10 Awesome Summer Citizen Science Projects

Temperatures are on the rise. The days are growing longer. Ice cream trucks make their rounds. The Earth tilts on its axis toward the sun (well, if you live in the northern hemisphere). In other words, summer is here! Lucky for you, we have some exciting citizen science projects that you can participate in while you’re out at the beach or simply sitting back and enjoying life in the slower lane this season.

1. National Moth Week July 2012


Did you know that the U.S. is home to over 11,000 different moth species? National Moth Week occurs from July 23-29, 2012. You can join existing teams or organize a count in your area! Photography enthusiasts, you can take photos of moths to record species spotted in parks, environmental education centers, or fluttering around your porch light while you’re sipping your lemonade. All you need is a camera to take photos and a computer to record the data. Read more about helpful tips on how to find moths.

2. BEACH (Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication, and Health)


BEACH is intended to reduce the risk of disease for people who play in saltwater. The program strives to educate the public about the risks associated with polluted water and what each of us can do to reduce that risk. Volunteers monitor high-risk Washington state beaches for bacteria. All materials are provided by BEACH!

3. Jelly Watch


If you spot any jellyfish on the beach while building sandcastles or strolling along the coast, you can report it to JellyWatch.org, a database dedicated to documenting ocean conditions. Students, teachers, and scientists can conduct their own research using information gathered from around the globe, conveniently gathered on the website.

4. Volunteers in Parks


If you’re not headed toward the beach this summer, perhaps you’ll be visiting a park at some point this season. Volunteers in Parks participants work side by side with employees of the National Park Service to preserve the U.S.’s natural legacy. Help visitors discover the resources, meanings, and values found in national parks. Become a “VIP” and immerse yourself in the park experience!

5. S’COOL (Students’ Cloud Observations Online)


Leisure sometimes brings us to open spaces from which we end up staring at the sky. The S’COOL citizen science project offers another productive way to enjoy this experience while you’re pondering the deeper philosophical questions in life. Observe cloud types and record information on height, cover, and related conditions from anywhere in the world and send them to NASA for comparison.

6. Digital Fishers


Are you one of those who love the ocean but don’t want to deal with the sunburns, parking, or other unpleasant aspects that come with the territory? Here’s a citizen science project that puts you in touch with the ocean but saves you the extra costs in suntan lotion. The Digital Fishers Project allows you to help scientists identify different species of fish. You can assist with research by watching 15-second videos from the comfort of your own computer and click on simple responses.

7. Firefly Watch


In some parts of the U.S., summer brings with it the familiar, breathtaking flash of fireflies. Firefly Watch combines an annual summer evening phenomenon with scientific research. Help the Boston Museum of Science, Tufts University, and Fitchburg State College track these insects to help determine how human-made light or pesticides on lawns may affect the species.

8. Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is looking for citizen scientists to help them monitor turkeys in the wild. Help count young male and female turkeys (also known as Jakes and Jennies) in August 2012. The survey sheds light on the interaction between weather, environment, and flock vitality. It also helps determine fall hunting potential.

9. SciSpy


Spy on nature and contribute to science at the same time! With SciSpy, you can share photos and observations and contribute to research initiatives. Created by the Science Channel (via Discovery), SciSpy enlists participants to document the natural world in their backyards, parks, cities, and towns. The information you submit can provide helpful information to track migrations, changes in the natural environment, seasonal trends, and more!

10. Los Angeles Spider Survey


This is definitely not for the arachnophobic citizen scientist (like me), but if you’re fascinated by (and not squeamish of) spiders, here’s a project via the Los Angeles Natural History Museum that will tickle your fancy. Because there are no significant collections of urban spiders from the LA area, the museum invites citizen scientists to submit data about the spiders in Los Angeles in order to understand how widespread new species have become and how they may have interacted with native spiders.

Whether you are looking for creative ways to make your summer productive, looking for an excuse to explore the outdoors, or genuinely want to contribute to science, these projects are a great way to start! If you want to learn about more citizen science projects that you can participate in, make sure you stop by our extensive Project Finder. Make the most of this summer by exploring, learning something new, and contributing to science at the same time!

Categories: Citizen Science

About the Author


Lily Bui

Although she holds dual non-science bachelors’ degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine, Lily has long harbored a proclivity for the sciences. A daughter of an engineer and an accountant who also happen to be a photographer and musician, respectively, Lily grew up on the nexus between science and art. Lily has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served a year in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter in California; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works with WGBH-TV Boston and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns (mostly to entertain herself). // Tweets @dangerbui