Citizen science provides an opportunity for the public (students included) to volunteer their time to assist scientists in their research. Citizen scientists can support professional researchers by submitting data, sharing experiences, or spreading valuable information. Citizen science offers the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research by incorporating math, technology, and engineering to pressing environmental issues.
Citizen science programs vary in category and scope. You might prefer to work on a local level – like using technology to collect data on the nutrient levels in an area stream. Some of the more popular citizen science projects are nationwide. Many of the large-scale citizen science projects have websites where you research and learn protocols before heading into the field.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, citizen scientists of all ages helped replant poached ginseng, monitored the starting time of leaf-out and other phenologies, and collected dragonflies for a study of mercury in park animals, among other projects. Visit their site here to learn more about upcoming opportunities.
Middle Tennessee State University has a Medicinal Plant Studies program designed for teachers in grades 9-12. This program has a collection of experiments, lectures, supplemental materials, and guides for teachers wishing to add content to their classroom while teaching science, conservation, innovation, and medicinal plants. Check out the MTSU full list of project opportunities here.
To get involved in a national citizen science project like the Xerces Bumble Bee Watch Program, you can report a bee siting by snapping a photo and submitting it online to help track populations in the U.S. and Canada. You could also host or attend an event to train farmers, gardeners, and land managers on pollinator issues.
Scistarter.com and Citsci.org are helpful sites that allow anyone to sort and search for citizen science projects based on their location, topic, age level (elementary, middle, high, or adult), and where the project can be completed (classroom, at home, after school etc.). Their lists of projects range from documenting changes in bird behaviors to helping design and develop innovations to stop street-level flooding in low-lying areas. These types of activities are a great way to kick-off Environmental Education Week!!