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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.

Projects

  • The School of Ants More Science

    The School of Ants

    The School of Ants project studies ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Andrea Lucky DATES: Ongoing
  • The Great Eggcase Hunt Project More Science

    The Great Eggcase Hunt Project

    The Great Eggcase Hunt aims to get as many people as possible hunting for egg cases that have either been washed ashore or found by divers and snorkelers underwater

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Ali Hood, Director of Conservation DATES: Ongoing
  • National Cockroach Project Evolution

    National Cockroach Project

    High school students and other citizen scientists collecting and helping analyze American cockroaches using DNA barcoding

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Mark Stoeckle, Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • Shark Savers SharksCount More Science

    Shark Savers SharksCount

    Recreational divers can help marine researchers log, count and identify the sharks they see during their dives

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Samantha Whitcraft, Director of Programs DATES: Ongoing
  • The VerbCorner Project Mind & Brain

    The VerbCorner Project

    Help researchers better understand the role of verbs in communication

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Joshua Hartshorne, Post-Doctoral Fellow DATES: Ongoing
  • BioTrails More Science

    BioTrails

    Monitor animal and plant species in Maine’s Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park area

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Karen James, Program Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Worm Watch Lab More Science

    Zooniverse: Worm Watch Lab

    One little worm can help scientists understand big genetic mysteries

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Various DATES: Ongoing
  • NOVA Sun Lab Space

    NOVA Sun Lab

    Help scientists predict solar storms

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Various DATES: Ongoing
  • Aurorasaurus Space

    Aurorasaurus

    The goal of Aurorasaurus is to collect observations of the aurora borealis and synthesize them into predictions of what the aurora is or will soon be doing

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Elizabeth MacDonald DATES: Ongoing
  • Ventus Project Energy & Sustainability

    Ventus Project

    Help researchers locate and count all the carbon dioxide at the world's power plants

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Kevin Gurney, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Digital Fishers More Science

    Digital Fishers

    Looking for a few hundred thousand citizen scientists to help analyze 15-second deep-sea videos

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rod Dobell, Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • Space Warps [Zooniverse] Space

    Space Warps [Zooniverse]

    Help spot rare gravitational lenses in the distant universe

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Marine Debris Tracker More Science

    Marine Debris Tracker

    Help scientists map trash on coastlines and waterways

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jenna Jambeck, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Notes from Nature More Science

    Zooniverse: Notes from Nature

    Help make information about natural history collections available via the Internet

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (PING) More Science

    Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (PING)

    Help NOAA researchers better understand determine what kind of precipitation—such as snow, soft hail, hard hail or rain—is falling and where

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: N/A DATES: Ongoing
  • Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers More Science

    Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers

    Help ecologists better understand the impact of roadways on wildlife by submitting information about road kill

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gregg Treinish, Founder/Executive Director DATES: Ongoing
  • FrogWatch Canada More Science

    FrogWatch Canada

    Help Canadian herpetologists understand (and hopefully correct) declining frog populations in their country

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: N/A DATES: Ongoing
  • Project MERCCURI More Science

    Project MERCCURI

    Collect microbial samples on Earth and compare them with microbes found on the International Space Station (ISS)

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jonathan Eisen, Professor DATES: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - Sunday, September 1, 2013
  • Hummingbirds @ Home More Science

    Hummingbirds @ Home

    Track, report and follow the spring hummingbird migration to better understand how climate change is impacting hummingbirds

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gary Langham, VP and Chief Scientist DATES: Friday, March 22, 2013 - Saturday, June 15, 2013
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