Guide to Environmental Citizen Science
We partnered with Earth Day Network and spoke with Director of Education Tracey Ann Richie to write this guide with the goal of making citizen science more accessible to everyone. Our comprehensive guide tells you everything you need to know about how to be a citizen scientist, what Earth Day Network does to support citizen science and the importance of citizen science in our communities.
About Earth Day Network
Earth Day Network is a global not-for-profit organization that grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970. Today, Earth Day Network has over 75,000 partners and works with organizations all over the world to protect the environment.
This September, Earth Day Network partnered with the U.S State Department and the Wilson Center to relaunch Earth Challenge 2020, a citizen science initiative created to provide data for scientists and to empower citizens to take environmental action.
Earth Day Network Resources
"We didn't want to leave people with data that was perhaps overwhelming, upsetting, or disheartening, but [instead] give them the information, the tools, and the skills to take action on that data to make their community a better place."
- Tracey Ann Richie, pH.D
Earth Day Network Director of Education
What is citizen science?
Citizen science encourages everyday citizens to be part of the scientific process and to become more informed and engaged citizens as a result.
Citizen scientists are diverse and have varying levels of experience. Anyone can be a citizen scientist; there are no previous qualifications required. Simply download a citizen science app (see the list of apps below) and follow the instructions. Usually, all you'll need to do is take a few pictures and make several observations or answer a couple of questions. If you'd like to pursue citizen science on a larger scale, you can host a BioBlitz or a Great Backyard Bird Count to engage the rest of your community.
Why is citizen science important?
Citizen science is essential. Not only is it crucial in helping scientists gather data that they wouldn't have access to otherwise, but it also provides a variety of benefits for the person who pursues it. For example, it helps everyday citizens increase their scientific literacy, or their knowledge of the scientific process. By learning valuable skills such as data collection and observation, citizen scientists learn how professional scientists conduct studies and contribute to society. Furthermore, practicing citizen science allows members of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in scientific fields to envision themselves as scientists. By including new voices in science, we increase diversity in the field, which strengthens our scientific understanding by introducing meaningful ideas and perspectives. Finally, environmental citizen science creates a lasting connection to the natural world, fostering a sense of responsibility to nature and leading to environmental action. When citizen scientists observe changes in the patterns of migratory birds or declining numbers of frogs in their own backyards, they witness the effects of climate change first hand and are more likely to become concerned about the environment.
What do you need to be a citizen scientist?
An electronic device with a citizen science app (see list of apps below)
Any outdoor space