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Citizen Science in the Rochester Area

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Take a closer look at these Rochester citizen science opportunities, choose an area of interest, and see how you can get involved! Often you’ll find our nature centers and the Seneca Park Zoo involved in Rochester citizen science projects.

Do science anywhere!

According to Cornell Lab’s Skills to Last a Lifetime, “Citizen science refers to efforts in which volunteers partner with professional scientists to collect or analyze data. Citizen scientists are individuals in all walks of life – students, the general public, and even professional scientists.”

Rochester Citizen Science: Bird Watch

Bird Counts

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Great Backyard Bird Count
Bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are.

Become a certified NestWatch monitor using our online resources and test.

Choose a portion of your yard that is easy to monitor, typically an area with feeders that is visible from one vantage point.

Celebrate Urban Birds
Celebrate Urban Birds is a citizen science project focused on better understanding the value of green spaces for birds.

Our mission is to create innovative K-12 resources that build science skills while inspiring young people to connect to local habitats, explore biodiversity, and engage in citizen-science projects.

It began with a simple idea—that every birdwatcher has unique knowledge and experience. Our goal is to gather this information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education.


Audubon Christmas Bird Count
The nation’s longest-running community science bird project fuels Audubon’s work throughout the year.

Hummingbirds at Home
Create an account or login and help us learn more about hummingbirds today.

30 day trips within 30 minutes of Rochester: Turning Point Park Rochester NY

Water & Air

Water Monitoring
Volunteer water monitors build community awareness of pollution problems, help identify and restore problem sites, become advocates for their watersheds, and increase the availability and amount of needed water-quality information.

EarthEcho Water Challenge
The EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly World Water Monitoring Challenge) is an international program that runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The EarthEcho Water Challenge builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies.

Air Quality Egg (Ithaca)
A community-led air quality sensing network that gives people a way to participate in the conversation about air quality. It includes pollution sensors, a phone app and a web dashboard. Using the app, you can monitor your pollution levels. You can also follow other eggs, and compare them.

Strasenburgh Planetarium

Our Observable Universe

Help NASA scientists make maps of scientifically interesting features in our Solar System. You can map craters on the Moon, and trace the splatter of asteroid impacts on Vesta. All these worlds are yours to explore!

Globe at Night
Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations.

NASA Zooniverse
Computers often confuse debris disks around stars with other astronomical objects. We need your help to sort out what stars actually have these disks from Galaxies and Nebulae.

American Association of Variable Star Observers
Observers send their data to Headquarters, where they are checked, processed, and added to the AAVSO International Database. The data are available through the AAVSO website.

Rochester Citizen Science: Weather

Weather & Climate

EPA Citizen Science
Citizen science covers a suite of innovative tools to engage with the public to apply their curiosity and contribute their talents to science and technology. Citizen scientists can provide information that would not otherwise be available due to time, geographic, or resource constraints.

National Weather Service Cooperative Observer
More than 8,700 volunteers take observations on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops. The data are truly representative of where people live, work and play.

USGS Earthquakes
Did You Feel It? (DYFI) collects information from people who felt an earthquake and creates maps that show what people experienced and the extent of damage.

Weather & Climate
Pick an investigation that our partners are actively researching and add sightings from your own backyard, neighborhood or city. Each sighting will be paired with satellite, weather, and other data to help us identify local level changes that correlate with bigger picture trends. Investigations can empower communities to develop baseline data and participate in adaptation decisions.

Rochester Citizen Science Animals


NYS DEC Wildlife Observation
Many people enjoy observing wildlife in a variety of different ways. Occasionally there are opportunities for you to help the Bureau of Wildlife collect valuable data. In some cases this may require special effort but, in many cases all that is required is recording what you see while bird watching, hunting, hiking, scouting, etc.

Rochester Citizen Science Butterfly

Butterflies, Bugs, & Bumblebees

A real-time, online checklist and photo storage program, e-Butterfly is providing a new way for the butterfly community to report, organize and access information about butterflies in North America.

Monarch Watch
Monarch Watch is seeking the immediate assistance of hundreds of monarch enthusiasts (citizen scientists) in collecting observations of monarchs in their area during the spring and fall.

Big Bug Hunt
The Big Bug Hunt is an international research project using reports from real gardeners like you to track how bugs and pests spread.

Bumblebee Watch
Because these animals are widely distributed the best way to keep track of them is with an army of volunteers across the country armed with cameras. With any luck, you might help us to find remnant populations of rare species before they go extinct.

Rochester Citizen Science Tree Frog

Snakes & Amphibians

Your observations can make valuable contributions on the behalf of amphibians and reptiles. Using HerpMapper, you can create records of your herp observations and keep them all in one place. In turn, your data is made available to HerpMapper Partners – groups who use your recorded observations for research, conservation, and preservation purposes.

Seneca Park Zoo FrogWatch
FrogWatch USA™ is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) citizen science program and provides individuals, groups, and families opportunities to learn about wetlands in their communities by reporting on the calls of local frogs and toads.

Erie Canal Greece Canal Park
Greece Canal Park


RMSC Cumming Nature Center BioBlitz June Event
A BioBlitz is an ecological race to catalog as many living things as possible! Connect with the scientific process, regional experts and contribute to the understanding of the Cumming Nature Center landscape. Scientists, naturalists, teachers, and the public participate in this immersive citizen science activity by identifying, collecting, and geo-locating found species of plants and animals found on the 900 acre Cumming Nature Center preserve.

Rochester Citizen Science Litter Map

Trees, Plants, and Litter

GeoWiki Environmental Monitoring Projects
Participate in multiple ongoing projects and join the citizen science movement to help us address global land cover issues.

National Phenology Network
Learn about plant species in your area and record your observations about observable phases in the annual life cycle of plants.

Observe the life cycles of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses to see when they have their first leafing, first flower, and first fruit ripening.

Join the community identifying, mapping, and collecting the world’s litter.

Additional Rochester Citizen Science Resources

SciStarter provides a database of more than 1500 vetted, searchable projects and events.

Scientific American
Help make science happen by volunteering for a real research project.

National Geographic Citizen Science Projects
Get ideas for how you can participate in citizen science—projects in which volunteers and scientists work together to answer real-world questions and gather data.

Discover, teach, and learn. The Zooniverse enables everyone to take part in real cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more.

Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. We share your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe.

Nature’s Notebook
When you participate in the program, you’ll go outside to observe nature in your backyard or nearby area weekly and enter this information online.

51 Nature Centers, Preserves, Refuges, and Observatories Around Rochester

Our nature centers, wildlife preserves, management areas, etc., all serve to protect and sustain life, while making nature accessible to people to enjoy.

Read more

OptOutside: 31 Ideas for Spending Time Outdoors

Here are a few ideas for you to OptOutside on Black Friday, or anytime of the year. Our state, county, town, and city parks are a great place to start!

Read more

What are your favorite Rochester citizen science projects?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


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COVID-19 NOTE: Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home.

The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly and locally—seek solitude!