citizen science day

What is Citizen Science – and Why You Should Get Out and Do It!

Yay Yay for Citizen Science Day!

Coming up on April 14th is Citizen Science Day!  I just know you have had it marked down on your calendar for MONTHS and MONTHS!

Wait… you haven’t?  You’ve never even heard of it before??!  Well, we will fix that right up.

What is citizen science?

Let’s back up for a minute and ask the essential question – what is citizen science?  Well, science isn’t all just lab coats, microscopes, and test tubes.  It is asking questions, gathering data, and exploring the world around us!

Citizen science is just you, the everyday citizen, getting out and doing those same things – observing, gathering information, and helping to advance science!

Citizen science may just be you going out and doing what you always do like this amateur photographer who discovered a new aurora.  Or most are part of an organized group effort like taking surveys at Flu Near You to help track the flu in the US.

Yeah, that is a real thing!  Citizen science covers just about everything.

In the past, all scientists were citizen scientists.  You don’t need a degree to contribute and that is what is so great about these citizen science efforts!

Why YOU should do citizen science

Scientists aren’t the only ones benefiting from the data of citizen scientists.  It is a great opportunity for you too!

Get your kids interested in science.  Kids are way more interested in something if you can put it into a real world context.  Hands-on citizen science projects put you right into the thick of things and lets you dip your toes into the world of science in an engaging way.  It is more fun to help a solve real problem than to solve a fake one on your science homework.

We adopted a stream as part of the Oregon StreamWebs student citizen science stream monitoring project.  Kids love this lesson!  It is always a favorite.  Even kids who don’t like bugs have enjoyed it.  Will it inspire them to be a water quality scientist?  Maybe.  But what we really want it to do is show them that science is a whole lot of fun!

stream survey with dip nets
stream survey citizen science

Be part of something meaningful.  Scientists are actually using this data!  They aren’t just feel good projects.  You can be part of something that is driving research and policy.

Go outside.  You know we love for you to go outside!  You can take some time to look at the stars with Globe at Night to measure light pollution or snap pics of interesting plants (see our post all about Globe at Night).

Or add plants, bugs, or other nature you see to iNaturalist biodiversity data (and see our post all about iNaturalist here. We love this one! 💖)

Learn something new.  There are SO MANY citizen science projects to choose from that you could learn a little something new each day.  Pick a subject you are interested to learn a little more about it or try something completely different.

I snapped a quick picture of this caterpillar for iNaturalist while we were stopped during a family road trip.  All the kids loved watching it climb the wall but we didn’t know what it turned into.  Someone identified it for us as a Mourning Cloak butterfly.  What an amazing new thing we know now!

mourning cloak

Join in with Citizen Science

Now that you are stoked to join in on some citizen science, its time to find a project!

There will be lots of events for Citizen Science Day this month so you could try a project going on in your local area.  Look for them here.  But we invite you to join a project any time.  Citizen Science Day is great but you can make any day a citizen science day.

SciStarter and Zooniverse both have searchable lists of citizen science projects.  SciStarter also lets you filter results for different ages so you can find a project that is family friendly.

We’ll also be adding reviews of our favorite citizen science projects here on our website!  So check out these out!

Globe at Night – looking at the stars to measure light pollution

iNaturalist – snapping pics of the living things you see to measure biodiversity

We would love to see what citizen science you are up to so tag us on social media @steamthinkers and let us know.

Stay curious!

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