Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

April 14, 2016

The USGS invites you to look into a landscape of citizen science opportunities on USGS myScience: Connecting people to science —and at SciStarter

With the White House’s launch of and the inaugural Citizen Science Day this Saturday April 16, 2016, the U.S. Geological Survey invites you to look into a landscape of opportunities to participate in earth science!  Also check out a blog on the importance of citizen science, written  by staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

You can find active USGS citizen science and crowdsourcing project opportunities nationwide at USGS myScience: Connecting people to science —and at SciStarter

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science allows you to contribute to science no matter where you are. Whether by asking questions, reporting observations, conducting experiments, collecting data, or developing low-cost technologies and open-source code, you and other members of the public can use your talents to help advance scientific knowledge and contribute to a greater good.

Does USGS Have Opportunities to Participate in Citizen Science?

Absolutely! The earth is constantly changing and the USGS has long recognized the value of citizen’s observations. With nearly 40 projects for citizen scientists to choose from, the USGS is a leading federal agency in fostering citizen science. Many USGS citizen-science projects began before the digital age. Some examples include:

Image: House Damage from 2011 Oklahoma Earthquake
House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011. Research conducted by USGS geophysicist Elizabeth Cochran and her university-based colleagues suggests that this earthquake was induced by injection into deep disposal wells in the Wilzetta North field.Public domain

Did You Feel It? Think you’ve felt an earthquake? Complete a brief online form with your location, what you experienced, and what kind of damage you’ve noticed. Your responses are immediately added into a real-time online map that helps the public, scientists, and emergency responders better understand the effects of an earthquake.


Tweet Earthquake Dispatch (TED) Use the Twitter social media platform to report an earthquake. The USGS National Earthquake Information Center uses TED data to detect earthquakes, sometimes faster than seismic networks can, then broadcasts public earthquake alerts at @USGSted.


USGS Tweet Earthquake Dispatch from a recent San Francisco Bay area earthquake. 

iCoast – Did the Coast Change? allows citizens to identify changes to coastlines from extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Joaquin by comparing before and after aerial photos. Computers are not yet advanced enough to replace human visual analysis for this task. Join more than 1,200 iCoast volunteers who are helping USGS improve coastal erosion predictions to better understand the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme storms.

Mantoloking, NJ following hurricane Sandy
Mantoloking, New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy


Nature’s Notebook Flowers blooming early? Are the cardinals hatching their eggs late? More than 6,000 amateur naturalists and other volunteers across the nation regularly record observations of annual changes to plants and animals to help take the pulse of our planet. These long-term observations are shared online to better understand and inform decision-making around issues like changing patterns in agricultural growing seasons.


Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler

The North American Bird Phenology Program enables volunteers worldwide to transcribe the handwritten records of nearly a century of bird populations and migration patterns, making them accessible to other databases and scientists for scientific analysis.


The National Map Corps is a project operating in all 50 states for crowd-mapping data about the location of public structures, particularly schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, and other important public buildings. After a careful peer review from other National Map Corps volunteers, the data are incorporated into The National Map and US Topo maps.

USGS National Map Corps Volunteer
USGS National Map Corps Volunteer


The Indigenous Observation Network (ION) is a collaborative research and monitoring project between the USGS and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council to protect the Yukon River for future generations. More than 300 trained indigenous citizens living in the Yukon River Basin collect water-quality samples.


Why is Citizen Science Beneficial?

With citizen science and crowdsourcing you can help:

Image: Rainbow Over Yukon River, Eagle, Alaska, June 2002
Eagle was our put-in point for our first synoptic cruise down the Yukon River.Public domain
  • Accelerate scientific research through group discovery.
  • Provide information at resolutions that would otherwise be difficult to obtain given time and cost constraints.
  • Improve the quality and relevance of observations due to the unique perspectives and local knowledge volunteers bring to projects.
  • Increase your science skills. Students can gain skills to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math. Gain hands-on experience doing real science beyond a classroom setting.
  • Improve government services while lowering costs.
  • Connect with public service and work for a greater good.

Citizen Science in the Federal Landscape

Today’s, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launch of, brings together the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, the new Federal CCS Catalog , and the Federal CCS Toolkit. More than 25 federal agencies and 125 federal employees have contributed to this effort during the past year.

This effort officially began on September 30, 2015, when the OSTP and the Domestic Policy Council hosted “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People” and OSTP Director John Holdren issued a memorandum directing agencies to designate a coordinator and to develop a catalog of federal crowdsourcing and citizen science projects.

Woman making plant observations for Nature's Notebook
Woman making plant observations for Nature's Notebook. Credit Brian F. Powell

USGS has played a critical role in developing these Federal CCS resources. USGS has appointed Dr. Sophia B Liu as the first Innovation Specialist conducting research on participatory science and innovation. Liu is also the co-chair of the Federal Community for CCS and the CCS coordinator for USGS and the Department of Interior.

Many other USGS employees also contributed to the development and design of the Federal CCS Toolkit, which includes several case studies highlighting USGS citizen science projects. The Federal CCS Catalog also includes 35 projects with USGS as the lead agency.

Learn More

Many federal agencies will celebrate Citizen Science Day at the 2016 Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. At the 6th White House Science Fair this week, the White House released a fact sheet that includes the announcement of the new and catalog of projects.

Not in the D.C. area? You can find active USGS citizen science and crowdsourcing project opportunities nationwide at USGS myScience: Connecting people to science — and at SciStarter and celebrate citizen science all month long.

See the feature story on the National Phenology Network.





Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.