Citizen science allows regular people like us the opportunity to participate in scientific endeavors, and allows scientists the ability to gather far more data than they could on their own. Also, it’s super fun!
General Nature Projects
- iNaturalist is a site where people all over the world log their finds, both plants and animals. There are many projects specific to a location or species, so if you have a particular interest, there’s likely a relevant study going on. You can access a lot of the information yourself, if you’re wondering where to find a particular creature, for example. They have two great apps which can help you identify plants and animals in the field–iNaturalist and Seek.
- Project NOAH gathers pictures and data on wildlife spotted around the world, so users can create their own “multimedia nature journals.”
- Nature’s Notebook is a national program for collecting observations of the natural world. They currently have dedicated projects focusing primarily on different plants and insects, but observers can submit data on all kinds of things.
Reptiles & Amphibians
- FrogWatch USA is a program run by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Volunteers are trained to recognize the calls of local frogs and toads, and commit to visiting a single site throughout the spring and summer to collect data. There are two chapters just outside Westchester County–one is the Wildlife Conservation Society chapter, based at the Bronx Zoo, and the other is the Peabody-Beardsley-Maritime Chapter in Connecticut. Each chapter hosts a training and certification meeting early in the spring. They have recently launched online training as well! (I think you need to click “View Schedule” then register with the site to access the full training.) Start today!
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) organizes the Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings project each year. In early spring, prompted by slightly warmer temperatures and a nice wet night, thousands of spotted salamanders, spring peepers and wood frogs will make their way to vernal pools to breed. Sadly, many migration paths cross roadways and can be very dangerous for these creatures. If you are interested in becoming an amphibian crossing guard, check out DEC’s site for more information about scouting potential locations or any upcoming training sessions. If you are a resident of Bedford, contact me directly to get involved.
- You can download an app and share amphibian and reptile finds with HerpMapper, an international program that supplies data to scientists and conservationists.
- The New York Herp Atlas is collecting data on reptiles and amphibians throughout the State, though I haven’t seen updates in a while. The Vernal Pool Mapper is an affiliated project, helping scientists locate this critical habitat throughout New York State.
- The Audubon Society runs HawkWatch sites throughout the country, including in Mount Kisco and Greenwich. The Chestnut Ridge HawkWatch site is located in the Arthur W. Butler Memorial Sanctuary. There are staff and dedicated birders there every day during the season (mid-August to late November). It’s a quick, 5-minute uphill hike to a set of wooden bleachers perched on the cliffs, looking out over the hills and valleys. It’s a great spot to bring a picnic lunch and see what you can see! Good binoculars are a wise move.
- Greenwich Audubon also has a HawkWatch site, just a short drive over the State line. They start with a great information session, and have a festival at the end.
- EagleWatch is a collaboration between Bedford Audubon and Saw Mill River Audubon to monitor bald eagle roosting sites on the Hudson River.
- eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with over 100 million bird sightings contributed each year. Log your finds in checklist format to provide data about habits and habitat.
- The Cornell Lab’s Project Feederwatch is totally simple! Put up a feeder, watch the birds, then report what you see.
- NestWatch requires online (free) certification, then asks you to find a nest, monitor and report.
- Sponsored by both the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count is one long weekend each February when they promote birdwatching and reporting. Dip your toe in the water–you can participate in as few as 15 minutes!
- Help scientists understand hummingbirds by sharing information through the Audubon Society’s new Hummingbirds at Home program.
- eMammal collects images from camera traps. They also have a mammal identification game to test your knowledge!
- iSeeMammals is a new wildlife tracking program, and the pilot project asks for sightings of black bears in New York.
- Project Squirrel collects data about these common backyard visitors.
- The Wolf Conservation Center has created a training program for young citizen scientists to become certified as Junior Wolf Biologists!
- Bat Detective allows you to identify bat calls from recordings, so you can help support these important and vulnerable creatures from your computer.
- Help review trail cam footage for interesting wildlife with Cedar Creek: Eyes on the Wild.
- If you see a fisher, bobcat, weasel, otter, marten or snowshoe hare in Westchester County, report it to the Department of Environmental Conservation!
Trees & Plants
- Budburst tracks information about seasonal changes in plants (known as phenology) in an effort to monitor climate change.
- A Tree’s Life asks for volunteers to report on red maples in their backyard or neighborhood.
- Global Garlic Mustard Survey will help scientists better understand the spread and impact of this invasive species.
- The New York Phenology project is currently organizing studies of native plants and invasive species.
- The New York Botanic Garden has several ongoing citizen science projects.
- For a more involved project, get trained to be a volunteer with Assessing Vegetative Impacts from Deer.
Insects & Invertebrates
- Bugs in our Backyard is designed for students to connect with science over the tiny creatures all around us.
- Help the Xerces Society monitor dragonflies and their migrations.
- Submit sightings to Bumblebee Watch.
- Help Cornell scientists studying ladybugs by sharing those you see at the Lost Ladybug Project.
- Tired of finding bugs inside your house? Turn it into a science project and submit your observations to “Never Home Alone” on iNaturalist.
- Butterflies and Moths of North America is a data repository like iNaturalist, but specifically for lepidoptera.
- Monarch Larva Monitoring Project does what it says! Help save the monarch.
- Globe at Night gathers data about light pollution and the visibility of constellations.
- Observe clouds for NASA and help them understand our weather patterns from below, as well as from their satellites above.
- EarthEcho Water Challenge is an international program to monitor quality of local water bodies.