Author: Lily Bui (Editor)

Ahoy, Citizen Scientists!

We’ve waded through our database and come up with a boatload of marine-themed citizen science projects! Dive in!

Also, don’t forget to stop by DISCOVER Magazine and SciStarter’s online Citizen Science Salon; look for our new collaboration in the pages of Discover; or listen to beautifully produced citizen science stories from our partners at WHYY radio!

MyOSD-Ocean Sampling Day
On June 21st, during the summer solstice (the longest day in the northern hemisphere) join a local marine research team to collect data for an open-access data set to be used by marine scientists and others. Get started!


Whether you’re a diver, a fisher, a scientist, a seahorse enthusiast, or just on a beach holiday, you can help improve understanding of these animals by sharing your photos of seahorses!  Get started!


Horseshoe Crabs as Homes
Horseshoe crabs play a key role in coastal ecosystems but they might also serve as substrate for many invertebrate species. Let’s find out what lives on Horseshoe crabs.Take and share pictures when you see them on the beach and aid research in the process!  Get started!


Secchi App
The phytoplankton underpin the marine food chain, so we need to know a lot about them. To participate in this project to advance research about them, you’ll need to build a Secchi Disk, a tool that measures water turbidity, and use the free iPhone or Android ‘Secchi’ application to share data you collect.  Get started!
Digital Fishers
Digital Fisher needs people to help analyze deep-sea videos — 15 seconds at a time. You’ll watch a short video of ocean life and click on simple responses to help identify what you are seeing.  Get started!

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

Check out “Exploring a Culture of Health,” a citizen science series brought to you by Discover Magazine, SciStarter and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serving as an ally to help Americans work together to build a national Culture of Health that enables everyone to lead healthier lives now and for generations to come.

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Citizen Science for Lovers of Birds and Bees

Let us tell ‘ya about the birds and the bees — for citizen science, that is! Here are just a few buzz-worthy projects to get you started.

Also, don’t forget to stop by DISCOVER Magazine and SciStarter’s online Citizen Science Salon; look for our new collaboration in the pages of Discover starting this month; or listen to beautifully produced citizen science stories from our partners at WHYY radio!



The Great Sunflower Project

Help researchers create a national bee population map to study the decline of bees. Simply plant sunflowers and watch for bee visits a few times a month. Get started!


Celebrate Urban Birds

Help ornithologists learn about 16 key species of urban birds by tracking up to 16 species of birds for just 10 mins in a small area near you. Get started! (Photo: Louise Docker)


Bee Hunt

Use digital photography to help provide a better understanding of pollinators’ importance in growing food and maintaining healthy natural ecosystems. Get started!



North American Bird Phenology Program

Millions of bird migration records have been scanned. Care to illuminate almost a century of migration patterns and population status of birds? Transcribe records so they can be included in an open database for analysis. Get started!


The Zombie Fly has been found parasitizing honey bees in California, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington. Where else in North America are bees infected by Zombie Flies? Help solve the mystery by collecting honey bees and reporting easy-to-spot signs of infection. You’ll know it when you see it! Get started!

On Sunday, 5/18 at 9:26 am ET, the Space X Dragon Cargo will be released from the International Space Station to return to Earth. The Cargo will splash down into the Pacific Ocean returning our very own citizen science research project, Project MERCCURI, to Earth! You can watch this all take place, LIVE, on NASA TV: May 18, Sunday 9 a.m.

Learn more about Project MERCCURI at

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April showers, May flowers!

Fatigued from measuring all that April precipitation? Embrace cheerful blooms all around you and share your phenology observations (seasonal changes in plants and animals, year to year) with these citizen science projects.

Don’t miss this new post from DISCOVER Magazine and SciStarter’s  Citizen Science Salon!


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Project BudBurst

Choose a plant to monitor and share your observations with others online. Improve understanding of continental-scale environmental change. Get started!


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Nature’s Notebook

Gather information on plant and animal phenology to be used for decision-making on local, national and global scales. Goal: collect one million observation records in 2014! Get started! (Image: Brian Forbes Powell)


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Mountain Watch

Planning to be in the Appalachian mountains? Participate in alpine ecology and climate science research! Get started!

 This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

Project MERCCURI blasted off to space on April 18th! When you see the International Space Station flying over your house this month, smile! Our citizen science research project is up there! Learn more about what’s next on

Get involved in SciStarter’s next BIG project! NASA’s Asteroid Initiative! Sign up to learn more here.

