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

PING  / Precipitation Identification Near the Ground

CoCoRaHS / Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network

Clouds / GLOBE Observer

Weather Underground PWS Network / Personal Weather System

Globe at Night

more resources, from NASA, for community scientists interested in space and the night sky

plant monitoring and research

Project BudBurst

Plants of Concern

Tree Height / GLOBE Observer

Witness Trees of Illinois

Michigan’s Sentinel Tree Network

Mi-Mast / Wildlife Food Tracker in Michgan

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

other insects

Mosquito Habitat Mapper / GLOBE Observer

Never Home Alone / Indoor Insects

Backyard Bark Beetles


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

Female bird song

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

Lake Observations by Citizen Scientists and Satellites

Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch

for naturalists interested in collecting a variety of data

Nature’s Notebook / National Phenology Network

The Great Sunflower Project — for monitoring pollinators

Land Cover Observations / GLOBE Observer


Picture Post Project

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

Eclipses / GLOBE Observer

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