Collaborative Citizen Science

Did you know that there are millions of everyday citizens across the world that are helping advance science in a wide variety of disciplines? These citizen scientists (a term that refers to everyday citizens who are intrigued by and passionate about science, but don’t necessarily have a formal scientific background) collaborate with scientists to expand opportunities for scientific data collection and to advance research in nearly every field! Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, notes that “By encouraging everyday Americans to engage in scientific research, our citizen science authorities benefit communities and the country as a whole, as well as advance our science and technology enterprise.” Whether you are interested in public health, astronomy, biology, ornithology (the study of birds!), meteorology, or pretty much anything you can think of…there is likely a project for you!

Three citizen scientists strolling along a sidewalk in Boulder, Colorado to gather data on Earth’s magnetic field using the CrowdMag cellphone app. Photo courtesy: Jennifer Taylor, CIRES

These projects are a great way to channel natural curiosity into something exciting and important! This summer, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published a report to Congress that showcased federal citizen science and crowdsourcing activities from the past two years. Out of the 86 projects highlighted from 14 government agencies, 11 came from NOAA. Check out the 11 projects below!

  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network
    Citizen scientists in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network measure precipitation from their backyards, helping to inform weather forecasting and research. Get involved!
    • A great option for those who want to physically take data measurements!
    • Also…fun fact! This is a data source that we use frequently at Shade Tree Meteorology! 🙂
  • CrowdMag 
    You can help map the world’s magnetic fields by simply downloading the CrowdMag app. Your smartphone will detect magnetic fields, and the app then automatically and anonymously sends the data back to NOAA. How simple is that? Get involved!
  • Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground (mPING)
    Is it raining? Hailing? Snowing? Your observations of what’s happening now can help improve weather forecasts later. Download the mPING app to easily and anonymously report the type of precipitation you are experiencing. Get involved!
  • Old Weather
    Daily logs from historic ships contain a trove of climate and weather data, but these paper records are difficult for scientists to use. Participate in the Old Weather Project to transcribe data from vessel records. Get involved!
    • This sounds like such a fun one for history buffs!
  • Steller Watch
    NOAA researchers use remote cameras to keep an eye on endangered Steller sea lions, but they could use a hand reviewing the hundreds of thousands of images they’ve collected. Through Steller Watch, you can help comb through these images to flag the ones in which tagged sea lions are present. Get involved!
    • Look at cute sea lions all day AND help benefit science? Sounds like a win to me!
    • Just a heads up….The Steller Watch team is off to Alaska for the summer field season but don’t worry, you can still help them find marked sea lions on Steller Watch while they’re away. They will return in the fall.
  • Cyclone Centeroff
    Through the Cyclone Center, citizen scientists helped climatologists decipher and understand tropical cyclones. The program analyzed hundreds of thousands of hurricane satellite images using input from citizen scientists worldwide. 
    • A great option for those that love tropical weather!
  • Cooperative Research Provides New Data for ESA-listed Rockfish in Puget Sound, WA
    This project gathered knowledge about rockfish in Puget Sound, ultimately leading scientists to re-draw population boundaries for the yelloweye rockfish and remove the canary rockfish from the endangered species list.
  • Crowdsourced Bathymetry 
    The Crowdsourced Bathymetry project encourages mariners to act as citizen scientists, providing measurements of the seafloor in areas where we have little data.
  • Hawaii Bottomfish Heritage Project
    The Hawaii Bottomfish Heritage Project collects oral histories from fishermen to explore how the culture, traditions, and fishing techniques for the Hawaii bottomfish fishery have evolved from Native Hawaiian populations to modern times, helping to sustainably manage the fishery in the future.
    • Another project that seems incredibly interesting! For more information, visit the link above or contact them at pifsc.socioeconomics@noaa.gov.
  • National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program
    Across the country, National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program observers record temperature and precipitation daily to support weather forecasts and warnings.
  • Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign
    “Urban heat islands” are areas within cities that can run 10 to 20 degrees hotter than other areas. In 2018, volunteers for the Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign worked in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to make detailed temperature maps of each city. Ten U.S. cities are expanding upon this work in 2019

These are just a sampling of the many citizen science projects currently available. To explore more projects, visit the CitizenScience.gov project catalog. If you decide to become a citizen scientist, or if you already are one, please reach out! We would love to hear more about you and what inspired you to become a citizen scientist.

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