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3, 2, 1…Project MERCCURI Blasts Off to the ISS Today!!


What happens when you combine professional cheerleaders, microbiologists, and astronauts? The answer is Project MERCCURI and the Microbial Playoffs… in SPAAACE!

SPACE FLORIDA, FL — Today, something  amazing is headed toward the ISS—microbial life from earth!This moment is the culmination of a citizen science experiment called Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on the ISS), a collaboration between NASA, UC Davis, SciStarter, and Science Cheerleaders.

Watch the launch LIVE today at 4:58pm ET / 1:58 PT on NASA TV!!

There were two main goals for the project. The first involves a huge competition that will take place on the ISS between 47 different microbes that have been collected by thousands of public participants from the surfaces of various public spaces (mostly sporting venues). The microbial competitors will face off against each other to see who will grow the fastest, and the race will be monitored by astronauts on the ISS, using standard laboratory equipment. Researchers at UC Davis will host an identical race using the same kind of equipment on Earth.

The second goal involves sending 4,000 cell samples to Argonne National Lab to be sequenced by Jack Gilbert. The lab will identify which microbes are present on the surfaces of cell phones and shoes and compare them to other cell phone and shoe samples from around the country. While astronauts do not carry cell phones or wear shoes, they will be swabbing similar surfaces onboard the ISS, like foot holds that they strap their feet into while they are operating the external robotic arms and their wall-mounted communication devices.

You can get to know all of the microbial competitors, who they are, where they’re from, and why they are so cool on the official website. If you want, you can even print your own Microbial Trading Cards. Cell phone and shoe collections will continue through April!

The microbes are sailing into space today aboard Space X’s Dragon spacecraft. SciStarter’s founder, Darlene Cavalier, is on site today at the launch. She notes, “We’re here, in part, as representatives of the thousands of citizen scientists who participated in this important research project to study microbes on Earth and in space!”

Thank you to all who made this project possible. It’s pure proof that the sky is the limit for what we can do in science, together.

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

For more, follow #SpaceMicrobes on Twitter.

Image: Darlene Cavalier

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There’s an App for That! Citizen Science at Your Fingertips

If you think science is out of reach, think again! Here are some citizen science apps you’ll always have at your fingertips!

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With this App from The Science Channel, you can spy on nature and contribute to science. Share photos and observations, contribute to research initiatives. Get started!


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Capture and share observations of sky and ground conditions near you to help researchers check the quality of satellite data. You’ll receive the satellite image captured at your location! Get started!


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What’s Invasive?

“Invasive” plants crowd out food sources for wild animals and create other headaches in nature. Use this app to help identify and locate them for removal. Get started!


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Capture wildlife encounters and use them to develop your own wildlife calendar. Partner of National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Watch working with scientific studies to extract citizen science from your recorded encounters. Get started!


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Want to run your own Citizen Science project? There’s an App for that, too! SENSR can help you create a mobile data collection tool for your project. Get started!

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

SciStarter and Azavea (with support from Sloan Foundation) spent the last year investigating developments in software, hardware, and data processing capability for citizen science. Here’s what we found.

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Spring Into Citizen Science!

The equinox is upon us. Budding trees and baby birds will soon greet us. As the weather gets warmer, be ready to Spring into action with these five springtime citizen science projects!

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Project BudBurst

Help scientists understand the impacts of global climate change! Report data on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants in your area. To participate, you simply need access to a plant. Get started!

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Camel Cricket Census

The Your Wild Life team needs citizen scientists to share observations and photos of camel crickets in your home! Many keen citizen observers have reported a preponderance of camel crickets, and interesting patterns in cricket distribution have emerged! Get started!

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Where’s the Elderberry Longhorn Beetle?

This beautiful beetle species lived throughout eastern North America but in recent decades it’s all but disappeared. To help solve this mystery, a Drexel University researcher wants you to be on the lookout for this beauty of a beetle now through June. Get started!

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CoCoRaHS:Rain, Hail, Snow Network

When a rain, hail, or snow storm occurs, take measurements of precipitation from your location.Your data will be used by the National Weather Service, meteorologists, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, and more! Get started!

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Help scientists understand how environmental change and habitat destruction affect breeding birds. Visit nests once or twice each week and monitor their progression from incubating eggs to fuzzy chicks to fully feathered adults. Get started!


This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

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Measuring Environmental Stewardship

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Environmental Behaviors Project seeks help in sorting and ranking environmental stewardship.


