Citizen science is a project or program where volunteers who are not professional scientists conduct surveys, take measurements or record observations. In citizen science, the public participates and collaborates with scientific research to increase scientific knowledge.
One of the earliest and best-known examples is the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Since 1900, Audubon has organized volunteer groups around the country to collect information about local bird populations. This wildlife census informs conservation efforts. It would not be possible without the participation of thousands of citizen scientists.
In recent years, the field of citizen science has exploded with the widespread availability of the internet. Anyone with a smartphone can easily share and geo-tag information about species or landscape features in real time. New citizen science networks form every day to document and share our observations about our surroundings through photos, audio, video and other emerging technologies.
Examples of multimedia citizen projects include the BioBlitz, an event put on by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. Another is Project BudBurst, a network that monitors climate change and its impact on plants by collecting temporal information on the leafing, flowering and fruiting of plants. BugGuide, FrogWatch USA, NestWatch and Earthdive are other citizen science projects that monitor changes in the natural world.
Time-lapse photography is a tool with many applications for citizen science, making it possible to monitor and share visual observations about change over time, provoking questions to inspire future investigation.