What is citizen science?

Citizen science is scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. Data collected by citizen scientists help professional scientists answer research questions about wild plant and animal populations, as well as features of the environment such as water clarity or temperature. Wild species' populations are always changing, and conservation efforts need to be based on data from many locations over long time spans. More and more, scientists are relying upon citizens to be their “eyes and ears” to study populations and habitats.

But citizen science isn't new. Regular people, such as farmers, have been collecting weather data for over two centuries. The first organized biological projects probably engaged citizens in collecting data on bird distribution and abundance. And there is a long history of lay interest in insects—for example, the field notes and reports of many Victorian collectors document important contributions to our understanding of butterfly range, behavior and abundance. Today, organized citizen science programs are flourishing as scientists need data and many citizens want to contribute towards the understanding and conservation of the environment.

Learn the process of science

Becoming familiar with the scientific process can help you on your way to becoming a citizen scientist. Watch this video to learn how one teen used the scientific method to investigate and learn about migrating birds.

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