Citizen Science: No Ph.D. Required
Putting what we love to do to good use makes us feel productive and happy. Recently, citizen science — non-scientists using their time and observational skills to collect and report valuable data — has begun to reach a growing audience. Birdwatching grandparents, wannabe entomologists, and closeted herpetophiles can all contribute to research campaigns hosted by nonprofits, academic institutions, or government agencies. It's a good way to use a passion for a place or species to make a difference.
One of the oldest citizen-science projects, the Christmas Bird Count, marked its 111th year in 2010, and has been essential in documenting how bird populations have moved and changed.
Most existing citizen-science campaigns do focus on birds, but there are also amphibian, insect, and plant projects. Some are ongoing; many happen annually and last a week or so. To boot, an abundance of apps for smartphones and tablets place entire field guides at your fingertips, so now, recognizing what's in nature is easier than ever. Some apps even let you report sightings directly from your mobile device.
Click through the jump to see upcoming citizen-science projects in which you can participate: