Fascinating Earth: 5 Citizen Science Projects For Our Natural World

Saikat Basu 28-11-2013

Quite frankly, I didn’t have the brain matter or the perseverance to be a scientist. But today, thanks to the power of the Internet, you don’t have to be a boffin with double PhDs to contribute to the sciences. If you are interested in the world we live in, natural sciences could be your calling. Like me, easy to join citizen science projects 9 Live Citizen Science Projects You Can Participate In To Learn More About Our Planet & Space Science has gone social. Research scientists maybe crunching away at their super-computers but they aren’t neglecting the remarkable potential of the most powerful computer of all – the human brain. When you put a few... Read More should help you take that interest further, and call yourself a “citizen scientist” if not a true blue scientist.


Do you share a love for the natural world? Then, be a part of the crowd and join these unique online science projects that are trying to tap into the power of crowdsourcing What Is Crowdsourcing & How It's Used [INFOGRAPHIC] Have you ever wondered what crowdsourcing is, what sites on the Internet take advantage of it and its influence online? Well now all your questions will hopefully be answered with this infographic, designed and produced... Read More for creating a more knowledgeable world.

Digital Fishers

Science Goal: Help to understand the flora and fauna of the deep seas.

Digital Fishers

Diving into the depths of the sea floors is a dream that will remain unrealized for most of us. Playing Jacques Cousteau could be farther than a dream. The Digital Fishers online citizen science project could help us live a small part of that dream. The Neptune Canada observatory project is calling on volunteers to help them analyze the sea floor and the marine ecosystem which thrives around it. In a 3-year experiment, marine biologists are using timelapse cameras to record the ocean floor. The volume of data cannot be analyzed by computers alone, so has been opened to the community.

Here’s what you have to do:


Contribute to ocean science simply by observing and making annotations.

1. Watch short videos of 15 second duration.

2. If you see anything interesting, click the screen.

3. Select one or more items from the lists below that best describe what you see. For instance: sea life, water clarity, seafloor composition etc.


4. Save your annotation.

Darwin for a Day [Broken URL Removed]

Science Goal: Spot and identify plants and animals on Galapagos Islands.

Darwin for a Day

From the Amazon forests to the Great Barrier Reef. Google Street View has gone places. Well, it also went to the Galapagos Islands in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. Darwin for a Day is an online project that uses Google Street View to document plant and animal species on the “the laboratory of evolution”. The crowdsourced initiative is calling on your “expertise” to identify the varied plants and animals on the island, and seeks to create a comprehensive database with the collected knowledge. The findings will be shared with the iNaturalist community & the Charles Darwin Foundation, and will contribute to research of the Galapagos Islands.


Here’s what you have to do:

Step into Charles Darwin’s shoes for a few minutes.

1. Browse through the catalog of photos of plans and animals.

2. Comment with your observation.


3. If you can, identify the species.

4. Upload your own photo of the species.

Old Weather

Science Goal: Help scientists create accurate climate models.

Old Weather

Today, supercomputers are used to create accurate climate and weather models. But they can only be enhanced with accurate data. Scientists are trying to understand climate variations with whatever historical data they have. One of the richest sources of historical data that was precisely recorded comes from maritime logs. The crowdsourced Old Weather project aims to transcribe these logs collected from United States ships since the mid-19th century. More than that, it is also a way to know more about maritime history and the seafarers of that age.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. Register on the Zooniverse website.

2. Click on any of the scrolling display of historical ships.

3. Click on Transcribe Logs to get into the interactive tutorial.

4. Go back in history and trace the voyage of the ship on a Google Map while learning about the crew.

Snapshot Serengeti

Science Goal: Classify animals of the Serengeti

Snapshot Serengeti

From the Galapagos to the wonders of Serengeti – this citizen science project applies the same principle to identify the animals roaming in the wilds of famous and massive national park. The images for identification are sourced from nearly 200 cameras which snap pictures of animals roaming in the night. The camera traps capture over 1,000,000 images of wildlife every year, and many of the photos are of the rarest species that could be still undiscovered.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. Follow the beautifully designed interactive tutorial to learn the process.

2. Identify the animal (s) in the photo with the help of the wizard.

3. Observations are combined with those of multiple volunteers.

4. You can discuss the identification with experts and other community members.

Citizen Sort

Science Goal: Play games, have fun, and contribute to science.

Citizen Sort gamifies science by introducing fun elements with the help of two video games (another is coming soon). Happy Match is a take on the classic matching game. Players match images of plants and animals taken in the field, thus helping in the classification of the database while learning more about the natural habitats. Forgotten Island is a mystery adventure game with the same intent of re-classifying animals and plants with the help of images…and a robot. Earn credits and solve the mystery of the island.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. Have fun.

A Few Minutes of Your Time

The above five tools are just some of the citizen science projects that you can find online. They have a serious purpose beyond the initial few minutes of fun. Think of them as educational tools to inspire your children and students while introducing them to the wonders of the world we take for granted.

We have already explored ways to contribute to space exploration Can We Contribute To Space Exploration? These 7 Online Tools Say We Can What about the man on the sidewalk? The high-schooler in the science class? The mother who once dreamt of suiting up for a space flight? Will there dreams remain so, or can they contribute to... Read More . Contributing to earthly matters doesn’t take much effort either from the comforts of your armchair. Tell us your impressions about these projects? Do you think they are valuable educational tools, as well as applications that help make a difference?

Image Credit: eilonwy77

Related topics: Crowdsourcing, Education Technology.

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  1. JMI
    November 29, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Really interesting Saikat, thanks?!?

    I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across explaining crowds and citizen science.? ?In particular I feel you may find these two emerging pieces of research very relevant:

    - The Theory of Crowd Capital

    - The Contours of Crowd Capability

    Powerful stuff, no?