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.
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!
2. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 SciStarter's extensive Project Finder. Make the most of this summer by exploring, learning something new, and contributing to science at the same time!