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Extension > Environment > Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education > Conservation education > Driven to Discover: Enabling authentic inquiry through citizen science > Citizen science

About citizen science

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.

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