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.


  • Project Squirrel The Sciences

    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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Steve Sullivan, Director DATES: Ongoing
  • FrogWatch USA The Sciences

    FrogWatch USA

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

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

    Shark Observation Network

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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Vallorie Hodges, Diving Safety Officer DATES: Ongoing
  • NestWatch The Sciences


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

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

    New Jersey Shorebird Survey

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

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

    Firefly Watch

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

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

    Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)

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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Nolan Doesken, Climatologist and Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • The Valley of the Khans The Sciences

    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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Albert Yu-Min Lin, Research Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • The WildLab The Sciences

    The WildLab

    Play an important role in gathering data about birds and their habitat, using mobile technology as a scientific tool

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jared Lamenzo, Director, The WildLab DATES: Ongoing
  • Citizen Sky Everyday Science

    Citizen Sky

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

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

    The Great Sunflower Project

    Help scientists study pollination by planting flowers and tracking bee traffic

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gretchen LeBuhn, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Stardust@Home Everyday Science


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

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

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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Scott Loarie DATES: Ongoing
  • Project BudBurst The Sciences

    Project BudBurst

    A network of citizen scientists across the U.S. who monitor plants as the seasons change

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sandra Henderson, Co-Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology: eBird The Sciences

    Cornell Lab of Ornithology: eBird

    Calling all birders! eBird is one of several Cornell Lab citizen-science projects aimed at better understanding our feathered friends as well as other wildlife

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Janis Dickinson DATES: Ongoing
  • NatureMapping Sustainability


    Expand knowledge of the natural world and help translate that knowledge into positive change

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Karen Dvornich DATES: Ongoing
  • Nature's Notebook The Sciences

    Nature's Notebook

    Citizen scientists help the North American Bird Phenology Program study wildlife

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jake Weltzin DATES: Ongoing

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article