The Scientist In All of Us

The Scientist In All of Us

May 7
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Have you ever heard of Citizen Science? It’s an amazing scientific research method that has been growing in popularity with advances in technology. Essentially, scientist are able to crowd-source some of their research data through the general public. Not only is it a novel way for academic researchers to share out their workload, but it’s a great way to inspire the scientist in all of us! When I was thirteen years old, I participated in a summer program at my local park called the Junior Earth Team (JET). And part of the work we did with JET was to go around other local green spaces and conduct Biodiversity Urban Surveys. The surveys were then logged and sent off to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for data collection and archival purposes. That experience has always stuck with me when I think of the immense potential each and every one of has to contribute to advancing great science in just our backyard. So, I’m going to highlight three really cool Citizen Science projects below, but encourage you to check out some others in your local area.

Alliance for the Great Lakes
Through the Adopt-a-Beach program, citizens are able to find beach cleanup opportunities in their area or schedule a cleanup event on their own.  Officially launched in 2003, Adopt-a-Beach is located in all eight Great Lakes states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – and has had over 15,000 participants. During a cleanup event, teams remove the litter and enter their results and finding to an online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the the public, and improve beaches.

Chicago Wildlife Watch
The Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo has been collecting camera trap photos on a variety of animals in different parts of Chicago for quite some time now. With more than 1 million photos, they just couldn’t possibly shuffle through all the data themselves. Citizens can navigate to their website, view the motion-activated photos, and identify what animals (if any) are in the shot. The data is then collected and analyzed to see patterns in these spaces across time (day or night) and the urban wildlife that use those spaces.


Midwest Invasive Species Network

In conjunction with the Applied Spatial Ecology and Technical Services Laboratory at Michigan State, there is now a mobile apple that allows you to capture invasive species field observation data. Available on both the iTunes App store and Google Play store, citizens can play an important role in the early detection and rapid response to new invasive threats in their area.