For some of us, it currently feels like January 107th, but in theory spring is in full bloom! This means it’s time to clean the cobwebs out of your hiking boots and get back outside! Many of us love getting outside and keeping our eyes peeled for budding plants, migrating birds, and the occasional toad. But did you know that your outdoor hobbies could contribute to science? This week, I’m giving you the low-down on my 6 favorite citizen science projects and how you can become a citizen scientist today!
Maybe you’re like me and have a mild obsession with birds. If you’re already taking your binoculars and bird guide out to your local park on a regular basis, eBird is for you! eBird is a citizen science project that was created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to take advantage of the information hobbyists birders were already collecting. Currently, it is the largest citizen science projects related to biodiversity. The data collected through this project is publicly available and has already been used for a number of scientific studies! Once you download the app, you can track your bird walks and keep a log of which species you see where! Not only will this help scientists out, but it can also help you keep track of your life list!
If you prefer critters that hop to those that fly, FrogWatch may be the citizen science project for you! FrogWatch was created by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to monitor frog populations in hopes of better understanding the population declines that have been observed in many species. Joining FrogWatch, does require some training, but the only requirement going in is an interest in these amazing amphibians! Once you are trained, you will be given datasheets to complete in the field. You can enter your data later online. This citizen project is a little bit more of a commitment, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you want to be a part of the effort to conserve frogs!
3) Bumble Bee Watch
In 2017, a species of bumble bee was listed as an endangered species in the USA for the first time. If this breaks your heart as much as it did mine, think about joining Bumble Bee Watch. Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to not only monitor, but also conserve bumble bee species in North America. To participate, you can download the app, upload your pictures of bumble bees, and use the app to identify which species you snapped a photo of! Easy peasy!
If you love all creatures great and small and want to include some plants in your citizen science project, iNaturalist is the way to go! This citizen science project was initially created as a Master’s project at UC Berkley and has expanded to become an easy to use app that even the layman naturalist can enjoy! Through the app, you can take and upload pictures of animals, insects, plants, and fungi. If you can identify the species, great! If not, simply ask the community of other naturalists the help you out! It’s a great way to learn new species!
5) Globe at Night
Do you feel like you see fewer constellations in the night sky than you used to? Well it’s not because the fabric of reality is collapsing again. It’s because of light pollution. Light pollution has become a major wildlife issue because it can affect spawning cycles, misdirect birds and sea turtles, and kill insects. If you want to join the battle to raise awareness of the impact of light pollution, it’s time to look into Globe at Night. It’s easy to make a contribution! You can download the app, look for specific constellations in the night sky (don’t worry, they’ll help you find them!), and rate how bright they are in your corner of the sky.
Finally, I want to give a shoutout to Litterati. While this isn’t a citizen science project per-say, it’s another great project that allows anyone with a smartphone to make a contribution to a cleaner planet. With this app, you can photograph the litter you find during your daily routine, mark its location, and identify its brand. The idea is to make companies more responsible for the waste associated with their products. If we can stop the production of waste at the source, we could reduce our pollution problem by leaps and bounds!
Science projects do not have to be exclusive to that volcano project you did in elementary school or the ivory tower of academia. Any citizen of Earth can become a scientist today! So if you’re ready to become a citizen scientist, go ahead and download one of the above apps and get out there!
Have you been involved in a citizen science project? Feel free to share your story below! And if you like what I write, think about buying me a cup of coffee! Thanks for reading everyone!