Youth and Education in Science

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. Learn about current USGS and partner Citizen Science opportunities below.

For the Alaska Volcano Observatory's Citizen Network Ash Collection and Observation Program citizens in Alaskan communities can now go online and report their observations of volcanic ash through the Is Ash Falling? system, which was developed by the Alaskan Volcano Observatory (AVO). Ashfall reports are shared with the National Weather Service (NWS) to track where an ash plume is headed and to guide them in making official statements and advisories about ash fallout onto the landscape. Citizens are also encouraged to collect ash samples and send them to AVO. With your help, volcano scientists can greatly expand their sampling of ash deposits.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network started in 1998 to collect precipitation data for better weather forecasting and disaster preparedness, with 12 active observation protocols including daily precipitation, significant weather, and hail. CoCoRaHS data for the United States, Canada, and Caribbean islands are used extensively in weather forecasting and reporting and feature in several scholarly publications.

The CrowdHydrology mission is to create freely available data on stream stage in a simple and inexpensive way. We do this through the use of "crowdsourcing" which means we gather information on stream stage (water levels) from anyone willing to send us a text message of the water levels at their local stream. These data are then available for anyone to then use from Universities to Elementary schools.

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 to a real-time online map that helps the public, scientists, and emergency responders better understand the effects of an earthquake.

eBird has collected more than 400 million observations of bird abundance and distribution from around the world since 2005, representing a collective investment of nearly 30 million hours in the field. The data have been used for numerous conservation and management applications, many public-interest publications, hundreds of public talks and presentations, and scholarly publications across a diverse range of disciplines.

The Great Sunflower Project (GSP) launched in 2008 to collect information about pollinator service for the United States on a continental level and to evaluate and improve pollinator habitat, collecting a unique data set on pollinator presence and absence at around 8500 sites. GSP data have been used in scholarly publications across multiple fields and more than 30 talks and presentations to scientific audiences.

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.

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.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) volunteers have collected data on monarch butterflies’ egg and larvae distribution and abundance at more than 1000 sites across North America since 1996 and raised over 15,000 larvae to examine survival and parasitism rates. The data were valuable to a recent petition to list monarchs as a threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act, scholarly publications, and a field guide to milkweeds.

Nature's Notebook has accumulated records of the life cycles (phenology) of plants and animals in over 18,000 US locations since 2009. Operated by the USA National Phenology Network and supported by the US Geological Survey, the project also provides multitaxon national scale phenology protocols and a software platform that supports other groups. Nature's Notebook data have contributed to scholarly publications and reports for decision support and natural resource management.

The Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) Online Sighting Report System provides a central repository for spatially referenced biogeographic accounts of non-indigenous aquatic species in the USA. It includes verified occurrences, maps, and species pages for freshwater non-indigenous aquatic animal species. Citizens can report a non-native species via an online reporting form.

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 North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is an international avian population monitoring program that provides scientifically credible measures of the status and trends of North American bird populations at continental and regional scales to inform biologically sound conservation and management actions. The primary products of the BBS are population count data, trend estimates and relative abundance estimates for more than 400 bird species found in the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico, which are used, along with other indicators, by Federal, State and private entities to assess and set avian conservation priorities, inform model-based conservation planning, support research investigating underlying variation in bird populations, and provide count data for estimating species’ population sizes.

The NYC Cricket Crawl is a citizen science pilot project in which participants venture out between dusk and midnight to locations of their choosing throughout the New York City metro area to listen for the calls of crickets and katydids and document their observations. We are now looking for a coordinator for the region as part of a North American network of such projects. 

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.

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. 

For the Quake-Catcher Network, volunteers connect small USB seismic sensors to their computers to record earthquakes. Data are collected by software that runs in the background of their computer and sends seismograms back to a central server. The volunteers can then see what earthquakes they recorded through the project website.

Social.Water is an open-source software package that allows researchers to obtain data from citizen-scientists via text message. The project was completed with a SUNY Buffalo researcher in support of CrowdHydrology. You can support this project both nationally and internationally where text messages can be forwarded to an email account to use Social.Water.

The Student Watershed Research Project involves high school students in the collection of stream monitoring data such as water quality samples, biological data, and physical observations. Monitoring occurs mostly near the Portland, Oregon metro area but is also scattered throughout Oregon and southwest Washington.