Other Projects and Resources

Project Watershed

Project Watershed is a consortium of groups that facilitate water resource education in Central New York. They provide access to programs, equipment and training for water monitoring projects, and contribute to, and use, an internet database. The consortium coordinates three separate projects, two of which focus on high school students. The third project, Select-A-Stream (SAS), is aimed at adult volunteers in Onondaga County. Volunteers work in teams to monitor seven compromised streams in Onondaga County: Beartrap Creek, Butternut Creek, Ley Creek, Limestone Creek, Onondaga Creek, Nine Mile Creek and Skaneateles Creek.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: Select-A-Stream surveys are conducted in April, June, August and October.
  • Geographic location: Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties.
  • Tools: Each of the two projects listed above owns a DREL portable lab.
  • Time commitment: Several hours four times a year.
  • Cost: None
  • Other:

Volunteer Water Monitoring Programs

This directory lists volunteer organizations around the country engaged in monitoring rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, wetlands, and ground water, as well as surrounding lands. It is intended to serve as a living document that will grow and change with the continued flourishing 
of the volunteer monitoring movement nationwide.

EPA – National Directory

Project Description: This is an EPA hosted clearinghouse with citizen science opportunities in water monitoring, including rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal areas. There are some glitches on the site, but try going to “View Programs By State” on the side menu, hit “next” to get to the page showing New York, then hit the tiny drop-down arrow to see the specific projects. Keep in mind that this list is not screened by Empire State College and may be more out of date than the other citizen science projects we describe on our site.

  • Focus: Water monitoring
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Nationwide including New York; some very local projects on particular streams and watersheds (e.g., Flint Creek, the Little Hoosick, or Ontario County)
  • Tools: Varies, many projects will train you and provide equipment such as pH meters
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: None
  • Other: If you start your own citizen science project, this might be a good place to post it.

Monroe County Community Water Watch

Project Description: All the water that moves through the homes and gardens of residents of Monroe County eventually flows to either Lake Ontario or the Genesee River, carrying a variety of household and garden contaminants. This water quality monitoring project enlists citizen volunteers to monitor the smaller streams in the county that are not always monitored by government agencies due to limited resources.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: all year
  • Geographic location: Monroe County (New York)
  • Tools:
  • Time commitment:
  • Cost: None
  • Other:

Adopt Your Watershed

This is a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site that connects users to citizen based groups that are active in stewardship of local watersheds. As of October 2007 the site linked to 2200 different groups engaged in watershed monitoring, cleanup, and restoration of rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes, ground water, and estuaries. Volunteer monitors are trained in pollution prevention, may help clean up polluted sites, and collect data for sites that might not be assessed otherwise. As with other water monitoring projects, the data that volunteers provide becomes a valuable resource for decision makers.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: Year round
  • Geographic location: Nationwide
  • Tools: Vary, depending on whether you are joining an established group, or forming your own.
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: Varies, depending on whether you are joining an established group, or forming your own.
  • Other:

Project NestWatch (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

This is a continental-scale monitoring program for people who like to find and document bird nests. You’ll collect information about the net itself, bird habitats, number of eggs, and fledglings to help scientists track survival and success of birds in an increasingly human landscape. Participants can also access databases about birds of interest in their local area, to see which species are thriving or declining.

  • Focus: 25 focal species that are common and widely distributed, but nest records from any species are sought.
  • Season: Spring/Summer (breeding season)
  • Geographic location: Any
  • Tools: Internet
  • Time commitment: Any
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Web materials include an overview of the nesting cycle. Note that it is illegal to significantly disturb or collect bird eggs or nests without a federal scientific permit.

Adirondack Loon Conservation Project (Audubon Society of NYS)

Common Loons have long-been romantically associated with wilderness, but scientists are learning that they truly are sensitive environmental indicators, particularly in terms of human disturbance, water quality, and fisheries. There are concerns about loon populations suffering from ingesting lead fishing tackle as they forage lake bottoms and about accumulating mercury traced through the food chain back to power plant emissions. Citizen scientists are needed to count loons, record vocalizations and behaviors, help band loons, and educate park residents and visitors. You can become a “Loon Ranger” to regularly report on nesting success, disturbance, and shoreline development on one or more lakes.

  • Focus: Common Loon
  • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall (annual census is in July)
  • Geographic location: Adirondack Park
  • Tools: Binoculars helpful
  • Time commitment: Open
  • Cost: None
  • Other: This project connects with other state and regional efforts to manage loon populations.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Varied opportunities with friends groups at DEC regional environmental centers, delivering sportsman education, observing wildlife (e.g., gamebirds, bobcats), and even diving on artificial reefs and submitting records.

