Citizen Science for the Summer Solstice

Summertime—the living’s easy, and citizen science is too! Whether you’re headed to the beach, camping, or simply sitting back and enjoying life in the slower lane this season, we have something for you. With days getting longer, SciStarter encourages you to use this extra time to take a closer look at the world around you. Discover something new this season with these summer citizen science projects!

The Sun Lab

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It wouldn’t be summer without our sun, the closest star to our planet. Despite its apparently steady glow, the Sun is a churning mass of superhot plasma that regularly produces powerful flares and storms that can knock out power and communication systems here on Earth. With this Lab explore what makes the sun so volatile and get access to the same data, images, and tools that scientists use to predict solar storms—so that you can predict them for yourself.

Dark Sky Meter

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 11.31.04 AMAs soon as the sun sets, the summer night sky offers an incredibly different, sublime experience. The Dark Sky Meter (available for iPhones) allows citizen scientists to contribute to a global map of nighttime light pollution. Light pollution is a growing problem in urban environments, but now you can help scientists better understand its effects on the environment. By utilizing the camera built in to your iPhone, the Dark Sky Meter actually measures ‘skyglow’ and updates the data in real time.


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Collect microbes from stadiums, cell phones and shoes! Project MERCCURI is an investigation of how microbes found in buildings on Earth (in public buildings, stadiums, etc) compare to those on board the biggest building ever built in space – the International Space Station (ISS). Your samples will be mailed to the University of California Davis where they will be sequenced and analyzed. Results will be shared on SciStarter so you can compare your samples to those from other locations, including the International Space Station! Up to 40 samples will fly on the International Space Station where their growth rates will be measured! Wouldn’t it be cool if your sample is sent to the International Space Station!?

Urban Buzz: Cicada

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If you haven’t heard the buzz about cicadas this season, you will soon as this year’s brood emerges. Help gauge possible negative effects of urbanization on cicadas. One particular aspect of the cicadas that is likely influenced by urbanization is how crooked they are! Scientists have given a fancy name to these small, random deviations, they call it fluctuating asymmetry (FA). Mail a dead cicada and researchers will analyzing its FA.

Verb Corner

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If you need a break from the outdoors, plop in front of your computer and visit Verb Corner. If we don’t know what words mean, it’s hard to teach computers what they mean. Rather than try to work out the definition of a word all at once, this project has broken the problem into a series of separate tasks. Each task has a fanciful backstory. Read along and answer questions to help this research project uncover the mysteries of the English language.

Play With Your Dog

dognition scistarter citizen science dogHelp researchers better understand relationship between dogs and owners! The Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in NYC is investigating the different ways people and dogs play together, and they need your help by submitting short videos of you playing with your dog. By participating in Project: Play with Your Dog, citizen scientists are providing valuable information into the nuances and intricacies of our relationships with dogs.

Butterflies and Moths of North America

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Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)  is a user-friendly web site and database that shares butterfly and moth species information with the public via dynamic maps, checklists, and species pages. Data are updated regularly and come from a variety of sources, including citizen scientists. You  can get involved by documenting butterflies and moths in their neighborhoods and submitting photographs for review.


jellyfish citizen science scistarter

Have you seen a jellyfish on the beach yet? Report it to Jellywatch — a public database documenting ocean conditions. These researchers are especially interested in jellyfish washing up, but they also track red tides, squid and mammal strandings, and other indicators of ocean health.

Firefly Watch

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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.

Project NOAH

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NOAH is a mobile phone app that allows nature lovers to document local wildlife and add their observations to a growing database for use by ongoing citizen-science projects. Using the NOAH mobile application, users take a photograph of an interesting organism, select the appropriate category, add descriptive tags, and click submit.

Whether you’re in the great indoors or exploring the great outdoors, there’s an opportunity to learn something new around each corner this summer. With these projects, or any of the more than 500 other projects on SciStarter, you can observe the world around you and help improve it through contributing to scientific research along the way!

Happy Summer!

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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