If you’re curious about the world, you can be a citizen scientist
If you ever feel like you missed your calling by not becoming a scientist, don’t despair. You don’t have to be employed by a university or research lab to make meaningful contributions to a body of knowledge about the world around us. All you need is a curious mind and a little spare time.
Citizen science lets members of the general public collect and analyze scientific data that is helpful to a broader research effort. In recent years, technology has made it easier than ever to crowdsource this data from everyday people.
Because of the vast amounts of data needed to fully understand wild animals and their habitats, it’s helpful to have as many people as possible observing and recording what happens in nature. One person’s weekend birdwatching pursuits may not amount to much but the input of thousands of people watching thousands of birds could offer some significant findings.
The opportunities for citizen science cover a wide array of interests, from stargazing to scuba diving. Wildlife lovers might enjoy recording the birds they spot on a hike (or at their backyard feeder) or sharing their game-camera shots with The Smithsonian.
What You Can Do!
- Contact local community groups, like a birding club or a local chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. They can make suggestions for a citizen science pursuit that’s perfect for you.
- Get in touch with your state wildlife management agency. They might be looking for someone to help with a project that piques your interest.
- Reach out to national conservation organizations like the National Wildlife Federation or the National Audubon Society to ask about their citizen science opportunities.
- Study up to be a good citizen scientist. Find a field guide book or app that will help build your wildlife identification skills — many projects are dependent on the ability to accurately identify a particular species.
- Check out The Wildlife Center of Virginia to learn more about the wild animals around you and how you can help keep them safe.