  • Focus: Varies
  • Season: Varies
  • Geographic location: New York State
  • Tools: Varies
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: None to participate
  • Other: Search DEC website using the keyword “volunteer” then scroll through listings

New York City Bee Watchers

This is a subgroup under a nationwide project on pollinators focused on the 226 species of bees currently known from New York City. It is particularly helpful if you know at least common names of flowering plants, but you can send in digital photos for help with identifications. As for the bees, the project uses four categories of honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, and metallic green bees. Project organization is currently through the American Museum of Natural History.

  • Focus: Bees in the city
  • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall (when temperatures are above 70 degrees F).
  • Geographic location: Prospect Park, Central Park, and Forest Park have official stations, but other sites are fine.
  • Tools: None
  • Time commitment: First and third weekends of each month are preferred. The best times to observe are 10 am to 12 Noon. Watch a flower for up to 30 minutes or until five bees have visited, recording what you see. “Zero” visits are still valuable to document.
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Records can be submitted as a .doc file using email, or sent by paper copy

Mushroom Observer

Perhaps less than 5% of the species in Kingdom Fungi are well-known, and amateur mycologists are needed to help find, describe, and report species worldwide. This community also helps observers identify mushrooms correctly with a searchable database and interactions with other members, and has plans for website translations in four languages. This is a great project if you are also a photographer, since new images are continually sought from each reporting location.

  • Focus: Fungi, broadly defined, to include lichens
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Worldwide
  • Tools: Digital camera helpful
  • Time commitment: Open
  • Cost: None
  • Other: The all-volunteer project is also seeking help from people with web design skills, developers, and translation skills (German, Spanish, Portuguese).

FrogwatchUSA

Newly sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, FrogWatchUSA helps citizen scientists find frog and toad hotspots, identify different species, and quantify frog call intensity which correlates to frog abundance. One of the key research outcomes so far has been learning about “probabilities of detection” of different species under different environmental conditions.

  • Focus: Frogs and toads
  • Season: Early spring through summer
  • Geographic location: Nationwide including New York
  • Tools: Flashlight, thermometer, watch, paper copy of Beaufort wind scale to estimate wind intensity without technical equipment (download from the web).
  • Time commitment: Suggested 20 minutes per week, beginning 30 minutes after sunset and using 3-minute sampling periods
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Learn the calls from online links or cds; submit records online or on paper copies

Firefly Watch (Museum of Science, Boston)

Does it seem like there are fewer fireflies out during summer nights than you remember as a kid? You’re not alone in thinking that. This project, organized by Tufts University and Fitchburg State College, uses a map blog for volunteers to share their observations and document patterns of firefly abundance. Some of the habitat factors may be human application of fertilizers and pesticides, the bright lights in cities, and even the amount of standing water – we really don’t know!

  • Focus: Any firefly species, three in New England can be identified by their flash pattern.
  • Season: Late spring through summer
  • Geographic location: Eastern U.S., including New York
  • Tools: Internet
  • Time commitment: Open, ten minutes per week suggested
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Project includes a discussion board and interviews with scientists.

Project FeederWatch (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Count the highest number of birds of each species seen over a limited time period, two consecutive days once every two weeks. Information about common birds is just as important as for rare ones. Data collected is analyzed by scientists and contributes to reports on the status of North American birds. This is one of the longest running and best-known citizen science projects in the U.S.

  • Focus: Birds
  • Season: November through April
  • Geographic location: State and nationwide
  • Tools: Bird feeder.
  • Time commitment: A few hours per month in winter, more if desired.
  • Cost: $15 covers a research kit, feeder tips, and subscription to project updates.
  • Other: Cornell hosts an online bird identification guide and shares project results from past years online, including your personal count records and abundances by state.

 NestCam “CamClicker” (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Do citizen science through your computer by helping review and sort webcam images of nesting birds. Using a game-style interface, as a registered “CamClickr” you’ll tag significant biological data for scientific analysis. The website trains you to recognize breeding bird behaviors, allows you to ask questions, and move up the ranks to more detailed protocols. This is a great opportunity to work alongside your kids for twenty minutes after dinner and make a real contribution to active research on bird energy budgets, pair behaviors, nestling development, and other questions that relate to bird conservation.

  • Focus: Eight species of cavity-nesting (nestbox) birds including bluebirds, swallows, chickadees, and barn owl (you choose).
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Web access (any). NestCams are physically based in Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Paducah, Kentucky; Princeton, Kentucky; Newburg, Oregon; Benicia, California; Dallas, Texas; McKinney, Texas, and Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • Tools: Internet with FlashPlayer plugin
  • Time commitment: Open
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Since NestCam technology has just evolved, you might even see something new!

 House Finch Disease Survey (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Help document the frequency and spread of an avian eye disease called conjunctivitis (not transmitted to humans) by reporting birds with obviously swollen eyes. This helps biologists understand disease and host interactions, including population regulation and adaptation. Web resources train you what to look for among these colorful backyard birds.

