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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 Dragonfly Swarm Project More Science

    The Dragonfly Swarm Project

    Participate in a large-scale study of dragonfly swarming behavior

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Christine Goforth, aka "Dragonfly Woman" DATES: Ongoing
  • Safecast Energy & Sustainability

    Safecast

    Help researchers study the impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster by taking and submitting radiation readings

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sean Bonner, Global Operations DATES: Ongoing
  • PiggyDemic Health

    PiggyDemic

    Become part of a social-networking effort to understand and fight viral threats

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gal Almogy and Nir Ben-Tal, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department DATES: Ongoing
  • JellyWatch More Science

    JellyWatch

    Help marine biologists track the movement and location of jellyfish and other unusual marine life

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Steve Haddock, Lead Researcher DATES: Ongoing
  • Gulf Oil Spill Tracker Energy & Sustainability

    Gulf Oil Spill Tracker

    Help track oil still coming onshore from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Paul Woods, Chief Technology Officer DATES: Ongoing
  • Volunteer Field Observer Program Energy & Sustainability

    Volunteer Field Observer Program

    Help monitor shoreline conditions along Alabama's coast and alert officials of places where oil washed ashore and where wildlife was (and is) affected

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Bethany Kraft, Executive Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Rainlog.org More Science

    Rainlog.org

    Help University of Arizona researchers track rainfall throughout the state

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gary Woodward, Associate Director, Hydrology and Water Resources DATES: Ongoing
  • Encyclopedia of Life More Science

    Encyclopedia of Life

    Join a global effort to document all 1.9 million named species of animals, plants and other forms of life on Earth

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Erick Mata, Executive Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey More Science

    Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey

    Citizen scientists have an opportunity to contribute to biological research and learn more about the impact of invasive species

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Robert Colautti, Postdoctoral Scholar (North America) DATES: Ongoing
  • 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

    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
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