community science

citizen scientist animalia project web
Get outside, learn about nature and add to our knowledge of the world as a community 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 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

intense storms thunderhead anvil
(photo by joe mazza – brave lux)

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 community scientists interested in the night sky

plant monitoring and research

photo of flowers against the sky
(photo by susan ask)

Project BudBurst

Plants of Concern

Witness Trees of Illinois

wildlife monitoring

frogs & toads

Calling Frog Survey  (toads, too!)

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program

Frog Watch USA

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

Project Monarch Health

dragonflies & damselflies

Illinois Odonate Survey


Bee Spotter

Bumble Bee Watch


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.

Bird Conservation Network Survey

Breeding Bird Survey

Christmas Bird Count

Climate Watch / Audubon

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

river and lake monitoring

Chicago River Wildlife Monitors


Illinois RiverWatch

Illinois Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program

for naturalists interested in collecting a variety of data

Nature’s Notebook / National Phenology Network

The Great Sunflower Project — for monitoring pollinators


Zooniverse — a clearinghouse of many different citizen science projects, especially wildlife and history

SciStarter — a clearinghouse for a wide variety of citizen 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.

climate science reports and resources

guide to scientific reports and data

Find the latest reports and data to understand climate change and how it affects the world around us.

last updated January 2019