Are your children curious and passionate about the natural world? Do they dream of becoming scientists? Here are a few ideas for helping your kids become real citizen scientists!
Citizen science for kids projects enable members of the public to participate in the scientific process. A wide range of volunteer projects allow people from all walks of life to contribute to important scientific research and help solve real-world problems.
There is an incredible diversity of citizen science for kids projects to try, with topics of study including climate, weather, plant life, animal life, astronomy, geology, and more!
There are several projects specific to NYC and Long Island’s unique coastal location.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine program, with funding from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, is working to monitor and assess the status of horseshoe crab populations at several reference beaches throughout New York’s marine district. The goal of this project is to assist with the management and conservation of this important species. Survey volunteers collect various data on spawning abundance from May to June during full and new moon events. Trained site coordinators work closely with volunteers to ensure the survey runs efficiently. Interested volunteers must contact site coordinators in advance to schedule participation. Visit this link to learn more about how to get involved with this project. The video below provides an interesting look at the work being done and why it is so important.
The Terrapin Watch project was formed to address threats to the iconic Diamondback Terrapin’s population and ecology. Citizen scientists from around Long Island are invited to monitor occurrences of this coastal turtle species, to help identify key nesting and foraging sites, as well as to locate hazardous road crossing areas. Volunteers are asked to submit data from terrapin sightings through an electronic-submission form.
City-dwellers will love the NY Botanical Garden’s EcoFlora Project, where citizen scientists have the chance to observe and collect data on the City’s diverse collection of flora and fauna while playing an important part in protecting and preserving native species. Volunteers submit their observations through the easy-to-use iNaturalist app. EcoQuest Challenges keep citizen scientists on their toes as they search for specific species each month. If you’re interested in learning more about how to participate in the EcoFlora project or you need help getting started on the iNaturalist app, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at NYBG is hosting an optional iNaturalist ID Workshop on January 8th from 2-3:30pm. Advanced registration is required.
While some of those region-specific projects may be currently out of season, there are some great citizen science for kids projects that are perfect for cold Northeast winters and can even be done in your own backyard. This time of year, you and your children can appreciate a variety of winter birds flying through your neighborhood. Now is the time to put those backyard bird-watching skills to good use with these two citizen science projects!
Set up a bird feeder. Count birds. Enter your data. It’s as simple as that! Best of all you can participate as often as you’d like or as infrequently as your schedule permits. The Feederwatch data you collect provides scientists with crucial information about the population of various species, as well as where particular birds are and where they are not. This data helps scientists detect subtle changes in wintering ranges of certain bird species. Project Feederwatch depends on support from its participants, so there is an annual cost of participation. First-time participants receive a research kit, which includes information about getting started and more birdwatching goodies. Participants provide their own bird feeders and seed.
The next Great Backyard Bird Count is February 14-17th, 2020! If you have 15 minutes or more on at least one of those dates, you are welcome to participate in this online, worldwide citizen science project. Monitoring bird populations in real-time through an event like this provides scientists an unparalleled glimpse into ever-fluctuating bird population distribution and movements. You can get started by creating a GBBC account and downloading the free eBird mobile app to enter data.
If you’re hooked on the idea of becoming a citizen scientist with your children and you’d like to find even more ideas and projects, SciStarter’s Project Finder tool and CitizenScience.gov are comprehensive citizen science resources for you to explore.