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Citizen Science Projects

By Jessica Lawrenz

Now that the Midwest weather is starting to look favorable for spending more time in the outdoors, why not try your hand at a citizen science project! What is citizen science? Citizen science provides an opportunity for non-science trained individuals to contribute to scientific research of flora, fauna and many other things in their community or even the world. Every day people can look for, observe and record findings of everything from bees, Monarchs, flowers, birds, bats, frogs, ladybugs, and mushrooms, to stars, evolution, volcanic smog, earthquakes, and invasive plants. There are over 3,000 different Citizen Science Projects that anyone can participate all over the world. Most data are recorded through phone apps, databases or online list serves.

Why are Citizen Scientists important? The benefits are three-fold and help participants, researchers, and society. Citizen Science fills data gaps that are hard to obtain due to time, geographic or resource constraints. It can lead to asking new questions from different perspectives rather than from working alone. It provides constant learning and knowledge opportunities and empowers individuals to make a difference in their community. It gives citizens a greater say in scientific subjects. Citizen Science makes the connection between academia and society more transparent. It’s also a great way to make research and data more accessible and understandable to a larger audience.

Here are several examples of interesting and easy Citizen Science Projects:

The City Nature Challenge is a world-wide collaboration but offers an opportunity to connect with nature locally in the Kansas City Metropolitan Region. It is a friendly, global competition among metro areas to see whose residents can spot and identify the most wildlife. Participants look for signs of life in local parks, neighborhoods, and backyards to see what plants and animals share the environment. The overarching objective is to celebrate connections with nature. This global challenge encourages as many people as possible to make and upload as many observations of wild plants, birds, and animals as they can find during the challenge period from April 29th though May 2nd.

World Migratory Bird Day is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. It is an effective tool to help raise global awareness of the threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. WMBD major events are held on the second Saturday in May and in October each year. The theme of the 2022 events will be focused on light pollution.

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum offers numerous Citizen Science Projects throughout the entire year.  Whether you’re into botany, birds, seasonal phenology, or backyard biodiversity, they offer something for everyone. They use iNaturalist which is a free, online platform where people record biodiversity observations, interact with other enthusiasts, and learn about organisms.

For an online catalog of hundreds of Citizen Science Projects please visit citizenscience.gov as well as the EPA website.

Citizen science is all-inclusive. It can be for anyone, anywhere. It does not matter if you know a lot about science or a little. The most effective way to learn about science is to participate in science. In turn, we might gain a better appreciation and understanding of science and the world around us. One of the best parts about Citizen Science Projects is 4-H’ers can tie back all the information they’ve learned into the Kansas Wildlife Project.  They can create a poster, notebook or educational display to be entered into the county fair.  Have fun and good luck out there with your new discoveries!



EPA – Basic Information about Citizen Science