Drumroll, please! Here are SciStarter’s top 11 citizen science projects from the past year. The list was generated based on the number of visits in our Project Finder.

11. is a distributed computing project that aims to produce predictions of the Earth’s climate up to the year 2300 and to test the accuracy of climate models. To do this, the project needs people around the world to volunteer time on their computers – time when their computers are on but not being used at full capacity.

10. Gravestone Project

Help researchers map the location of graveyards around the globe and then use marble gravestones in those graveyards to measure the weathering rate of marble at that location. The weathering rates of gravestones are an indication of changes in the acidity of rainfall between locations and over time. The acidity is affected by air pollution and other factors, and could be used as a measure of changes in climate and pollution levels.

9. Project Squirrel

Project Squirrel is calling all citizen scientists to count the number of squirrels in their neighborhoods and report their findings. The goal is to understand urban squirrel biology, including everything from squirrels to migratory birds, nocturnal mammals, and secretive reptiles and amphibians. To gain data on squirrel populations across the United States, citizen scientists will also be asked, when possible, to distinguish between two different types of tree squirrels – gray and fox. Anyone can participate in Project Squirrel!

8. Foldit: Solve Protein Puzzles for Science

Foldit is a revolutionary new computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research. Researchers are collecting data to find out if humans’ pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities make them more efficient than existing computer programs at pattern-folding tasks. If this turns out to be true, researchers can then teach human strategies to computers and fold proteins faster than ever!

7. Great World Wide Star Count

This Great World Wide Star Count is an international event that encourages learning in astronomy by inviting everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report what they see online. Participating in the event is fun and easy! You can join thousands of other students, families and citizen scientists from around the world counting stars.

6. Nature’s Notebook

Nature’s Notebook is a national plant and animal phenology observation program. You can join thousands of other individuals who are providing valuable observations that scientists, educators, policy makers, and resource managers are using to understand how plants and animals are responding to climate change and other environmental changes. Your observations will make a difference!

5. Dragonfly Swarm Project

The Dragonfly Swarm Project uses the power of the Internet to allow everyone to participate in a large-scale study of dragonfly swarming behavior. Participants observe dragonfly swarms wherever they occur, make observations of the composition and behavior of the swarm, then submit a report online.

4. Phylo

Phylo is a game in which participants align sequences of DNA by shifting and moving puzzle pieces. Your score depends on how you arrange these pieces. You will be competing against a computer and other players in the community.Though it may appear to be just a game, Phylo is actually a framework for harnessing the computing power of mankind to solve a common problem — Multiple Sequence Alignments.

3. Laser Harp: Build It Yourself

We first found out about Stephone’s harp in an issue of Make magazine that was devoted to build-them-yourself, high-tech musical instruments. Sounds awesome, huh? After building your laser harp, you’ll coax out the computer-generated sounds by waving your hands to break the light beams and change their lengths. Stephen Hobley’s Laser Harp project was last year’s #1 citizen science project in our Project Finder.

2. EteRNA Game: Solve Puzzles for Science

EteRNA, a collaborative online game, allows ordinary citizens to help biologists take a crack at solving a challenging RNA mystery, namely: what are the rules governing its folding? Players who assemble the best RNA designs online will see their creations synthesized in a Stanford biochemistry lab!

1. Mastodon Matrix Project

The Mastodon Matrix Project needs citizen volunteers to analyze actual samples of fossil matrix (the term for the material in which a fossil is found) from a mastodon fossil excavated in New York.Volunteers sort through the matrix to find ancient shells, bones, pieces of plants, and rocks from the time when the mastodon lived and died. The discoveries will be sent back to the Paleontological Research Institution, where they will be cataloged and further analyzed by paleontologists to help scientists form a true picture of the ecology and environment in which the mastodon lived.


Republished with permission from SciStarter.




Dr. John Ohab is a new technology strategist for the Public Web Program at the U.S. Department of Defense. He also hosts the department's award-winning science and technology podcast, "Armed