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 volunteer science program to help us all understand the world around us.
Explore some of the community science programs listed below; they are sometimes called ‘citizen science’ programs. There’s something for everyone– whatever your interest, ability or time frame.
Data that you collect can help build a better understanding of how the world is changing as the climate changes– and provide insights about climate adaptation and resilience.
get involved with a national or Chicago Wilderness region community science project
Many volunteer 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
more resources, from NASA, for community scientists interested in space and the night sky
plant monitoring and research
Mi-Mast / Wildlife Food Tracker in Michgan
frogs & toads
Calling Frog Survey (toads, too!)
butterflies & moths
more monarch monitoring programs, listed by the Monarch Joint Venture
dragonflies & damselflies
Some of the best-known community science programs focus on birds. Additional programs take place periodically; get in touch with a local bird group to find out more.
MOON / Monitoring of Owls and Nightjars in Illinois
river and lake monitoring
for naturalists interested in collecting a variety of data
The Great Sunflower Project — for monitoring pollinators
clearinghouses of community science projects
Scistarter — a searchable collection of community science projects
Catalog of Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science projects
iNaturalist — a collection of many different community science projects that use apps
Zooniverse — a clearinghouse of many different community science projects, especially wildlife and history
SciStarter — a clearinghouse for a wide variety of community science projects
and report unusual things
Did You Feel It? — where earthquakes are felt around the world
Report Unusual Wildlife Sightings — of mammals in Illinois
This list is not exhaustive. Many conservation areas and organizations run place-based monitoring programs with volunteers. Check with local groups to find more opportunities.
last updated February 2020