top of page

Citizen Science

"To have a just and sustainable world,
we need to adopt a new cultural norm,
in which being a responsible person on this planet means
that we observe our surroundings with intention, like you do.
And that we share what we see, hear, smell, find.
That we as a network of people and devices,
become a network taking the pulse of the planet."

"Everybody Counts" | Caren Cooper | TEDxGreensboro, NC, US

What is Citizen Science?

“Citizen Science is science. Simple as that.”

It is "also known as community science, crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or volunteer monitoring."

These names are used for science projects where volunteers and paid scientists work together towards a common goal. The people involved connect on one of the many digital platforms. The connection is made through devices such as computers or smartphones with access to the internet.  

Whatever term we use, this approach to understanding connects curious, concerned people with projects that benefit from their energy and dedication.

Why is it important?


The planet is changing more rapidly, in more complex ways than people have ever experienced.

A collective, informed and up-to-date understanding is vital to the survival of life as we know it.

Such an understanding needs more diverse perspectives, from more diverse groups of people.

This understanding needs large numbers of observations, like those recorded by nature journalers.

Do More Together

Citizen science contributes significantly to advances in scientific understanding of wide range of topics including astronomy, climate change, conservation, biodiversity, ecology and environmental issues.

"It can succeed where traditional science cannot, particularly in studies that” cover large areas or over long periods of time.

Professional scientists need volunteers. “Scientists can’t be everywhere and they don’t know everything.” "Science needs more eyes, ears and perspectives than any scientist possesses.” -  or any budget could cover.

Personal Benefits
  • It’s fun

  • Rewards and encourages curiosity

  • Connects people with similar interests

  • Practical contribution to stewardship

  • Pairs well with nature journaling read Donna L Long blog post here 

Better Science
  • Identify gaps in data

  • Improved project design and analysis

  • Fill gaps in data with more eyes, ears and hands

  • Incorporates more diverse perspectives in all stage of scientific process including of local, traditional, or indigenous knowledge

Develop Shared and Collective Understanding
  • Highlight community concerns

  • Increased scientific literacy as “ the appreciation of the aims and limitations of science and the use of scientific thinking for personal decision‐making”

  • Build "mutual trust, confidence, and respect between scientists, authorities, and the public[i]


Public Good
  • Align data and decision-making

  • ​Influence policy

  • Guide resource management 

  • Strengthen advocacy for better services

Contribute toward Societal Goals
  • "Empower communities of all economic classes to take greater charge of their local environments.

  • "Promote universal and equitable access to scientific data and information."

  • Work towards environmental justice

What this means for Nature Journalers

As nature journalers, we record our observations. Every entry has the place, date and time. 

Our observations documented in our journals are evidence. We can think of them as field notes. We record our observations by hand on paper.

Our field notes are one kind of evidence. They provide details that are not in photos, or other machine recordings.

Many of us also record observations using photos, videos and audio recordings.

Single observations are interesting for us personally. When added to large numbers of observations, this information can contribute to knowledge that benefits all of us. 

We can contribute to citizen science by sharing our observations, including information from our fieldnotes, sharing our questions, and bringing our diverse perspectives to ways of thinking.

​​"The core and simplest thing that we can do is to share data."

"Everybody Counts" | Caren Cooper | TEDxGreensboro, NC, US

Where to Start?
1. Do you have the necessary devices and data?

    Do you have a smartphone, or a camera and computer, with internet connection?

    If you do, there are many ways to contribute.

    If you don't, your field notes are still useful, so keep on nature journaling.

2. Decide on your main area of interest.

    Citizen science projects are hosted on internet platforms. Each platform has its own focus.

    Three options are explained below.

    Are you interested in animals, plants and fungi?

    Then iNaturalist is a good place to start. You add observations without having to select a project.          You can later link your observation to one or multiple projects. There are many South African

    projects on the platform.

    You do not need to be able to identify your observations. In fact, you can get an identification for

    something that you do not know. You can also get confirmation of your identification.


    iNaturalist has an app and a website.

    They do not accept observations of rocks, soil, clouds, or water.

    There are other platforms that do want these observations.

    Are you interested in how weather and climate affect your environment?

    ISeeChange might be the platform for you. Their mission is "connecting people to their changing          environments and developing solutions together."


    ISeeChange is the place to share your observations of: 

  • Skies and Air

  • Land and Soil

  • Oceans and Freshwater

  • Season Change

  • Heat

  • Drought

  • Wildfires

  • Cold, Snow and Ice

  • Storms and Flooding

    As well as observations on

  • Animals and Insects

  • Plants and Trees

    The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) in South Africa "aims to contribute

    to the understanding of animal populations, especially population dynamics, and thus provide input

    to their conservation. It started with a focus on birds, but has expanded to include plants, fungi and

    other animals through the Virtual Museum.”


    You can access ADU projects on their website. They do not have an app. However some of their

    projects do, like SABAP2 with the BirdLasser app.

    Some, like Zooniverse, ask volunteers to help process the data that they have. If you are interested

    in this check out their website.

2. Connect with the platform or project.

    If you are using an app, download it to your phone and create an account.

3. You are ready to go!

    Start recording your observations with both your nature journal and your camera or smartphone.

    Remember to check your devices. Turn on the GPS settings.

    Make sure the date and time settings are accurate.

     Make nature journal entries.

    Take photos. Make videos and audio recordings.

4. Share your data.

5. Have fun!
While Nature Journaling - through nature journaling
bottom of page