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There are many research programs currently using backyard ecosystems enthusiasts to collect information about various species and their changes in distribution and abundance locally. It's a great way to become better at identification and to engage kids in learning about the natural world they live with. If you are interested in getting involved, take a look through the following sites. 

Citizen Science


Homegrown National Park is the non-profit started by Dr. Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware. The mission of HNP is citizen action to stem the loss of the critical ecosystems which sustain us through gardening with native plants. The HNP map allows you to register your property as part of the acreage that citizens nationally are converting back to native planting.


Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. This community science project allows for individuals to:

  • Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;

  • Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;

  • Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;

  • Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees; ...


In an effort to better understand Monarch ecology, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a Monarch Larval Monitoring Program (MLMP) to collect data on larval Monarch populations and milkweed habitat. Volunteers from across the United States and Canada monitor Monarchs and milkweed in their areas, and their data are used to answer questions about Monarch ecology during the breeding season.


The Dragonfly Mercury Project engages citizen scientists such as students and teachers in the collection of juvenile dragonflies, also known as dragonfly larvae, from national parks for mercury analysis.
Mercury is a toxic pollutant that can often enters parks as air pollution from distant, human-caused sources, like coal-burning power plants. Dragonfly larvae are excellent indicators of mercury risk.


Cornell University Ornithology Lab runs FeederWatch - a November-April survey of birds that visit backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. You don’t even need a feeder! All you need is an area with plantings, habitat, water or food that attracts birds. The schedule is completely flexible. Count your birds for as long as you like on days of your choosing, then enter your counts online. 


The Monarch Watch Tagging Program is a large-scale community science project that was initiated in 1992 to help understand the dynamics of the monarch's spectacular fall migration through mark and recapture.

Tagging was originally used by Dr. Fred Urquhart of the University of Toronto help locate overwintering monarchs and later to determine where monarchs came from that wintered in Mexico. Our long-range tagging program at Monarch Watch continues to reveal much more...


The North American Butterfly Association has run the Butterfly Count Program in the United States, Canada, and Mexico since 1993. Each of the approximately 450 counts consists of a compilation of all butterflies observed at sites within a 15-mile diameter count circle in a one-day period.


Also the Cornell Ornithology Lab, Each February, for four days, the world comes together for the love of birds. Over these four days we invite people to spend time in their favorite places watching and counting as many birds as they can find and reporting them to us. These observations help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations.


Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project for measuring the seasonal variation, also known as phenology, and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Click to find out more and sign up!

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Pond Watch is a project to better understand and conserve North America's dragonfly migration.  Dragonfly experts, nongovernmental programs, academic institutions, and federal agencies from the United States, Mexico, and Canada have formed the collaborative Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP).


Celebrate Urban Birds is part of Cornell University Ornithology Lab.  It strives to co-create bilingual inclusive, equity-based community science projects that serve communities that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from birding, conservation, and citizen science. The project seeks to promote better science through the equitable exchange of knowledge, increased access, centering missing voices and experiences, and by intentionally advocating for community ownership and leadership of scientific research. Together with participating communities the project has co-developed processes to co-design, pilot, and implement research and scientific programming while centering race and equity.


The EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly World Water Monitoring Challenge) is an international program that runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The EarthEcho Water Challenge builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies.


iNaturalist is a smart phone app that allows you to make observations that can become data provided to organizations that might use it. Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. We share your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe.


NestWatch is a nationwide nest-monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Participating in NestWatch is easy and anyone can do it.

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Volunteer to join the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. The data you help collect will be used for weather forecasting and monitoring, severe weather alerts, and climate studies.

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Join the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count and contribute to a wildlife census that will help scientists assess the health of bird populations. The nation's longest-running community science bird project fuels Audubon's work throughout the year.


When it comes to finding ways to mitigate climate change, we like to start in our own backyard: observing plants and pollinators is critical to understanding how our environment is responding to the changes in our climate. These observations come from community scientists just like you. With Budburst, you can experience the magic of nature, while contributing to the fight to save it.


The USA-NPN brings together volunteer observers, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States.

Create your own Local Phenology Program
Interested in what’s happening to plant and animal populations, either on a seasonal or long-term basis? Turn your interest into a valuable collaborative community science program!

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