Citizen 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 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 us 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. A simple protocol is followed. The information gathered is valuable for the protection and conservation of birds that utilize Michigan habitats. This cannot be done without the help of our community scientists! 



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 information is needed to effectively manage and protect these unique and important wetlands. 

                                                                                                                                                      > Visit Vernal Pool Patrol 

River Sampling

Twice a year, KNC spends the day sampling the Kalamazoo River watershed for aquatic insects as a part of the Michigan Clean Water Corp stream monitoring program. 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.

                                                                                                                                                                      > Visit MiCorps

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 citizen 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 led by research staff, 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 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. 



Artificial 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 

                                                                                                                                                              > 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!     
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