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March 17th, 2014

[Photo credit:]What is it? A collection of research projects ranging from analyzing whale songs to transcribing ships’ logs from U. S. Navy and Coast Guard ships for weather data. Each project often involves sifting through so much data that it would take one organization working alone years to analyze. By having many people across the country working simultaneously, scientists are able to use the data to inform research much more quickly.

Who sponsors it? Citizen Science Alliance

What do volunteers do? Projects mainly involve analyzing or transcribing small amounts of data using a computer and the internet. (For example, viewing photographs of the surface of Mars and outlining the shape of dust deposits to help determine weather patterns.)

Time commitment: Flexible: One time participation or commitment over time to one or several projects.

Kid friendly? Yes

Time of year? Any


Photo credit:

The Great Sunflower Project

March 17th, 2014

[photo by John Lodder]What is it? Bees have a profound effect on our ability to grow food. This project is focused on mapping pollinators, especially bees, across the United States and Canada. Data is used to determine the effects on poisons on pollinators, critical plants to support pollinators, and improving habitats for pollinators.

Who sponsors it? San Francisco State University

What do volunteers do? Choose a location and observe pollinators, recording observations online. Sunflowers are the preferred flower to observe.

Time commitment: Flexible: Take a hike and record pollinators or make 5-15 minute daily observations throughout a growing season.

Kid friendly? Yes

Time of year? In general, during flower-blooming seasons. (The Great Pollinator Habitat Challenge is in late March.)


Photo credit: John Lodder

Project Squirrel

March 13th, 2014

[photo credit: Beedle Um Bum]What is it?  Squirrels are easy to recognize and observe, are active all year, and are found all over the country. Observations about their behavior also give researchers insight into regional patterns of biodiversity, ecology, and other animal species.

Who sponsors it? The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the University of Illinois at Chicago

What do volunteers do? Observe squirrels’ presence and behavior. Report observations online.

Time commitment: Take a walk and make observations once, or as many times as you like. To get information overtime for the same location, participants are encouraged to observe in the same place at least once a season.

Kid friendly? Yes

Time of year? Any


Photo credit: Beedle Um Bum


March 10th, 2014

[Photo by pleasantpointinn]What is it? A collaboration of birdwatchers gathering data on the current condition of breeding birds, such as when they nest, how many eggs are laid, and how many young survive. Common backyard birds such as finches, robins, and chickadees are among the focal species. Information gathered from around the country helps scientists understand how changing land-use and climate effects bird populations.

Who sponsors it? Cornell Lab of Ornithology

What do volunteers do? Locate and observe a bird nest. Using a checklist, post observations online. Lots of resources are available at the website to assist in learning about the birds and their nesting habits.

Time commitment: Short online training and 8-10 visits to the nest(s) during a nesting cycle (a visit about every 3-4 days). Most nest cycles happen between April and August.

Kid friendly? Not ideally suited to children. Due to the vulnerability of nesting birds, this opportunity is children must always be supervised by an adult at nesting sites.

Time of year? Spring and summer


Photo credit: Pleasant Point Inn

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network

January 9th, 2014

[Photo by Chiot's Run]What is it? Volunteer weather monitoring program across the United States. Provides real-time precipitation data which can be used to predict flash flooding, show trends, and help the public better understand weather and climate.  Information is used by the National Weather services, insurance adjusters, teachers and students.

Who sponsors it? A collaborative including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service, National Science Foundation, and Maine Department of Marine Resources.

What do volunteers do? Take daily measurements of precipitation in your backyard. Report observations online.

Time commitment:  Asks for a commitment of one season, but longer is preferred. About 5 minutes per day. (Vacations allowed)

Kid friendly?      Yes

Time of year?    Any


Photo credit: Chiot's Run

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