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Citizen Science for the Whole Family

According to National Geographic, citizen science is “the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. Through citizen science, people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programs.” It’s also a great excuse to get outside and explore with a mission! You don’t need to be an expert to be a citizen scientist, just curious and ready to learn more about the world around you. Here are a few projects to check out:


iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. It is set up as both an app and a website. All you have to do is take a photo of the species you’re trying to identify, and upload it to iNaturalist along with the location. Your photo will be reviewed by the iNaturalist community over 400,000 scientists and naturalists who will help you positively ID the species. The best part is, observations on iNaturalist are used by scientists in their research. It’s a great opportunity to learn new species while contributing to something bigger. https://www.inaturalist.org/


According to eBird’s website, “eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.” https://ebird.org/home

Monarch Watch

You may have heard that monarchs fly thousands of miles to spend their winters in Mexico. Have you ever wondered exactly where the monarchs seen in Illinois will end up? Now’s your chance to find out! When you join Monarch Watch, you will be sent tags (small stickers) to apply to any monarchs you catch. Then you release then, document the information in the Monarch Watch database, and wait to see if someone down the line finds the butterfly you tagged! By getting involved in this project, you will be contributing to nearly thirty years of scientific data. https://monarchwatch.org/


Go through a springtime training to help the Saint Louis Zoo, FrogWatch USA™, and scientists worldwide to learn more about the frogs in our region. https://www.aza.org/frogwatch


Have you ever thought about how flowers blooming in the spring and the emergence of the insects that pollinate them must be perfectly timed to ensure the success of both species? Your not alone! This question is the basis for the science of “phenology,” is the study of the timing of biological events. Through Budburst, you can join a community of thousands of people across the country that are furthering the understanding of plant phenology.  https://budburst.org/


A project of the University of Illinois, BeeSpotter focuses on the health of our native bees. https://beespotter.org/


Another local project, RiverWatch is headquartered right here at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in East Alton. Attend a RiverWatch training to learn how to identify aquatic macroinvertebrates (water bugs!) and adopt a stream near you. You can help scientists and land managers learn how healthy our local waterways are by identifying and documenting the species living there. http://www.ngrrec.org/Riverwatch/

Other Resources

  • Insect Field Guide- April 2015 – Photographic Guide to the Common Insects Observed in Madison County, IL, and Adjacent Environs including Prairies, Ponds, Streams, and Oak Hickory Climax Forest- Created by Patrick J. Dailey, PhD   
  •  Common Milkweed Survey 1976 – A Synopsis of the 1976 Survey of Insects Frequenting the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, at one site in Ohio- Created by Patrick J. Dailey, PhD