Bluebird on boxCitizen Science

What is it? Citizen 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 Citizen 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 Citizen Scientists help us to understand our changing climate, the health of our natural resources, and the quality of our wildlife habitats. Becoming a Citizen 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! Citizen science is not defined by age, gender, racial identity, citizenship status, education, or physical ability. Our Citizen Scientists are people like you, your neighbors and fellow community members, your children and your friends. The beauty of Citizen 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 our outside, there is a project that was designed with you in mind. 

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. If you do not see a project that matches up with your interests, please contact our Citizen Science Coordinator Jen Meilinger, at jmeilinger@naturecenter.org and we will find projects that you will love!               



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 conducts 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.

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 Jen at jmeilinger@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 Meilinger at jmeilinger@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 Meilinger at jmeilinger@naturecenter.org

Vernal Pool Patrol

Little information is currently available on the status, distribution, and ecology of vernal pools in Michigan.  This information is needed to effectively manage and protect these unique and important wetlands.  The Vernal Pool Patrol is a statewide vernal pool mapping and monitoring program that was launched in 2012 to help address this need. This program relies on citizen scientists, educators, students, and community partners to help identify and map locations of vernal pools in their local communities, and collect information about them, following a standard protocol. The information collected in the field will be added to a statewide vernal pool database, which can be used by a variety of stakeholders to assess and track the status and distribution of vernal pools, and to manage and protect these important wetlands in Michigan.

The Vernal Pool Patrol needs your help!  We are looking for citizen scientists of all ages and backgrounds to help us get more information about vernal pools in Michigan!  If you would like to learn more about these fascinating wetlands, and enjoy spending time outside in nature and participating in science and conservation, this program is for you! Training will be provided!

If interested, please contact Jennifer Meilinger at jmeilinger@naturecenter.org for more information. 

Check out the Michigan Vernal Pool Partnership webpage and like them on facebook

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 by 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