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  Citizen Science

How do Master Naturalists Help with Citizen Science?

Master Naturalists also act as citizen scientists, gathering observations for use in the scientific community. Few science projects have the funding for large scope observations, so citizen scientists can help fill the gap. Master Naturalists have a variety of interests so it isn't hard to find one that fits your interest.

There are some Arkansas specific Citizen Science projects.  More detailed info below, but here's the basics:

   Chronic Wasting Disease Testing   You can learn more here.
   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.

What is Citizen Science?

Here's Cornell’s Ornithology 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."

Suggested Citizen Science Projects

  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.


Frog Watch


Master Naturalists participating in the Frog Watch program approach observations is a slightly different fashion - they listen.  Frogs and toads are hard to spot but easy to hear, so Master Naturalists trained to recognize their region's frog calls can identify species by sound.  Since frogs are often a 'canary in the coal mine' for contaminated water, tracking their presence tracks water quality.

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. 

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 the existing habitat and to encourage creation of additional plantings which will aid 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. 


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

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.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHs)

One example of citizen scientists filling in the gaps is with recording rainfall.  Many cities and towns have weather stations, but there is a great deal of territory between rain gauges.  When Master Naturalists join Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, they receive a heavy-duty rain gauge and log their daily rainfall at 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 Website, 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



Another example is at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology.  Master Naturalists with an interest in birds log birds they see in their yard with the app eBird.  They can find and monitor bird nests to document the bird's family life.  They can participate in February's Great Backyard Birdcount.  Joined with observations from across the country, this expands science's knowledge of the range and abundance of various bird species.

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

October Big Day—19 Oct 2019
On 19 October, October Big Day is back! Can we beat last year's total of 6,331 species on a single October day?
Global Big Day 2019: the biggest day in birding
On 4 May, 32,500 people ventured outside in 171 countries, finding 6,816 species: 2/3rds of the world's bird species in a single day. This is a new world record for the number of people birding on a single day.
eBird app


Nature's Notebook

Master Naturalists also track changes in a small area with time.  In a designated area like a back yard or along a daily walk, they note when particular species of trees start to leaf out and when the leaves start falling.   They note when particular annual native species first appear, when they flower, and when they seed.  They can note when the first butterfly appears and when migratory birds pass through. Information about the abundance and timing of these events are entered in the phenology database at to track the movement of the seasons across the continent.

The USA-National Phrenology Network brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States.   USD-NPN uses Nature's Notebook to provide a platform for volunteers to record observations.


Then there's the granddaddy of citizen scientist observations -  A sighting of almost any species is welcome in the general database.  Established projects are looking for more specific observations, such as reptiles and amphibians in Arkansas, Monarch butterflies in Arkansas, or any species in the NWA Land Trust Preserves.  Master Naturalists interested in bear, quail, arthropods, or mushrooms all have projects looking for their data.  Arkansas state parks and Arkansas Natural Heritage Areas in particular are working to document their biodiversity.  Master Naturalists log the distribution of common plants while keeping an eye out for species not yet on the list.

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.  Ongoing Arkansas iNaturalist Projects you can join include Arkansas Biodiversity,  and the  Arkansas Monarch Mapping Project.For more info and to join,    Join iNaturalists 


Journey North
About Journey North: In its 25th year, Journey North is one of North America’s premiere citizen science programs for people of all ages. The project has broad participation, with over 60,000 registered sites in the US, Canada, and Mexico — including families, teachers, schools, nature centers, professional scientists and novices. Journey North provides an easy entry point to citizen science, with simple protocols, strong online support, and immediate results. Reported sightings are mapped in real-time as waves of migrations move across the continent. People report sightings from the field, view maps, take pictures, and leave comments. (from the website)

  Journey North Website    Guide to Using Journey North:  Kitty Sanders, a Northwest member, recorded this presentation last year to help get you oriented to the site.
  Journey North Training   Kitty Sanders explains what Journey North is and how your observations can help scientists track Monarchs, milkweed and hummingbirds.   Click this link for additional material. Journey North links and resources