Many citizen science projects have been very successful in collecting high-quality scientific data through the participation of citizen scientists. However, less emphasis has been placed on documenting changes to citizen scientists themselves. In particular, many projects hope participants will increase their environmental stewardship practices, but few, if any projects, have been able to accurately measure or detect behavior change as a result of participation.

Beginning in 2010, our team of researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology set out to create a toolkit of resources for helping project leaders measure participant outcomes. This project, titled DEVISE (Developing, Validating, and Implementing Situated Evaluation Instruments), is the parent of the Environmental Behaviors Project. In fact, the EBP is one of the final elements of the toolkit to be developed. So far, the DEVISE team has created and tested valid tools to measure interest, motivation, self-efficacy, and skills related to both science and environmental action.

When completed, the Environmental Behaviors Project will result in a tool for measuring environmental stewardship behaviors in citizen science participants. We are looking for about 75 participants to sort a variety of stewardship activities into categories, and then rank those same activities by ease and importance. What makes this tool unique is that it will have input from a variety of people and be a weighted scale, informed by the degree of ease and importance that people assign to each item.

The environmental behaviors tool will be an exciting conclusion to the DEVISE project. It is very common for citizen science projects to list behavioral change and increased stewardship as main goals – but these can be very difficult to measure accurately! Hopefully, by making this, and the other DEVISE tools available to project leaders, we can go beyond anecdotal accounts of the power of citizen science and provide evidence-based outcomes of the importance of citizen science to the people who make it possible.

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

Image: Glacier NPS


Tina Phillips
Evaluation Program Manager
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Marion Ferguson
DEVISE Project Assistant
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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Meet Your Invisible Neighbors: Microbes Citizen Science Projects

They’re all around us–microbes, that is! Here are some projects to help you explore the microbiome on earth, in space, and inside our own bodies.

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It’s time! Microbes collected by citizen scientists are heading to the International Space Station this weekend! This project from UC Davis, SciStarter, Science Cheerleader, Space Florida and Nanoracks still needs your help collecting microbes from shoes and cellphone. Find out why, here. Get started!


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American Gut

Compare the microbes in your gut to those in the guts of thousands of other people in the US and elsewhere and help researchers learn more about the influence of microbes. American Gut is a project built on open-source, open-access principles. Get started!


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uBiome is the world’s first effort to map the human microbiome through citizen science. The microbiome are the bacteria that live on and within us. Take a look at yours! Get started!


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Think you have the flu? Join GoViral participants who report symptoms weekly using a website or mobile app and help researchers in the process. Get a Do-It-Yourself flu test kit, too. Get started!


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Help classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness” and give insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells. Get started!

Calling hackers and developers! SciStarter is organizing pop-up hackathons to develop open APIs and other tools to help citizen scientists. Contact the SciStarter Team if you’d like to join us in Boston, Philly, NYC, or Washington, DC in April! Email

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This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

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Your Radionuclides and You: Citizen Scientists Can Help Monitor Fukushima Radioactivity

The story of a nuclear disaster and what can do you as a citizen scientist to help assess the residual aftermath.

[In the news - KQED Science recently spoke to project organizer Ken Buessler about the radiation in our ocean.]

Three years ago on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami shook Japan. The loss of power that ensued eventually led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant overheating. Four out of six reactors suffered meltdowns, spitting radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and directly into the ocean. 19,000 people died or went missing.

Almost immediately, the news ignited fears of how this would impact marine ecosystem and human health over time. Today, three years later, there is still no U.S. government agency monitoring the spread of radiation from Fukushima along the west coast or Hawaiian Islands.

In reaction to this, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Center of Marine and Environmental radiation (CMER) are providing the equipment and the facilities to track the spread of radionuclides across the Pacific Ocean. Even further—they’re opening this process up to the public, to you. How Radioactive is Our Ocean? is a citizen ” science project that allows the public to propose sampling locations, raise the cost for testing and shipping of the supplies ($500-600), take samples and analyze 20 liters (about 5 gallons) of seawater for signs of radiation (cesium-137 isotopes) from Fukushima. Everything is provided by WHOI and CMER. There are three main ways that you can participate:

  1. Help the project reach their goal by donating to sample an existing site. Click  “HELP FUND A LOCATION” on the main page and choose to support one of the many sites that are underway;
  2. Propose a new sampling site. Click “PROPOSE A LOCATION” and see what is involved. If accepted(we are trying to get spread of locations up/down coast), we ask for a donation of $100 and we’ll set up a fundraising webpage, add that page to our website, and send you a sampling kit once your goal of $550 to $600 has been reached.
  3. Donate to general capacity building and public education activities at CMER.

