Bluebird on boxCitizen Science

What is it? Citizen science is the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. Here at the Kalamazoo Nature Center we offer a wide variety of scientific projects that volunteers can become involved in. We welcome groups and individuals of all ages and experience levels to join us in our conservation efforts. Becoming a citizen scientist is a great way to contribute to valuable research, learn about our environment, and connect with our natural communities!

How do I get involved? Join our team of dedicated citizen scientists by first filling out a volunteer registration with your skills, interests, and weekly availability so we can match you with a project that is the best fit for you.                

Registration is open for the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program! 

The Michigan Conservation Stewards Program is a leadership training program in which volunteers gain the expertise necessary to help restore and sustain healthy ecosystems throughout Michigan. Field-based, classroom, and online sessions offer hands on learning opportunities focused on ecological foundations, natural resources decision-making, forests, grasslands, wetlands, lakes, and streams. Provided professional level instruction on how to make land management choices our local lands by Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Program Details: The Kalamazoo Program will be held concurrently with Oakland and St. Clair Counties.  Learn more here and register!


Citizen Science Programs
Butterfly Monitoring

Monarch tagging photoButterflies are key indicators of the health of ecosystems. The Michigan Butterfly Network (MiBN) seeks to assess the changing population status of our State's butterfly species, evaluate the quality of Michigan ecosystems, and engage the public in significant citizen science research. To learn more about the Michigan Butterfly Network or become a trained butterfly monitor please visit the MiBN website.

Monarch Tagging

The Kalamazoo Nature Center has been tagging Monarch Butterflies since 2006 and could use your help! During the summer months, we place special stickers, or tags, on the underside of the wing. This tag is specially designed for their wings and does not inhibit their flight in any way. These tags each have a unique code that allows the next person to find them and to know where the individual came from. Doing this allows us to answer very important questions about their population and migration habits. This makes a great family program and all are encouraged to attend and learn about these amazing creatures.

Interested? Monarch tagging days typically run every Tuesday in September from 2:00-4:00pm (weather permitting). Check our calendar for program updates. More information about this nationwide program can be found at Monarch Watch

Avian Surveys

The Kalamazoo Nature Center works closely with the Michigan Audubon Society and other organizations to conduct bird surveys and counts throughout the year. Here are some examples of how you can help: 

Winter Feeder Survey (Nov-May) 
Observe your bird feeder over the course of the winter, recording what you see  

Seasonal Surveys
A statewide survey that compiles all of the species observed in Michigan

Christmas Bird Counts (Dec 14- Jan 5)
Join tens of thousands of other volunteers in recording observations in count circles near you

Email John Brenneman at jbrenneman@naturecenter.org with any questions or visit Michigan Audubon's site for more details.

Useful links for birders:
Beginners Guide to Bird Watching 

River Sampling

Twice a year, KNC spends the day sampling the Kalamazoo River watershed for aquatic macro-invertebrates as a part of the Michigan Clean Water Corp stream monitoring program. Most of these invertebrates are the larvae stage of insects such as mayflies, stone flies, and dragonflies. Sampling for these creatures gives us a great understanding of the health of the river being sampled; because, some of these species are very intolerant of pollution and can only exist in pristine habitats. Volunteers will: 

Attend training on how to wade, use nets, and sample safety by Michigan Clean Water Corps protocols

Split into groups and with group leaders, head to and sample different streams in the Kalamazoo area

Return to KNC to sort and identify invertebrates from collected samples 

Interested? Email Anna at akornoelje@naturecenter.org
More information about the stream sampling program can be found on the Michigan Clean Water Corps website.

Nestbox Monitoring

Bluebird perched on nestboxArtificial nest cavities, or nest boxes, have become widely used across the United State in an effort
to help curb habitat destruction of birds such as Tree Swallows, Eastern Blue Birds, and House Wrens.
Nestbox Monitors will:

  • Attend training on how to follow responsible monitoring practices as well as how to identify nests, eggs, and the age of nestlings 
  • Choose a group of boxes to monitor about once per week from mid April to mid August 
  • Submit their data to KNC and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Watch program 

Interested? Contact Jen Taggett at 269-381-1574 ext. 22 or at jtagett@naturecenter.org for more information.
More information about the program can be found at the Nest Watch Website 


Help us manage our property by documenting the changes in our prairies, fens, and woodlands
using a camera and a compass.  We’ve established “photo points” in sensitive management
areas across KNC.  Taking pictures at these points each season or each year will help us determine
the effectiveness of our management techniques over time. 

Monitors will:

  • Attend a training to learn protocol and proper use of equipment
  • Choose from available sites to monitor
  • Help KNC make better management decisions through photos! 

Interested? Contact Jen at 269-381-1574 ext. 22 or via email at jtagett@naturecenter.org

Vernal Pool Mapping & Monitoring

Due to recent increased awareness of the ecological significance of vernal pools, there has been growing interest in identifying, monitoring, and protecting these small but valuable ecosystems. Their small size and seasonal nature causes vernal pools to be difficult to identify and map, and have not been well-documented in the state. The Vernal Pool Mapping and Monitoring Program was created to use the power of citizen science to locate and identify vernal pools throughout our state in partnership with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Vernal pool monitors will attend a training and field day to learn the proper protocols and procedures for conducting a survey and how to properly identify a vernal pool. Once the training is complete the citizen scientist will be assigned a pool to monitor with the goal being to positively identity all the the vernal pools in our area of the state. If interested, please contact Jennifer Tagett at jtagett@naturecenter.org for more information. 

Citizen Science and Your Smartphone!     

In today's technologically advanced society you can now help researchers across the globe collect valuable scientific data with your phone! The following links describe different citizen science projects that you can participate in with the swipe of your finger. 
-Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) - help researchers document the locations of  300+ invasive plant and animal species
-iNaturalistProject Noah, or Map of Life - help researchers document biological diversity my photographing what you see in nature 
-ebird - document birds you observe in real-time and contribute to avian research, education, and conservation  
-Project BudBurst - help researches gather data on plants throughout the seasons to help understand how they respond to a changing climate 
-Journey North - help researchers study seasonal migration by documenting your Monarch butterfly sightings as well as other migratory species 
-MI-Mast - help Michigan's wildlife managers track the cycle of fruits and nuts produced by trees and shrubs