Do you like to bird watch using your backyard bird feeder? Or maybe you have fun going bug hunting at a local nature preserve. However you enjoy taking in the natural world around you, there may be a way you can help scientists with important research at the same time! It’s thanks to citizen science, which is basically the practicing of having people — needing no official scientific training — help scientists collect and analyze data.
Previously, Biology Bytes explored citizen biology projects that people can do from the comfort of their own home computer. Here we’ll take a look at citizen biology that gets your hands dirty out in the field! Read on to find out about some of the projects you can get involved with around your home.
- Lost Ladybug Project: Go hunting for some ladybugs and send in pictures of your findings (along with location information) to help scientists figure out how ladybug populations are changing.
- School of Ants: Work with scientists to identify what type of ants are in your neighborhood to create a huge ant map together.
- Bee Hunt!: Through March to November, search for local bees and learn more about them in the process of sharing your data with scientists.
- Cicada Tracker: Let scientists know when you see (or hear) cicadas in your area and track the emergence of the cicadas on a United States map.
- Monarch Larva Monitoring Project: Monitor Monarch larva and butterflies in your area to help scientists figure out how the Monarch butterfly populations are changing across the U.S.
Watching Larger Backyard Animals
- Project Squirrel: Squirrels are all over, and instead of seeing them as a pest to keep out of your bird feeder or garden, you can submit your squirrel observations to help scientists better understand these common mammals.
- Project FeederWatch: Do you like bird watching? You can enjoy your hobby while helping scientists better understand bird populations and distributions (particularly from November through April).
- FrogWatch USA: Maybe you don’t have frogs in your own backyard, but perhaps you’ve seen (or heard them) leaping about at a local pond? If so, you could help scientists with amphibian conservation efforts by reporting your observations.
Projects for Everyone: There’s wildlife just about everywhere on the planet, and you can likely help one of the broad-ranging citizen biology projects below by looking out for it.
- What’s Invasive!: Discover and report invasive organisms in your area to help scientists keep better track of them.
- Road Ecology Center: You might not have thought that anybody was interested in that dead raccoon you saw on the side of the highway, but some scientists actually eagerly want to know! Send them all the gory details through this project to help them better understand how roads affect local ecology.
- Wildlife Sightings, Encyclopedia of Life, and Project Noah: Whether it’s birds, insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic critters, or plants, these projects want to know what you saw on your latest hike!
For further reading:
- Scientific American’s section on Citizen Science
- Biology Bytes’ post “Citizen Biology“
- Teisha J. Rowland’s book Biology Bytes: Digestible Essays on Animals Both Commonplace and Bizarre