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Extension > Environment > FWCE > Citizen Science > About the Citizen Science program

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About the Citizen Science program

Background

Citizen science projects directly involve “citizens,” people who are not professional scientists, in collecting scientific data. Data collected by citizen scientists help professional scientists answer research questions about wild plant and animal populations, as well as abiotic features of the environment such as water clarity or temperature. Wild species' populations are always changing, and conservation efforts need to be based on data from many locations over long time spans. More and more, scientists are relying upon citizens to be their “eyes and ears” to study populations and habitats.

Citizen scientists have been collecting weather data for over two centuries. The first organized biological projects probably engaged citizens in collecting data on bird distribution and abundance, but there is a long history of lay interest in insects; for example, the field notes and reports of many Victorian collectors document important contributions to our understanding of butterfly range, behavior and abundance. Today, organized citizen science programs are flourishing as scientists need data and many citizens want to contribute towards the understanding and conservation of the environment.

While the Driven to Discover project was designed around the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project and eBird, the model is meant to work with a wide variety of other projects. All you need is to incorporate the three parts of the D2D process: building science skills, contributing to citizen science, and using those two foundational pieces to design and carry out independent investigations.


Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP)

MLMP involves volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. It was developed in 1997 by researchers at the University of Minnesota to collect long-term data on breeding monarch populations and milkweed habitat. The goal of the project is to better understand monarch populations during the spring and summer in North America. To do this, MLMP volunteers conduct weekly monarch and milkweed surveys. The results of these efforts aid in conserving monarchs and advance our understanding of butterfly ecology in general. Learn more about the MLMP here.

Minnesota Bee Atlas

The Minnesota Bee Atlas, a four-year project funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), is a citizen science program designed to use volunteer participants to create a state-wide list of bees found in Minnesota. Volunteers may participate by submitting photos of bees, identifying bumble bees on a transect route, or monitoring nesting blocks. The information we gather on species distribution and diversity will be important to help us track if or how bee populations are changing and how those changes might affect land management decisions. Learn more about the Minnesota Bee Atlas here.

eBird and BirdSleuth

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's goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists, who are working to better understand and manage bird populations across the western hemisphere and beyond.

The Driven to Discover bird curriculum is based on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth program. BirdSleuth engages kids in scientific study and real data collection through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen science projects.

Other citizen science projects we recommend

There are many other citizen science projects besides the ones listed above. For a list of many citizen science projects, visit Scistarter or Citizen Science Central. Here are some projects that we like a lot:

Check out how the PBS Kids program SciGirls featured several citizen science projects!

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