A list of citizen science opportunities available to people living in Minnesota. Learn firsthand the many complicated ways humanity is impacting natural systems.
I narrowed the list down by programs that had clear instructions and seemed to be currently active. The programs are organized by phenomenon being observed and labeled by estimated commitment level:
- [Low]: On your own time and small time commitment for training (probably just online).
- [Medium]: Instructions on taking proper observations take possibly several hours or may require an in-person training. Observations likely recorded on a regular schedule.
- [High]: Instructions on taking proper observations may require an in-person training. Considerable effort required to record and submit observations. Observations likely required to be recorded at particular times.
- [Low] MPING. Help forecasters right on your phone. Takes 30 seconds and you learn a lot about different kinds of precipitation. This is one of my favorites. Good luck telling graupel from hail!
- [Medium] CoCoRaHS. Organization for backyard precipitation observations. Less of an obligation than being a Co-op observer. We joined spring 2018.
- [Low] Weather Rescue or Old Weather. Probably pretty fun if you are a history buff. Help make old climate data much better by digging through old weather observations from ships and weather stations.
- [Low] MN DNR Lake Ice. Just email/call the DNR when your nearby lake ices in and ices out and they will add the data to their spreadsheet. An incredible record of change in Minnesota! Can also be an official MPCA lake ice volunteer.
- [Medium] Skywarn. Help NWS monitor severe weather. I am not sure how fun it actually is but their reports are frequently used by the forecasters.
- [Medium] Minnesota Phenology Network. Track plants and animals responses to the changing seasons to help scientists understand how different organisms are responding to climate change. My dad has been a phenology observer for about 10 years now and has collected an incredible amount of high quality data on Minnesota’s changing seasons.
- [High] Co-op Weather Observers. Best-of-the-best weather observation network. On-the-ground observers of temperature, precipitation, frost, and other variables for the National Weather Service. NWS Twin Cities is not currently looking for volunteers but may be in the future. My parents have been doing this for 10 years.
- [Medium] Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project. Learn from certified wildlife trackers how to interpret animal tracks and sign. The project has several sites it frequently re-visits in the greater Twin Cities area. The leaders of this project have incredible knowledge, you are guaranteed to learn a ton if you attend a survey.
- [Medium-High] Climate Watch. Audubon Society effort to track changes in bird species deemed to be particularly sensitive to climate change.
- [Medium] Project FeederWatch, Great Backyard Bird Count, Christmas Bird Count. National and international censuses of birds, some going back more than a hundred years! See how your backyard compares to neighbors.
- [Low] eBird. The app behind many bird surveys. Record sightings of bird species on your own time.
- [Low] HerpMapper. Record sightings of reptile and amphibian species on your own time. Minnesota Turtle Crossing Tally and Count works with HerpMapper.
- [Low-Medium] Minnesota Bee Atlas. Different participation levels. Record sightings of bees and bumble bees on your own time, adopt a bumble bee survey route, or observe a solitary bee nesting block in your yard.
- [Low-Medium] Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Submit observations of monarch habitat and larva.
- [Low] Red Admiral and Painted Lady Research. Record sightings of butterflies in the genus Vanessa.
- [Low] OdonataCentral. Record sightings of dragonfly and damselfly species on your own time. Submit observations of 5 major dragonfly species at a local pond with Dragonfly Pond Watch.
- [Low] Lost Ladybug Project. Record sightings of ladybug species on your own time.
- [Low] Journey North. Track the migrations of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds and other species.
- [Low] Firefly Watch. Record the presence or absence of fireflies in your backyard.
- [Low] The Great Sunflower Project. Record sightings of pollinators visiting a sunflower you planted.
- [Low] Bear sightings. Help the MN DNR track changing black bear populations.
- [Low] Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program and Volunteer LoonWatcher Survey. Help the MN DNR track loon populations.
- [Low-Medium] Wasp Watchers. Monitor nearby habitat for the smoky winged beetle bandit wasp, a predator of the emerald ash borer. If a nest is found volunteers monitor to see if the wasp catches any emerald ash borers and alert authorities to the presence of the borer.
- [High] Minnesota Forest Pest First Detector Program. Help authorities track high-risk invasives.
- [High] Aquatic Invasive Species Detector. Help monitor the spread of aquatic invasives.
- [Low-Medium] Arrest the Pest. Submit observations of invasives on your own time.
- [Medium-High] Great Lakes Worm Watch. Join a pre-existing project or start your own project tracking the spread of invasive earthworms.
- [Low] Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program. Tell the MN DNR if your docks, boats, or other water equipment had zebra mussels on them.