Here’s a video showing how you would take samples from locations near you:

How is radioactivity measured in the ocean?

“We live in a sea of radioactivity,” says Ken Buesseler, marine chemist at the WHOI. “The danger is in the dose.” Buesseler spent the bulk of his career studying oceanography and the spread of radionuclides from Chernobyl in the Black Sea. He goes on to explain:

The unit to describe the level of radiation in seawater samples is the Becquerel (Bq), which equals the number of radioactive decay events per second. This number is reported per cubic meter (i.e. 1,000 liters or 264 gallons) of water.

A typical water sample will likely contain less than 10 Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) from cesium-137. The amount of cesium-137 that leaked into the water as a result of Fukushima was in the penta-Becquerels (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 Becquerels). By comparing the amount of cesium-137, which has a relatively long 30-year half life, and cesium-134, which has a much shorter, 2-year half life, scientists can “fingerprint” the contamination from Fukushima and estimate how much was released into the Pacific. Is that much radiation significant? The world’s oceans contain many naturally occurring radioactive isotopes like potassium-40, which comes from the erosion and breakdown of rocks. Bananas, known for their potassium content, release about 15 Bq on average. That means that the radiation leakage was about the same as that of 76 million bananas, to put things in perspective. This is actually around and about (perhaps a little over) the amount of radiation Fukushima was allowed to dump into the environment before the disaster. However, WHOI and CMER still make the case that it would be important to monitor and track cesium-137 and cesium-134 levels in the ocean, given future projection.

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Fukushima plume predictions for cesium-137 levels in the Pacific Ocean for April 2016

How are marine species affected?

Because the cesium-137 isotope is soluble, it mixes well with ocean currents. “The spread of cesium once it enters the ocean can be understood by the analogy of mixing cream into coffee,” writes Buesseler. “At first, they are separate and distinguishable, but just as we start to stir the cream forms long, narrow filaments or streaks in the water.” After they form streaks, they blend in and are diluted (think about how coffee turns into a lighter color after you add cream). Fish and other forms of marine life can take it up and excrete it, depositing it in the sediment below. The marine life most contaminated with Fukushima radiation is found nearest to the reactor, but some species, like Bluefin tuna, are far-ranging and even migrate across the Pacific. When these animals leave the Northeast coast of Japan, some isotopes remain in their body, but others, like cesium-137 and cesium-134, naturally flush out of their system. If you’re interested in proposing a sampling location to help the WHOI and CMER study the distribution of radionuclides in the Pacific, get started with the project or help spread the word about it!

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

Image: EPA,


Goodman, Amy. “Fukushima is an ongoing warning to the world on nuclear energy.” The Guardian. 16 January 2014.

Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know

CMER public education links, such as ABCs of radioactivity

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Citizen Science for the Senses

Listen up! Our editors sniffed out a list of projects to lay your hands on and sink your teeth into. See for yourself!

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The Smell Experience Project

Changes in odor perception can be a symptom of a disease or a side effect of medication. Smell Experience Researchers need your help to better understand changes in our sense of smell. Get started!


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The Genetics of Taste

Help scientists learn about the gene that helps us taste “bitter!” The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is conducting a live research study, Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health, happening right now in the permanent exhibit Expedition Health. Get started!


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NoiseTube needs citizen scientists to monitor noise pollution. Participants install a free mobile application on their cell phone and measure the level of noise in their area. Get started!


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A photo taken in the field helps scientists and citizens to document changes in landscape, wildlife habitats, impacts of drought and flood and fire, and more! Users can upload, edit, query and download geo-referenced field photos in the library. All photos are also linked with satellite image series images (MODIS), so that people can “see” the changes over time. Get started!


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Public Laboratory Spectrophotometer

A spectrometer is a ubiquitous tool for scientists to identify unknown materials, like oil spill residue or coal tar in urban waterways. But they cost thousands of dollars and are hard to use — so the Public Lab community has designed one that you can build with your own hands! Get started!

This post originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.

We’re taking citizen science to the NBA! Meet us at the 76ers game on 2/18 when we launch microbe collection kits into the stands for Project MERCCURI! It’s Science at the 76ers night!

AND…SciStarter is organizing a series of citizen science activities on the concourse at the game! Each of the EIGHT Philadelphia organizations whose microbes will fly on the International Space Station via Project MERCCURI, will engage fans in science!

If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email

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