What is Citizen Science?

Two adults and two kids gather around a net

NPS/S. Muether

Citizen science is the voluntary involvement of the public in scientific research. Citizen scientists can help design experiments, collect data, analyze results, and solve problems. Their work helps professional scientists and resource managers understand parks. Their data help solve real problems and answer real questions. In a nutshell, citizen science is science.

Anyone can be a citizen scientist, regardless of where they’re from. It doesn't matter how old you are or what your background is. All it takes is some time, curiosity, and a sense of wonder.

two people use a spotting scope in an alpine lake setting


Why Does the National Park Service Support Citizen Science?

For two reasons -- good management of parks, and good experiences for visitors.

To manage national parks, the National Park Service (NPS) uses the best available scientific information. Sometimes the best way to get that information is through citizen science projects. For example, managers might need to know when certain kinds of plants bloom during the spring. Data on flowers can help them know which butterflies need special protection, or when to mow a field. They might not have enough time to count all those flowers across the park. But hundreds of visitors hiking in the park can use a mobile app to record when and where flowers bloom.

Citizen science is also a great way for visitors to enjoy and learn about their parks. In recent legislation, Congress affirmed an educational role for the National Park Service. Citizen science helps the NPS fill that role. One of the best ways to learn science is to do science. And by doing science, people can appreciate their parks in new ways. Amid the grand vistas sometimes it's nice to stop, focus on a small patch of ground, and count the number of flowers.

Let's Get Started

Plants, animals, environment, history, culture, oh my!  Coast to coast, there's a project out there for you.

Find Your Citizen Science Project!
black and white silhouette of a child picking something out of the ocean


Last updated: September 25, 2018