People of all ages and backgrounds can contribute to scientific investigations simply by observing the things around us. Citizen science harnesses the power of people to collect information and share it with groups around the world. As the body of data grows, citizens can take more active steps toward making changes that positively impact Arizona.
Arizona’s varied habitats support some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America and provide unforgettable recreation opportunities. Our sunny climate makes the state an incubator for alternative energy resources like solar power and biofuels, yet our desert landscape means that water must always be carefully allocated. How can we bring information about these features into the national and global dialogue? By becoming a citizen scientist!
Citizen science participants make small scale observations of wildlife, energy use, and other topics, then share it with a large audience using internet platforms. Data is usually entered into a website. Suddenly those individual observations become part of a network that creates a big picture, a picture much more detailed than could be created by individuals or small teams. Researchers can use this detailed information to study specific issues such as changes in climate, habitat, migration, energy use, even stars as they appear in the sky.
Observe and Participate
The USA National Phenology Network (NPN) 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. The NPN is your resource for citizen science opportunities around the world.
Your role: Track the timing of pollen production and release in junipers. You can join this effort by periodically checking individual juniper trees in your area for pollen cone development and reporting your observations via the USA-NPN web page. Training materials can help you get started!
The purpose of this effort is to model pollen release and concentrations. Information will be used to help determine public health decisions asthma and allergy alerts and provide data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Environmental Public Health Tracking Network and Syndrome Reporting Information System (SYRIS).
Your roll: Volunteers from across the state will collect information on the distribution, habitat, migration, and nesting of Arizona’s hummingbirds to be entered into a database for ongoing study.
Arizona boasts 18 species of hummingbirds - more than any other state except Texas. SABO has received funding from the Arizona Bird Conservation Initiative to begin a statewide citizen-science project to document the distribution of Arizona's hummingbirds, the timing of their breeding and migration cycles, and the natural and man-made habitats on which they depend.
Your roll: Gauge rainfall and report precipitation at the Rainlog registration page.
How much rain fell at your home yesterday? Rainlog.org is a web-based network of hundreds of volunteer weather watchers that measure and report rainfall in their backyards.
RainMapper is a free service based on RainLog, developed at the University of Arizona with support from the Bureau of Reclamation. Register for the free RainMapper service, to be provided with information on how much rain fell in your neighborhood, every time it rains within 5 miles of your location if observations are available.
Your roll: Citizen-scientists measure night sky brightness by counting the stars in the constellations Orion, Leo, or Crux and submit observations to a website from a computer or smart phone.
The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution. Light pollution threatens not only our “right to starlight,” but can affect energy consumption, wildlife and health. People in 115 countries contributed over 76,000 measurements during the campaigns each winter/spring over the last 7 years, making GLOBE at Night the most successful light pollution awareness campaign to date.
GLOBE at Night observations are closed for 2012, but will reopen in January 2013 January 14–23; February 12–21; March 13–22; April 11–20 through the end of April.
Your role: Submit your careful observations on dragonfly species, ranges and flight seasons. Images encouraged.
Dragonflies are an important indicator of water quality, a natural concern in the growing southwest. They also make beautiful photography subjects. This site has compiled detailed information about dragonfly species throughout Arizona.
Study and Learn
More than 90% of the water that comes to the desert floor through precipitation (rain) evaporates right back into the atmosphere. UA scientists are working at Biosphere 2 to discover how plants and trees change the way that water evaporates from the soil.
UA scientists are conducting a pilot program in collaboration with the Wilson K8 school in the Tucson area. Results of additional citizen science projects are posted on the site.
The "House Energy Doctor" is an education, research, and community outreach program developed at the University of Arizona's School of Architecture. The program promotes students learning of energy conservation and passive solar design through field investigation of existing buildings and simulation of new and innovative sustainable projects.
The House Energy Doctor program annually offers students the opportunity to participate in design/build workshops on energy conservation and passive solar systems. The last workshop focused on the construction of a “cool tower” at the backyard of the HED building on campus.
Teachers can plan field trips to a number of Arizona locations specializing in xeriscaping and permaculture.
Green Roofs Project
“Green roofs” with growing plants are part of a “green infrastructure” movement to improve harsh, degraded urban environments. These rooftop gardens can reduce energy use for houses and provide urban oases for wildlife. Importantly, they also have the potential to combat the urban heat island effect, moderating temperatures for individual buildings and their surrounding areas.
Faculty from Biosphere 2, the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, and the School of Natural Resources are investigating the types of soil, irrigation schedules, and plant species that are best suited to green roofs in the Southwest.
Biosphere 2’s Citizen Science Days calendar (coming soon) lets you coordinate your visit to the Biosphere 2 with a hands-on experiment! The project had over 3,000 visitors who became citizen scientists in 2011.
Long Term Research
Arizona is home to almost the entire population of desert nesting bald eagles in the United States. The eagles live along rivers and lakes in the upper Sonoran desert. The Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program is dedicated to the study and conservation of bald eagles in the Southwest. A corps of paid Nest Watchers monitors the eagles during their breeding season. Today, the Nest Watch Program is coordinated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department with input from the Southwest Bald Eagle Management Committee.
The Master Watershed Steward program educates and trains citizens across the state of Arizona to serve as volunteers in the protection, restoration, monitoring, and conservation of their water and watersheds. The Master Watershed Steward Program is a partnership of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Funding provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's Water Quality Division.