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Citizen Science Projects And Apps :  Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists

What is Citizen Science?
Here's Cornell’s Orinthology Lab Description:

"In North America, citizen science typically refers to research collaborations between scientists and volunteers, particularly (but not exclusively) to expand opportunities for scientific data collection and to provide access to scientific information for community members. As a working definition, we offer the following: projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions."  As trained Master Naturalists, we have the tools and the desire to observe nature, so why not contribute to scientific research  as we work? Here's a variety of projects you can contribute to, both with boots on the ground and by recording observations online.

In fact, if you really want to help out locally, there are some Arkansas Specific Citizen Science projects. They aren't apps, but they all track nature in Arkansas.  More detailed info below, but here's the basics:

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks Butterfly Research: pick up a checklist from the BGO Visitors Center and record data as you visit the garden.
Chronic Wasting Disease Testing   You can learn more here.
Arkansas Tickborne Disease Project: Visit the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service website for more information on this project. You can also get a free collection kit from your local extension office. Collection kits for 2019 are available the second week of May.
Arkansas Monarch Mapping Project: Part of the iNaturalist site, this is specifically for Arkansas. Join here.
Ozark Chinquapin Foundation: Found a chinquapin tree? OCF would like to know. Here's their excellent ID Guide.

Bird Boxes

This project involves building, placing and monitoring of bird boxes in various locations around NWA. The boxes help provide breeding habitats for species that are suffering habitat reduction. Our target species are Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Prothonotary Warblers, and Wood Ducks. The project may expand to benefit other species such as Chimney Swifts.  Coordinator: Emily Robertson,

The Wildlife Habitat Project group has been busy monitoring nesting boxes since late April. They have built and placed boxes in three counties, Benton, Washington and Carroll County. These boxes are for cavity nesting birds. By far, the busiest boxes this year have been the Blue Bird and Tree Swallow boxes. At the Beaver Lake Nursery Pond there are 40 boxes consisting of blue bird boxes, tree swallows, wren, wood duck and prothonotary warbler boxes. At the Hobbs State Park Visitor Center and at Wilson's Springs Wet Prairie, in Fayetteville, there are 9 blue bird boxes. Illinois River Water Project in Cave Springs has 8 boxes. The Bella Vista Wastewater Plant has 6 boxes. Also 4 boxes are located at the Rogers Adult Wellness Center and 5 in Eureka Springs at Lake Leatherwood. There is a group of dedicated MN who monitor the nesting sites during the breeding season and report the data back to the group coordinator.

Pictures below are from a June 2019  Bluebird box monitoring trip at Wilson Springs. Photo credit: Sonya Zimmer.  Wilson Springs Team members, Sonya Zimmer, Kathy Mason, Jane Foster, Kitty Sanders.

Stream Team

Arkansas Stream Team enables concerned citizens to become involved in stream and watershed conservation. Efforts revolve around three primary aspects of stream conservation: education, advocacy and stewardship. Volunteers receive training in water-quality monitoring and streambank maintenance and restoration techniques. Litter control, streambank stabilization, streamside tree plantings, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat, water-quality monitoring and other special projects are all possible. Working with landowners, volunteers have repaired hundreds of miles of eroding streambanks. They’ve monitored water quality on thousands of miles of streams and have picked up tons of litter.
NWAMN has local teams that do these activities on local waterways.  Currently, projects are active on the White, Little Sugar, and Kings River.  Other local waterways which do not currently have a coordinator are Illinois River, Buffalo River and Lee Creek.  You can be a on an emailing list for all Stream Team activity by adding yourself to Stream Team on the Committees Tab under Citizen Science.
(description courtesy Arkansas Fish and Game website)  Coordinator, Angela Danovi, adanovi@ozarkswaterwatch

For now, to join a specific stream team, contact the following coordinator:
White River:  Ken Leonard
Illinois River: Open
Little Sugar: Paula Hixson
King's River: Charles McCoy


Frog Watch


FrogWatch USA™ is a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that provides individuals, groups, and families with an opportunity to learn about wetlands in their communities and report data on the calls of local frogs and toads. As a citizen science program, FrogWatch USA™ offers the opportunity for long-term, large scale data collection on these important animals. Data have been collected since 1998 from every state in the United States. All that is needed to participate is a little training.  There is a local chapter of FrogWatch headed by our own Lilia Beattie.  Contact her for more information and the next training date.

Think this might be for you? Watch this video by Rob Tiffin about life in a puddle and see an example of what FrogWatch does.

Monarch Project

The Monarch Project was established to encourage Master Naturalists to become involved in the activities of the Arkansas Monarch Conservation Partnership.  This group of citizens, federal and state government agencies, conservation and agricultural organizations, among others, seeks to conserve and enhance existing habitat and to encourage creation of additional plantings which will aid in the survival of the monarch butterfly.  The monarch, which is an iconic insect, serves as the “poster child” for work that needs to be done to help many pollinators in decline.  This committee will become more active as the partnership moves past the initial planning phases. Volunteers will be needed in the following areas:  outreach, habitat conservation, research, and funding.  You can be a on an emailing list for all Monarch Project activity by adding yourself to Monarch Project on the Committees Tab under Citizen Science. 

At right, the current feed of observations from the Arkansas Monarch Mapping Project on INaturalist.

Coordinator: Kitty Sanders 

Ways to help:

Plant Milkweed!

Plant fall nectar plants (New England Aster, Goldenrod, Blue Mist flower)

Participate in observation projects to help with data collection, such as those pictured to the left.

Citizen Science Collaborative Projects

Not able to participate in one of the above projects? Or do you have such a passion for nature and science you want to do more? Consider adding yourself to one of these collaborative data collecting projects.


eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.    For more information or to join, Join eBird


One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.  For more info and to join, Join iNaturalists


   CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.  CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).   By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. We are now in all fifty states.   To join and for more information, Join CoCoRaHS