13-year-olds Hailey Dressler, left, and Maggie Everett, catch bumblebees as citizen scientists during an annual survey. (Jamie Lusch/The Medford Mail Tribune/AP)

13-year-olds Hailey Dressler, left, and Maggie Everett, catch bumblebees as citizen scientists during an annual survey. (Jamie Lusch/The Medford Mail Tribune/AP)

Conservation worker Chris Bowser, left, along with some high school students, checks a net for American eels on the Black Creek in West Park, New York. (AP/Mike Groll)

Conservation worker Chris Bowser, left, along with some high school students, checks a net for American eels on the Black Creek in West Park, New York. (AP/Mike Groll)

A geologist uses an avalanche probe to measure snow depth at Thompson Pass, Alaska. One program recruited citizen scientists to measure snow levels in mountain terrain. (AP)

A geologist uses an avalanche probe to measure snow depth at Thompson Pass, Alaska. One program recruited citizen scientists to measure snow levels in mountain terrain. (AP)

Amateur astronomer Mike Conley was one of dozens of citizen scientists who photographed the 2017 solar eclipse to help scientists learn more about the Sun’s corona. (AP/Gillian Flaccus)

Amateur astronomer Mike Conley was one of dozens of citizen scientists who photographed the 2017 solar eclipse to help scientists learn more about the Sun’s corona. (AP/Gillian Flaccus)

Maritime historians, climate scientists, and ordinary citizens studied 19th-century whaling ship logbooks to better understand modern-day weather. (AP/Stephan Savoia)

Maritime historians, climate scientists, and ordinary citizens studied 19th-century whaling ship logbooks to better understand modern-day weather. (AP/Stephan Savoia)

Citizen Scientists to the Rescue

Posted: May 1, 2021

Travel restrictions. Social distancing. New rules had a big impact on scientists in 2020. Many paused their projects when the pandemic hit. Thankfully, citizen scientists stepped up to help. They are volunteers who do research. The number of citizen scientists has skyrocketed since COVID-19 lockdowns started. Some programs report more contributors than ever before. Even a pandemic can’t stop the curious from exploring God’s creation!

Monitoring plants and animals can take a long time. It also sometimes means covering a large area around the globe. Scientists studying nature often ask volunteers for extra help. These citizen scientists record what they notice in nature. Some plot stars, watch weather patterns, or collect rainfall totals. Others observe migrating birds and butterflies. There are all kinds of citizen scientists! Millions of people participate in citizen science projects. Some projects have volunteers on the lookout for new insect species. Citizen scientists observing space have discovered exoplanets. Others have helped scientists find cures for diseases.

A few popular citizen science programs are eBird, Nature’s Notebook, and eButterfly. These programs train volunteers well. They provide support tools like apps. Volunteers use those as they collect data. Trained scientists review everything that citizen scientists submit. That helps prevent errors as information is collected.

Spring is a great time to become a citizen scientist. The season brings new plant growth and increased animal activity. Do you like to birdwatch? Study the clouds? Number the stars? Even if you never thought you’d be a scientist, you can participate. Your observations are valuable! And they just might help everyone understand more about the Earth and how God created it to work.