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.


  • Aurorasaurus Space


    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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  • BioCurious DIY BioPrinter Technology

    BioCurious DIY BioPrinter

    Join BioPrinter community project

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Eri Gentry, Executive Director 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
  • Space Hacker Workshop Technology

    Space Hacker Workshop

    Learn how to do "space on the cheap" at this two-day event May 4-5, 2013

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Edward Wright, Chairman DATES: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - Sunday, May 5, 2013
  • FrogWatch Canada More Science

    FrogWatch Canada

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

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  • 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
  • Cicada Tracker More Science

    Cicada Tracker

    Help biologists study the next emergence of these locustlike insects in the eastern U.S.

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: John Cooley, Research Scientist DATES: Monday, April 15, 2013 - Saturday, August 31, 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
  • SubseaObservers More Science


    Help assess the health and abundance of the mid-Atlantic scallop fishery

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Art Trembanis, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Snowtweets More Science


    Tweet data about snow depths in your area

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Richard Kelly, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Management DATES: Ongoing
  • IceWatch USA More Science

    IceWatch USA

    Help researchers study how seasonal differences in the ice cover of lakes, rivers and other areas impact ecosystems

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Melinda Hughes-Wert and James Wert DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti More Science

    Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti

    Help researchers identify animals photographed in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park—from the safety and comfort of your computer

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Craig Packer, Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • RinkWatch More Science


    Climate science and sports collide as researchers track outdoor skating days for signs of environmental change

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Colin Robertson, Assistant Professor DATES: Ongoing

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