What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.


  • Redwood Watch Energy & Sustainability

    Redwood Watch

    Citizen scientists help the Save the Redwoods League by recording observations of some of the world's largest trees

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director and Secretary DATES: Ongoing
  • Project Noah More Science

    Project Noah

    Help researchers build the go-to platform for documenting all the world's organisms

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Yasser Ansari DATES: Ongoing
  • Project Squirrel More Science

    Project Squirrel

    In addition to being interesting animals to watch, squirrels can tell us a lot about our local environment and how it is changing

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Steve Sullivan, Director DATES: Ongoing
  • FrogWatch USA More Science

    FrogWatch USA

    Learn about the wetlands in your community and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Paul Boyle, Senior Vice President for Conservation and Education DATES: Ongoing
  • Shark Observation Network More Science

    Shark Observation Network

    Help researchers study the broadnose sevengill shark in the San Diego area

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Vallorie Hodges, Diving Safety Officer DATES: Ongoing
  • School of Ants Evolution

    School of Ants

    What will you find living in your backyard?

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Andrea Lucky, Postdoctoral Researcher DATES: Ongoing
  • NestWatch More Science


    NestWatch aims to provide a unified nest-monitoring scheme to track reproductive success for all North American breeding birds

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jason Martin, Project Leader DATES: Ongoing
  • New Jersey Shorebird Survey More Science

    New Jersey Shorebird Survey

    Citizen scientists with birding experience can help New Jersey study its migrant shorebird habitats

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Nellie Tsipoura, Senior Research Scientist and Citizen Science Director DATES: Friday, July 15, 2011 - Monday, October 31, 2011
  • Firefly Watch More Science

    Firefly Watch

    Citizen scientists can spend some of those long, lazy summer nights helping researchers study diminishing firefly populations

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Don Salvatore, Project Coordinator DATES: Ongoing
  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) More Science

    Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)

    Citizen scientists join a community of observers to measure and map precipitation

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Nolan Doesken, Climatologist and Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • Project <i>MonarchHealth</i> More Science

    Project MonarchHealth

    Help scientists better understand host-parasite interactions in monarch butterflies

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sonia Altizer, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • The Valley of the Khans More Science

    The Valley of the Khans

    For more than 100 years, National Geographic explorers have unraveled the mysteries of the past. Now it's your turn

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Albert Yu-Min Lin, Research Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • SoundCitizen Health


    A community-based water sampling network based in Washington's Puget Sound region

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rick Keil, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Lost Ladybug Project More Science

    Lost Ladybug Project

    Help entomologists better understand ladybug species distribution across North America

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: John Losey, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Citizen Sky Space

    Citizen Sky

    Help scientists solve the mystery of epsilon Aurigae, a mysterious, bright, eclipsing binary variable star that has baffled scientists since 1821

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arne Henden, Project Principal Investigator DATES: Ongoing
  • The Great Sunflower Project More Science

    The Great Sunflower Project

    Help scientists study pollination by planting flowers and tracking bee traffic

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gretchen LeBuhn, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Stardust@Home Space


    Help find the first pristine interstellar dust particles ever brought to Earth

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Bryan Mendez, Space Science Education and Public Outreach Specialist DATES: Ongoing
  • <i></i> Global Amphibian Blitz More Science Global Amphibian Blitz

    Citizen scientists observe and record data to census the world's shrinking amphibian population in the name of science and conservation

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Scott Loarie DATES: Ongoing
  • BeeSpotter More Science


    More than 75 percent of the planet's flowering plants depend on pollinators (mostly insects) in order to reproduce. Among the most important pollinators are the 5,000+ species of bees in the family Apidae, a group that includes honey bees and bumble bees

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: May Berenbaum, Professor and Department Head DATES: Ongoing
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