Citizen 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 application with your skills, interests, and weekly availability so we can match you with a project that is the best fit for you.                

BIrd Feeder in winterJoin the 41st Annual Winter Feeder Survey!

Do you know that you can be a part of crucial scientific research by watching your bird feeders this winter? Bird enthusiasts of all experience levels are invited to join the 41st Annual Winter Feeder Survey!
A joint project between the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Michigan Audubon Society, the Winter Feeder Survey depends on citizen scientists from across Michigan collecting data by simply observing and recording what is at their bird feeders throughout the winter. This valuable information helps researchers follow the population trends of our feathered friends. The more feeders we watch, the more accurate the results! This program runs November through April, and KNC provides all of the materials necessary to get started.  If you would like to participate in this important statewide project, contact John Brenneman at (269) 381-1574 ext. 30 or via email.

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. Butterfly monitors will:

  • Attend training sessions to learn standardized protocols and identification skills of  common butterfly species 
  • Choose and map a site within their community to survey 
  • Conduct at least six survey throughout the summer (June-August) 
  • Submit their data to MiBN

To become involved in the Michigan Butterfly Network or to learn more, visit the MiBN Website.
There is a job description and application under the "Get Involved" tab.

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? email us  More information about this program can be found at the Monarch Watch Website  - check back soon for details on Monarch Tagging Workshops at the Kalamazoo Nature Center!

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 jtaggett@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 Pond 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.