understand your world with citizen science

citizen scientist animalia project web

Get outside, learn about nature and add to our knowledge of the world as a citizen scientist.

We all learn more about the world through careful observations.  And your observations can help scientists learn more about natural history in your region and how climate change is affecting plants, animals and ecological processes.  Take part in a citizen science program to help us all understand the world around us.

Explore some of the citizen science programs listed below.  There’s something for everyone– whatever your interest, ability or time frame.


A few things to keep in mind when doing citizen science:

  • data accuracy—measure carefully and follow the protocols of the monitoring program.  There are lots of opportunities to be creative with your observations of nature, but this isn’t one of them.
  • longevity of your commitment– some programs, like PING, are perfect for one-time or occasional commitments; other programs are best if you can commit for weeks, months or even years.  Many programs require a moderate commitment of time.
  • safety, of course– practice good wilderness skills, even in urban wilderness.  Check with your monitoring program for any specific safety measures.

Ideally, monitoring programs can use comparable methods to make data comparable across the country build a bigger, more robust, dataset that can answer more questions about larger trends.

National and Chicago Wilderness region citizen science projects

Many citizen science monitoring programs are national or international; programs in green are specific to the Chicago Wilderness or midwest region.

weather / climate / meteorological monitoring

PING  / Precipitation Identification Near the Ground

CoCoRaHS / Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network

Weather Underground PWS Network / Personal Weather System

Globe at Night

more resources, from NASA, for citizen scientists interested in the night sky

plant monitoring

Project BudBurst

Plants of Concern

wildlife monitoring

frogs & toads

Calling Frog Survey  (toads, too!)

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program

Frog Watch USA


Project Squirrel

butterflies & moths

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Program

Journey North

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

Monarch Health and Parasites

more monarch monitoring programs, listed by the Monarch Joint Venture

North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Counts


Illinois Odonate Survey


Bee Spotter

Bumble Bee Watch


Some of the best known citizen science programs focus on birds.  Additional programs take place periodically; get in touch with a local bird group to find out more.

Bird Conservation Network Survey

Breeding Bird Survey

Christmas Bird Count

Hummingbirds at Home

Great Backyard Bird Count

Illinois Beach State Park Hawk Watch

Midwest Crane Count

MOON / Monitoring of Owls and Nightjars in Illinois

Project FeederWatch

for naturalists interested in collecting a variety of data

National Phenology Network

Observe Your Preserve from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The Great Sunflower Project — for monitoring pollinators

Zooniverse — a clearinghouse of many different citizen science projects

monitoring ecological conditions

Chicago River Gully Walkers


 Illinois RiverWatch

Illinois Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program


and more

Did You Feel It? — where earthquakes are felt around the world

This list is not exhaustive.  Some conservation areas or organizations run place-based monitoring programs with volunteers.  Check with local groups to find more opportunities.

last updated 9/3/16