Every day across the globe, millions of ordinary people help advance knowledge in fields as diverse as astronomy and zoology. These “citizen” scientists and engineers record bird sightings and rainfall amounts, documenting environmental shifts over the decades. They hunt for interstellar dust, classify earthquake damage, monitor lead in local tap water, count penguin populations, and even discover comets!
Some projects spur new legislation. Others inspire community involvement and a lifelong interest in STEM.
Butterfly Counts. The North American Butterfly Association’s census of butterflies has a $3 price to participate.
Celebrate Urban Birds. Founded in 2007, this year-round project developed and launched by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has partnered with over 10,000 community-based organizations, distributed more than 250,000 educational kits, and awarded dozens of mini-grants.
Did You Feel It? Report an earthquake to the US Geological Survey.
Earth Echo Water Challenge. This global project, which involves more than 1.4 million citizen scientists, runs from March 22 (the UN’s World Water Monitoring Day) through December and includes free test kits and lesson plans.
eBird. Launched in 2002 by Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this real-time, online checklist program has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.
Galaxy Zoo. Launched in 2007 with a data set made up of a million galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the world’s best-known online citizen science project has the largest number of publications based on citizen scientists input and inspired the creation of The Zooniverse.
The GLOBE. The U.S. government’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment. NASA even developed an app to assist with observations and reporting!
National Geographic’s FieldScope is an interactive mapping platform that enables citizen scientists to document and understand the world around them–both in the classroom and in outdoor settings. Current projects include studying the Chesapeake Bay watershed, counting frogs in FrogWatch USA, and monitoring when plants flower and leaf in Project BudBurst.
Penguin Watch. Help monitor penguin colonies in over 100 sites worldwide.
Shakespeare’s World. Transcribe handwritten documents from Shakespeare’s contemporaries.
Stardust@Home. Help scientists at the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory and NASA’s Johnson Space Center detect grains of interstellar dust in photos of material collected during a spacecraft’s 2004 encounter with a comet.