Archive for the ‘spring’ tag

Spring into Citizen Science Day tomorrow! Hundreds of springtime opportunities await you

By April 13th, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Comment

Springtime Citizen Science
Photo: USFWS

Photo: USFWS

April is buzzing with citizen science you can do at hackfests, conferences, festivals, workshops, marches and more! Looking for family-friendly projects? Check this out.  Below, we’ve selected three projects and two events we think you’ll love.  You can find more projects and events on SciStarter to do now or bookmark for later.  Bonus: Complete your SciStarter profile this month and we’ll send you a free pdf of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science.
The SciStarter Team

Photo: Bumble Boosters
Queen Quest
Help track the phenology of bumble bees by finding and photographing queen bees. By uploading your photo, along with information on location and bee behavior, you can increase understanding these important pollinators.
Location: North America

Photo: Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve
Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey
From May to June each year, you are needed to count spawning Horseshoe Crabs along east coast beaches. Surveys happen at night and are fun to do with a group!
Location: New Jersey & Delaware, USA

Photo: Gregory Brees
Delaware Shorebird Project
Many shorebirds that migrate from South America to Canada each spring stop in Delaware to feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. You can help monitor these birds to better inform conservation efforts.
Location: Delaware, USA

City Nature Challenge
Sixteen cities throughout the United States are challenged to get outside and observe wildlife. Find a participating city near you, then document and report your sightings of flowers, ants, mushrooms, and more!
Location: Select locations, United States

March for Science
The March for Science is a non-partisan event for individuals to show their support for science and participate in citizen science at the same time! On April 22, scientists and science supporters will march in Washington DC and in satellite marches across the country.
Location: Select locations, USA

Citizen Science Day runs April 14th- May 20th!  More than 100 events are listed on SciStarter.  From BioBlitzes, to trainings, to hack-a-thons, there’s an event for you.  Find an event on SciStarter.  Crowd and Cloud is now streaming online. This four-part public television series explores citizen science, crowdsourcing, and mobile technology.  Watch now.

Is Climate Change Causing the Seasons to Change? Citizen Scientists in the UK Help Find Out with Nature’s Calendar

By March 31st, 2015 at 5:00 am | Comment

A Seven spot ladybird (Image Credit: Richard Bekker)

A Seven spot ladybird (Image Credit: Richard Bekker)

Interested in more spring themed citizen science projects? Check out the ones the SciStarter team has handpicked for you here! Or use SciStarter’s project finder to find one that piques your curiosity!

In 1998 Tim Sparks, a research biologist at Britain’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Cambridge started a pilot project designed to record the first blush of spring. Sparks saw the importance of continuous phenology records—a record of when plants start to bud and flower, and wanted to revive a phenology network in the UK. Shortly thereafter The Woodland Trust (the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity) joined forces with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to promote the scheme to a wider audience, which is how the citizen science project Nature’s Calendar was born. Read the rest of this entry »

April showers, May flowers!

By May 2nd, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Comment

Fatigued from measuring all that April precipitation? Embrace cheerful blooms all around you and share your phenology observations (seasonal changes in plants and animals, year to year) with these citizen science projects. Find more phenology projects on SciStarter.

Don’t miss this new post from DISCOVER Magazine and SciStarter’s  Citizen Science Salon!


Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 8.46.52 PM

Project BudBurst

Choose a plant to monitor and share your observations with others online. Improve understanding of continental-scale environmental change. Get started!


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Nature’s Notebook

Gather information on plant and animal phenology to be used for decision-making on local, national and global scales. Goal: collect one million observation records in 2014! Get started! (Image: Brian Forbes Powell)


Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 8.47.03 PM

Mountain Watch

Planning to be in the Appalachian mountains? Participate in alpine ecology and climate science research! Get started!


Thanks for joining us at the USA Science and Engineering Festival and the Cambridge Science Festival! Come meet us at the Philadelphia Science Festival this Saturday!

And, FINALLY! Project MERCCURI blasted off to space on April 18th! When you see the International Space Station flying over your house this month, smile! Our citizen science research project is up there! Learn more about what’s next on

Get involved in our next BIG project! NASA’s Asteroid Initiative! Sign up to learn more here.

Want your project featured in our newsletter? Contact

What’s Your Lens On Nature?

By April 17th, 2012 at 10:12 am | Comment

Wren nest in the writing shack
The Carolina Wren nest in David Gessner’s writing shack. Read about how they left the nest in his blog.

When, this spring, writer David Gessner found that a nest of Carolina Wrens had taken up residence in the backyard shack where he writes about all things nature, he started posting status updates about the birds on Facebook and describing their progress on his blog. When did the eggs hatch? What do the chicks look like? There are so many questions to be answered.

