Putting names to species is fundamental to biodiversity science, conservation and education, yet it is a skill largely absent from formal biological education at all levels. Knowing the correct name of an organism is the key to learning about it, to sharing your observations with others and to contributing to the corpus of scientific knowledge. Un-named species are effectively invisible and impossible to conserve.

The social networking Web site iSpot is designed to remedy this. Our 20,000 citizen scientists share their observations and get help identifying what they've seen, building up reputation as they learn and making good identifications with the help of experts from more than 80 natural history societies.

We also have a sister site in South Africa that the South African National Biodiversity Institute use to engage the public in the process of identifying and mapping the unique flora and fauna of that region. is supported by the Big Lottery Fund for England, as part of the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project, and by the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jonathan Silvertown
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: The Open University
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Visit iSpot and create a citizen scientist user account.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

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.

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