Have you ever wished you could spend a little bit of time working as a scientist? I have good news: you can do it, without having to quit anything you already do in your daily life, and without having to get an advanced degree. Scientists all over the world are enlisting regular folks to help them with big projects -- this kind of scientist-support volunteering is called citizen science.
There are so many different citizen science projects, there’s sure to be one that suits you! No matter your age, your occupation or vocation, or your level of education, there is a citizen science project you can help with. Here are a few of my favorites:
The annual Christmas Bird Count. Join a group of Portlanders to participate in the local arm of a nationwide bird census. This year, local bird-counters will be attempting to count every single bird within a 15-mile radius around Portland, on January 2, 2016.
Great Backyard Bird Count. If you miss this year's Christmas Bird Count, don't worry, citizen ortnithologists are needed for the Great Backyard Bird Count every February. Spend a little time in your backyard (or anywhere), and count the number and type of birds you see. This year’s count takes place February 12-15, 2016.
Be a Martian. NASA is looking for Earthling volunteers to help improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet.
Portland Urban Coyote Project. When you see a coyote, report it to help scientists at the Portland Audubon Society and the Geography Department at Portland State University who are studying how coyotes have adapted to urban environments.
Project Budburst. Observe and record when plants produce leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit, to help the National Ecological Observatory Network understand more about how plants respond to climate changes.
National Map Corps. Edit information about buildings and other data features for the United States Geological Survey’s National Map -- all in the form of “challenges” in which editors are asked to map, edit, and peer-review new additions to the map.
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. Measure and map rain, snow and other precipitation, together with volunteers across the U.S. and Canada.
Do you want to see even more citizen science projects you might help out with? Here are some great places to look for projects that need volunteers:
- Smithsonian magazine’s huge directory of citizen science projects,
- NASA’s list of space-related citizen science projects,
- the list of citizen science opportunities that center on the Oregon Coast and beyond, from OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center,
- or, try Zooniverse, which lists both science and social science projects you can help with.
Remember, you can talk to a librarian about your science questions (or any questions!) whenever you’re at the library in person -- just ask the librarian on duty. Or, call or email a librarian to get personalized help with via email, text, phone or chat.