IDEA SET

IDEA SET

Citizen Science Projects

Citizen Science Projects

Learn about how you can participate in citizen science projects.

Grades

3 - 12+

Subjects

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science

Photo: Students study soil on a wooden desk.
Photograph by Kelly Thayer, MyShot

Did you know snapping mountain-top photos of smog and listening for frog calls can help scientists? Get ideas for how you can participate in citizen science—projects in which volunteers and scientists work together to answer real-world questions and gather data.

Consider also enrolling in National Geographic's free online course, Learning Through Citizen Science. Educators will gain experience with global citizen science and learn from National Geographic Explorers how to engage students of any age. Sign up for the course in English here or in Spanish here.

Photo: A red bird with black wings on a branch
Bird Census

Join the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count and contribute to a wildlife census that will help scientists assess the health of bird populations.

Red-tailed hawks hunt from a carefully chosen perch, usually a tree branch, fence post, or telephone pole located along the edge of an open field. They dive with their legs stretched behind them and their wings open.
Celebrate Urban Birds

Observe birds in an urban neighborhood for the Celebrate Urban Birds project, and send the data to scientists at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Photo of a bird's nest with eggs.
Monitor Bird Nests

Join NestWatch, a continent-wide project to monitor bird nests. The project was started by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

Photo of a horseshoe crab.
The Horsehoe Count

Join The Horseshoe Count, a survey that gets volunteers to count horseshoe crabs during spawning season at beaches in Delaware and New Jersey.

Photo of a butterfly on a flower.
Butterfly Census

Contribute to a census of the butterflies of North America—in the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico. Participate in a one-day butterfly count in your area for the North American Butterfly Association.

Photo: Star explosion
Search Space

Want a chance to have an interstellar dust particle named after you? Help NASA by volunteering for Stardust@home and searching images for tiny interstellar dust impacts.

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World Monitoring Day

Celebrate World Water Monitoring Day. Use a test kit to sample local bodies of water for water quality data and share the results with other communities around the world.

Close-up photo of a yellow-green frog.
Frog and Toad Populations

Survey frog and toad populations in your area by participating in the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, which will teach you how to identify frogs and toads by their calls.

Illustration: Red-winged blackbird
Count Birds

Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event that gets bird watchers to count birds across the continent and then tallies the highest number of birds of each species seen together at one time.

Photo of flowers on a mountaintop.
Observe Appalachian Flowers

Monitor the timing of plant flowering in the Appalachian Mountains as you hike trails. The Appalachian Mountain Club will use the data as part of a study to understand how changes in climate are affecting mountain flora.

Four monarch butterflies flutter around a set of flowers.
Survey Monarch Populations

Help the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project collect long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed. Volunteer to conduct surveys in your local area.

As a NG Your Shot Photo Walk leader and Bioblitz Inventory leader in Hawaii Volcano National Park, Chris showed local Hawaii youths the importance and beauty of small insects. Chris Johns photographing the Hawaiian Leaf Miner Project.
Learn About Local Plants

Join the National Phenology Network's plant monitoring program. Learn about plant species in your area and record your observations about observable phases in the annual life cycle of plants.

Photo of a flower blossom.
Observe Plant Life Cycles

Join Project BudBurst to gather environmental and climate change information in your local area. Observe the life cycles of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses to see when they have their first leafing, first flower, and first fruit ripening.

Fold mountains found in West Virginia
Take Mountain-Top Photographs

Be a visibility volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. If you live or hike in states from Maine to Virginia, you can take photographs from a mountain view to help scientists study air quality and haze pollution.

Photo:  Measurements being taken of large hail stones
Collect Weather Data

Volunteer to join the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. The data you help collect will be used for weather forecasting and monitoring, severe weather alerts, and climate studies.

Photograph: Spiral galaxy.
Classify Galaxies

Do what a computer can't! Join the Galaxy Zoo project to help scientists classify galaxies according to their shapes.

Photo of a bird at a feeder.
Bird Feeder Stakeout

Help Project FeederWatch with a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locations in North America.

Photo: Egret walking with fish in it's mouth.
Bird Watch

Join eBird, an online checklist project created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Ebird allows people to report real-time bird sightings and observations.

Photo of garlic mustard.
Participate in a Field Survey

Be a part of an international effort to identify populations of an invasive plant—garlic mustard—in the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey.

Photo of a bleached coral reef.
Observe Coral Bleaching

If you live in Hawaii, join Eyes of the Reef Network to help monitor and report on coral bleaching and disease and marine invasive species.

Photo of a skyline during a blackout.
Measure Night-Sky Brightness

Join the Globe at Night program in documenting light pollution by submitting data based on the visibility of constellations.

Picture of people at a marsh.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Love the water and being outside? Get in touch with your state’s local water resource office to find out how your class can volunteer for various projects like tree-planting or oyster-growing. Even if your class cannot do something hands-on, they can promise to take action signing the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint pledge, or something similar for your area.

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Observe Wildlife Anywhere

Photograph plants, animals, and other organisms on your own or as part of a BioBlitz. Use the iNaturalist app or iNaturalist.org to upload your observations and add them to a global database of biodiversity to support local to global research projects.

A person using chronolog in the forest
Document How Landscapes Change

Change in the environment happens gradually, so you can help tell the story by uploading a photo to Chronolog. Chronolog creates time lapses of important ecosystems to better understand how these landscapes are changing.

An artist's impression of a hot exoplanet orbiting close to its star.
Exoplanet Watch

Discover strange new worlds and help NASA scientists as they search for planets outside our solar system with Exoplanet Watch.

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Writer
Christina Riska Simmons
Editor
Jessica Shea, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Photo Researcher
Livia Mazur, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

December 20, 2023

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