Community Science

What is it? Community science is a collaboration between professional scientists and any member of the general public who is interested in protecting our environment. Through volunteering as a Community Scientist, people of all ages, experience levels, and interests work to help gather different kinds of data about nature. This data is used to advance research, advise land managers, and inform policy makers. Whether it's catching butterflies, photographing landscapes, surveying birds in your backyard or any of our other engaging opportunities, volunteer Community Scientists help us to understand our changing climate, the health of our natural resources, and the quality of our wildlife habitats. Becoming a Community Scientist is a great way to contribute to valuable research, learn about our environment, and connect with our local ecosystems! We welcome and invite you to join us! 

Who can participate? Short answer: anyone and everyone! Community science is not defined by age, gender, racial identity, citizenship status, education, or physical ability. Our Community Scientists are people like you, your neighbors and fellow community members, your children and your friends. The beauty of Community Science is that it requires little to no previous experience in the subjects you are interested in. We will train you! Whether you like staying inside or outside, there is a project that was designed with you in mind. 

How do I get involved? Join our team of dedicated Community 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. If you do not see a project that matches up with your interests, please contact our Community Science Director, Jen Meilinger, at jmeilinger@naturecenter.org and we will find projects that you will love!          


Contact Us

Jennifer Meilinger                                      Pronouns: she/her/hers                          Community Science Director                  jmeilinger@naturecenter.org

Butterfly Monitoring

Butterflies are key indicators of the health of ecosystems. The Michigan Butterfly Network 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. We are always looking for new volunteer citizen scientists to join the team documenting our local butterflies! 

                                              > Visit the Butterfly Network

Winter Feeder Survey

Help KNC study Michigan birds this winter! Do you have a birdfeeder visible from a window in your home or at your office? If so, you are perfectly equipped to participate in our Annual Winter Feeder Survey. From November through April, we ask our Michigan community to submit monthly information about the birds observed at their birdfeeders whilte following a simple protocol. The data gathered helps researchers better understand, protect, and conserve bird species that utilize Michigan habitats.                                                                                                                                                                       > Get Involved Here

Vernal Pool Patrol

The Vernal Pool Patrol needs your help! Little information is currently available on the status, distribution, and ecology of vernal pools in Michigan.  This critical data is needed to effectively manage and protect these unique and important wetlands from threats such as land development, invasive species, pollutants, and climate change. 

                                                      > Visit Vernal Pool Patrol 

River Sampling

Twice a year, the River Guaridans sample the Kalamazoo River for aquatic macroinvertebrates. By following the MiCorps protocol, the River Guardians are able to determine the water quality. This is possible because some macroinvertebrates are more sensitive to pollutants than others and by looking at individual occurrences it tells a story about the health of the watershed. 

                       > View our Qaulity Assurance Project Plan

Monarch Tagging

The Kalamazoo Nature Center has been tagging Monarch butterflies for the Monarch Watch project since 2006 and could use your help! During the late summer months, we place special stickers, or tags, on the underside of the wing. Doing this allows researchers to answer very important questions about their population and migration habits. This makes a great program for all ages where the entire family can learn about these amazing creatures. Look for program details in our September program calendar!                                                                                                                             > Visit Monarch Watch 

Christmas Bird Counts

Grab your binoculars for the Annual Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society. As the nation’s longest-running community science bird project, this data is essential for assessing the health of bird populations and guiding management decisions across North America. Join KNC in an organized excursion or observe on your own. 

                                                    > Find a count near you! 

Photo Monitoring

Help us manage our property by documenting the changes in our prairies, fens, and woodlands using a camera and compass. We’ve established photo points in sensitive management areas. Taking photos at these points regularly helps us better understand the outcomes of our land management practices and help our prescribed firefighters plan safe and effective burns.  

                                 > Visit our Land Management Page  


We have a dedicated group of citizen scientists who monitor nest boxes at KNC as a part of Cornell's NestWatch citizen science program. This program was designed to track the status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Utilizing the data, researchers can study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over time as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals.                                                                                                           > Visit NestWatch  

Caterpillars Count!

Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project for measuring the seasonal variation, also known as phenology, and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Researchers with this program are looking for citizen scientists to monitor trees in Michigan; let KNC help you set up a monitoring plot! 

                                                       > Visit Caterpillars Count!

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