Citizen Science: No Experience Required

16 February 2017
Teenage citizen scientists who participated in our forest owl study Teenage citizen scientists who participated in our forest owl study

“Do I need a background in science?” she asked.  A woman interested in volunteering visited our office last week with this question.  She had recently had a mesmerizing experience where she watched raptors soaring overhead and was now looking for a way to get involved with our work.

Among the many ways that you can help HawkWatch International conserve raptors and our shared environment, assisting with research is a fun way to volunteer and it doesn’t require scientific experience.

HawkWatch International, and many other organizations, offer citizen science projects—opportunities for amateur or nonprofessional scientists to help conduct important scientific research.

In fact, much of this research would simply not be conducted without the help of citizen science volunteers.  For example, 196 volunteers participated in HawkWatch International’s projects last year.  In total, these volunteers provided $103,829 worth of service, helping us to learn more about wintering raptors, Short-eared Owls, American Kestrels, and more.

But it isn’t just the organization that benefits from citizen science.  Research has shown that citizen science provides members of the community with a chance to increase their scientific literacy and network with likeminded people, helping to build a more educated and engaged community (Conrad and Hilchey 2011).  It also benefits the environment, as citizen scientists help to collect more data and across larger areas than would be possible with the use of professional scientists alone. 

Ready to get involved in citizen science?  Check out the list below for ways you can get involved in citizen science in your area!

HawkWatch International Citizen Science Projects:
American Kestrel Study
Short-eared Owl Surveys
Forest Owl Study
Winter Raptor Surveys

Not located in Utah? There are still plenty of ways to get involved!

Cornell Lab & National Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count
Tally the number and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes. Count from any location, anywhere in the world. The next count is February 17-20, 2017.

North American Breeding Bird Surveys
Experienced birders can help track the trends of North American bird populations by helping to identify birds during breeding season (June for most of the U.S. and Canada). Participants should be able to identify birds based off sound alone.

American Kestrel Project
Help monitor American Kestrel nest boxes in your area and contribute to the conservation of North America’s smallest falcon.

USGS Banded Bird
Report your sightings of banded birds to the United States Geological Survey to help scientists learn more about the movement, survival, and behavior of birds.

Report your sightings of birds from your phone with the eBird app.

Christmas Bird Count
Participate in North America’s largest and longest running citizen science project that focuses on bird sightings in December and January.


1. Conrad, Cathy C., and Krista G. Hilchey. "A Review of Citizen Science and Community-based Environmental Monitoring: Issues and Opportunities." Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 176.1-4 (2010): 273-91.

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