Do you love science but can’t quit your day job? Be a weekend warrior for science! Citizen science, also known as crowd-sourced science, is a way for the general public to help scientists in their research. No fancy science degree required, just an interest in science and a bit of training. The available projects range from interpreting historical literature (Science Gossip) to classifying galaxy shapes (Galaxy Zoo) to reporting Harmful Algal Blooms (Water Reporter) and everything in between. Many projects lead to published papers or open-source databases.
Citizen Science has been used in all areas of research, but especially in environmental science. There are high-profile projects that make the news every year like the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, and there are international water-related projects such as the World Water Monitoring Challenge and EarthDive.
Take advantage of the many local opportunities to flex your science muscles. Casey Trees in the District of Columbia has several opportunities, including a phenology study and a tree inventory. The Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative uses data from trash pick-up events to track trends in the watershed. You can also assist Virginia Working Landscapes with plant, bird, and pollinator surveys.
Looking to get your kids excited about science and the natural world? PBS SciGirls is a great resource for projects geared towards science warriors-in-training.
You can also satisfy your inner science-geek by becoming a certified Master Naturalist. Many naturalist programs include a citizen science component. Check out your state’s program for more information.