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May 4, 2009

Become a Citizen Scientist

From counting toads, to observing plants bud, to reporting bird sightings, citizen science is taking off across the country (there was even a recent story about it on CNN) .

In a nutshell, citizen science is the process of using individual volunteers to collect scientific data on specific species and issues. These programs offer great opportunities for teachers and parents to directly involve children in learning about the process of science and data collection. Most citizen science projects also offer great background resources and suggestions to help get started.

Here's a list of Projects to get you started:

Project Budburst (my favorite)

Join thousands of others in gathering valuable environmental and climate change information from across the country. Project BudBurst engages the public in making careful observations of the phenophases such as first leafing, first flower, and first fruit ripening of a diversity of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses in their local area


A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

Monarch Watch

Note: Monarch Watch only deals with butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains. See The Monarch Program below for details.

Monarch Watch is an educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas that engages citizen scientists in large-scale research projects. This program produces real data that relate to a serious conservation issue. Monarch Watch gets children of all ages involved in science.

The Monarch Program

The Monarch Program deals with butterflies in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Regions of the United States. Their program is very similar to Monarch Watch, however they serve everything West of the Rocky Mountains while Monarch Watch deals with butterflies that are east of the Rocky Mountains. Thanks teacher and reader RH for the tip!

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