  • Focus: House Finches, American Goldfinches
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Eastern United States including New York
  • Tools: None required, binoculars helpful.
  • Time commitment: Any
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Currently, data submission is restricted to paper forms. A special finch-banding project in Ithaca, NY also asks for any sighting reports of finches with colored leg bands.

Great Backyard Bird Count (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

One of the issues in monitoring bird populations is that sometimes the same birds get double-counted as they fly around. A way to reduce this error is to have observers all count birds during the same time period. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) needs help in submitting peak count totals for your area’s birds through an online checklist. Participants can see other observer’s records and also submit bird photos. In 2008, 85,000 checklists were submitted covering 9.8 million birds of 635 species. The data is correlated with weather patterns and habitat types to identify bird conservation issues and trends.

  • Focus: Winter birds
  • Season: February
  • Geographic location: Nationwide including New York
  • Tools: Internet
  • Time commitment: 15 minutes on at least one day, four days preferred
  • Cost: None
  • Other: You can also go to a park or wildlife refuge to do your counts.

National Phenology Network

Long term monitoring of plant phenology (timing of leaf out, flowering, fruit ripening, leaf color change, etc.), is being used to document the response of ecosystems to global climate change. Citizen science volunteers may participate at three different degrees of intensity, based on level of expertise, interest or time commitment. The three sub-projects are: Project Budburst; NPN Core Protocols; or NPN Intensive Protocols.

  • Focus: Phenology and environmental variables/climate change
  • Season: Growing Season
  • Geographic location: Nationwide
  • Tools: Activity Guide, Identification Guides (both downloadable from site)
  • Time commitment: Need to observe selected plant throughout the growing season (ideally every day) and record the date of each phenophase.
  • Cost: None
  • Other: In 2010 Insect and Animal phenology will be included in the monitoring.

Project Budbreak

This project collects similar information to that of the National Phenology Network, but is specifically designed to allow citizen scientists to focus on the impact of climate change on the native flora of Central New York.

  • Focus: Phenology and environmental variables/climate change
  • Season: Growing Season
  • Geographic location: Nationwide
  • Tools: Detailed manual (downloadable from site)
  • Time commitment: Need to observe selected plant throughout the growing season (ideally every day) and record the date of each phenophase.
  • Cost: None
  • Other:

 Mountain Plant Monitoring (Appalacian Mountain Club)

Volunteers collect data on time of plant flowering (phenology), and these observations are then collected in a database of environmental trends. The data can be used to study the impact of global climate change on key flora of the Appalachian Mountain ecosystems. Alpine flowers may be monitored in the alpine parts of the mountains and the forest flowers at 1500 feet and above, in most mountain ranges in the eastern U.S.

  • Focus: Phenology of alpine flowers and/or forest flowers
  • Season: Late May through August
  • Geographic location: Appalachian Mountains (Georgia to Maine)
  • Tools: Field Guide and data sheet (download from site or request by mail)
  • Time commitment: No minimum specified
  • Cost: None
  • Other: AMC has also partnered with the national and regional phenology networks in monitoring fall leaf-color changes.

Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

The Adirondack Park contains the largest area of wilderness East of the Mississippi and in recent years a variety of invasive plant species have been documented in the park. Inventory and control methods have been introduced to eradicate or stop the spread of these species. Citizen volunteers can contribute by participating in the inventory process or engaging in control activities. Data collected from the inventories is used to produce maps of the distribution of the targeted species. Volunteers attend a training session on plant identification and survey methods.

  • Focus: Invasive Plant Species
  • Season: June, July, August
  • Geographic location: Adirondack Park
  • Tools: None
  • Time commitment: Conduct at least one survey between June and August
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Date, times and locations are announced in late spring/early summer

Adirondack Biodiversity Project: All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI)

Individuals and groups look for all species within a particular study area, documenting habitat preferences that can inform management of park resources. In 2007, a large “bio-blitz” event was held at the Paul Smiths Visitor Information Center and found 382 species in 24 hours.A new faculty position at Paul Smiths College is planned to help coordinate this inventory in the future. This idea started with a survey of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, led by the Discover Life in America organization.

  • Focus: All species in Adirondack Park
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Northeast NY
  • Tools: None required
  • Time commitment: Open
  • Cost: None
  • Other: A User’s Guide is planned for the project website

YardMap (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

The YardMap Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of bird habitat, for both professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments. We collect data by asking individuals across the country to literally draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. We connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.

Smartphone Apps for Wildlife Observations

Three citizen science projects created by Danielle Garneau, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh. RoadkillGarneau, WildlifeBlitzGarneau, and TrackingWildlifeGarneau. If participants do not have smart phones, they can input information online at the link above.

Take the Next Step

Ready to advance your education and career? There’s no time like the present. Apply now, or learn more about SUNY Empire at one of our information sessions.