I asked him if, in addition to being an on-the-ground bird reporter, he was also citizen scientist. He could contribute his observations of the nest to NestWatch, I suggested, a project that gets people all over the country to spy on the nesting birds in their backyards and report their observations. One person’s wren stories are another person’s wren data. It’s a different lens on nature. And many citizen science projects are relying on the observations of individuals to help us understand the seasonal timing of birds, plants, insects, and other creatures.

Gessner’s response was that he was more of a citizen amateur naturalist than a citizen scientist. Perhaps this was self-deprecation. Perhaps it was a way of telling me that he has quite enough on his plate. But it also made me wonder how people think about nature and how they think about science – how they envision a naturalist and how they envision a scientist.

Imagine someone who is exploring nature. Are they wearing a backpack and hiking boots? Are they roaming the great outdoors? Now imagine someone exploring science. Are they wearing a lab coat and glasses? Are they in a chemistry lab or a room full of computers? Have they been indoors so long that their eyes squint at the light of day? These are stereotypes. Sometimes they fit. Often they don’t.

Warner Varno art
Fall Birds Series, Flying Birds, by Warner Varno

Yet scientists look at nature. Nature and science are one and the same for scientists who study natural things like the atmosphere, ocean, geology, and living things. The journal Nature is about the science, for example. At NCAR, scientists make models of the planet –  simulations of nature on supercomputers that help us understand how nature works. These simulations help us better understand how it might be affected by changes in climate, drought, or other events. Using the model they create to simulate nature, we can answer questions about the planet that begin “What would happen if…” That’s one way of looking at nature.

Artists have other ways of looking at nature. From realistic scientific illustrations to abstract sculptures, nature is a theme of art from all times periods and cultures. Warner Varno, an artist friend of mine, is organizing an exhibit of bird paintings this spring in Denver. I told Warner that I would bring binoculars and my Audubon field guide to the opening so that I could be a birdwatcher in the art gallery, playing the role of scientist and/or naturalist in the realm of art. I was joking, of course, but I do wonder if anyone in an art gallery filled with birds will be seeing science within the art.

So let’s review:

  • David is blogging about spring birds,
  • NestWatch is studying the science of spring birds,
  • Warner is exhibiting art about spring birds,
  • And I am planning to birdwatch in an art gallery.

We are all exploring nature, just in different ways.

Painting by Warner Varno
Japan Birds, Sentinel, by Warner Varno

Warner liked the idea of binoculars. They allow people to see things differently. And it seems that we always look at nature through different lenses, making the study of nature intrinsically interdisciplinary. Uniting how nature is involved with science, art, storytelling and other ways of seeing brings in more perspectives and engages more people.

At Spark: UCAR Science Education we are working with EcoArts Connections to bring art together with weather and climate science. Stay tuned for interesting new Spark projects in the coming year that connect science and art and nature. Until then, enjoy the spring birds and take a look at nature through a lens that is not your usual.

This post was origionally published on the SparkBlog by Lisa Gardiner.

May is the month to monitor Monarchs

By May 1st, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Comments (2)

A female monarch butterfly shows off her colors.  Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

A female monarch butterfly shows off her colors. Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

As a child growing up in New Hampshire, I remember going with my mother to collect Monarch chrysalises for my science classes. We’d park off a nearby roadway, spy a patch of milkweed, and poke around until we found a chrysalis or two. During the next week or so, my classmates and I watched spellbound at the transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. Science truly came alive!

Well, it’s that time of year again. After spending the winter sunning in Mexico or southern California, adult Monarch butterflies migrate north (as far as Canada!) during the spring to lay their eggs.

Researchers with the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project need your help keeping an eye on these critters during all stages of development from now through September!

Since Monarch larvae feed only on milkweed, accessible, abundant milkweed is critically important for the survival of this butterfly species. The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project needs your help to keep an eye on local patches of milkweed, and to count monarch eggs and larvae, and assess milkweed density. Whether you have time to send in observations once a week, or anecdotally as you come across Monarchs, they want your data! Sign up online, and send in your sightings today!

To ensure that citizen scientists collect data in a standardized way, periodic training sessions are held. Looks like there are some coming up in later in May!

For science teachers who would like to incorporate ecology into their classroom, check out the Monarchs in the Classroom summer workshops.

For those of you who are impatient, check out this time-lapse video of the process, first from caterpillar to chrysalis and then from chrysalis to butterfly.

Looking for more citizen science opportunities? Sign up for the Science for Citizens newsletter!