, the study site and the surrounding landscape.
2. Celebrate Urban Birds
This activity is designed for even the most inexperienced citizen scientists. Participants receive an activity kit with a poster and information on urban greening and bird identification. They learn how to identify 16 types of birds and then make observations at specific 10 minute time intervals.
3. Priority Migrant eBird
In an attempt to create conservation strategies for long-distance migratory species that have been experiencing population decline, this activity collects data across the Americas. Contributors submit records and observations for five species: the Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler, and the Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Participants help Cornell scientists identify rare
ladybug species that live around the country. They collect ladybugs
using the “How to Guide,” then photograph the ladybugs and upload the
images along with the time, date and location via an online submission
Ready, Set, Glow!
An initiative of the Museum of
Science in Boston and the National Children’s Museum, the Ready, Set,
Glow! project gets children involved in research and learning about
Children use their senses to collect data through
observation and fun activities.
Budburst, citizen scientists research plants and climate change.
First, participants use a list to identify a plant and describe where
it is located (including latitude and longitude). They then determine
the phenological stage using a field guide. Finally, observations are
Earthwatch Institute engages
people worldwide in research and conservation activities. Earthwatch’s
research is related to sustainable development in a variety of fields.
Participants can join in expeditions almost anywhere on the planet!
Galaxy Zoo, participants help classify almost a quarter of a million
galaxies into different categories by shape. Classifiers are shown
images and asked questions regarding the features that mark different
types of galaxies. This information is used to discover distance to
and age of galaxies, as well as other pieces of vital information.
GLOBE at Night
at Night collects data from 110 countries to aid scientists in
researching patterns of light pollution across the globe. Participants
go star-hunting by first finding their latitude and longitude. Then,
they identify the constellation Orion and match the nighttime sky above
them to one of GLOBE’s charts. Observations are reported online and
compared to others around the world!
follows the migration patterns of Monarch Butterflies from Mexico to
the Northern United States. Participants keep a journal and report
their observations in order to predict a migration route.
FrogWatch, participants help scientists conserve amphibians. FrogWatch
volunteers gather information about frog abundance in hopes of
increasing awareness about nationwide amphibian decline.
Melissa for My Wonderful World