A Cornucopia of Citizen Science

citizen science

We’ve all admired the citizen scientists in our communities – the Blue Thumb volunteers who monitor and clean up local streams, say, or the iNaturalist users who catalog diversity during BioBlitz events. Many of us, though, may feel like we lack the training or even the time to take up such pursuits.

There are still plenty of other opportunities to engage in citizen science, though – many from the comfort of your own home, doing things that you may already be in the habit of.

Take the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, for instance. Going by the easier to pronounce abbreviation CoCoRaHS (say, “cocoa rahs”), it’s a network of volunteers who monitor their own rain gauges and report the totals to a team of other volunteers who tabulate the numbers.

If you’re farming, gardening, or ranching, chances are you’re already keeping a daily tally of precipitation at your place. To become a CoCoRaHS volunteer, the only extra work you’d need to do would be to log on and report what you’ve already recorded. To get started, visit https://www.cocorahs.org/.

While it might be hard at first to see the value in such data, every additional station in the CoCoRaHS network helps to refine meteorologists’ ability to relate what they see on the radar screen to what’s actually hitting the ground. The volunteer reporting network has far more measuring locations than any official agency could ever undertake to monitor on its own.

Here’s another way to join the ranks of citizen scientists: many of us enjoy stocking birdfeeders and keeping track of which species visit them. Here again, the one simple additional step of reporting those observations gets you into citizen science through FeederWatch.

Another, similar program, NestWatch, tasks the volunteer with identifying an active bird nest and monitoring it through egg-laying and the hatching and development of the young. Again, this is an activity that many people are already pursuing for their own enjoyment. Creating a NestWatch account and sharing your data makes it more valuable, and can also open up a new community of people with similar interests.

This is only the briefest sampling of the many citizen science opportunities that can be taken on at a minimal investment of time and effort. Consider giving one of them a try. The rewards could be well worth it!

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