Citizen Science Activities

Our ecosystems are constantly changing. From water sampling and precipitation measurements to plant phenology observations and bird identification, there are many ways you can participate in NEON-related citizen science activities to better understand the environment you live in. Citizen science is a fun and powerful way to both learn scientific concepts and engage  local communities in scientific methods. Citizen science projects also provide an opportunity for people across broad geographic areas to help collect and analyze scientific data. Combined with the long-term data collected by projects and networks like NEON, these data sets are invaluable to scientists and researchers studying ecological change at large spatial and temporal scales.

The following citizen science projects are appropriate for all ages and are related to the types of data we collect:

Are you an educator? Check out our recommended K-12 Activities, including educational standards, for doing hands-on data collection and analysis with students.

Aquatic Data Citizen Science

The NEON aquatic observations program collects data at aquatic sites featuring streams, large rivers, and lakes. At each site, the project’s aquatic observations characterize channel and lake morphology, organism abundance and diversity, and hydrologic changes. By participating in the following activities and comparing your data to NEON’s aquatic sampling data, you’ll learn how hydrologic conditions, surface water and groundwater quality are changing across the United States.

Activity: Conducting basic monitoring of local waterbodies
Organization: Earth Eco Water Challenge
Related NEON Data: Dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity

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Atmospheric Data Citizen Science

The NEON project collects data using automated sensors mounted on meteorological towers across the United States. Tower Sensors monitor physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity and wind. The following precipitation-related activities will walk you through collecting your own precipitation measurements that can be compared to NEON data. You can also learn how to analyze CO2 data that organizations and projects like NEON are collecting.

Activity: Measuring and mapping precipitation (rain, hail and snow)
Organization: CoCoRaHS
Related NEON Data: Precipitation

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Plant and Animal Citizen Science

Field scientists for the NEON project collect observational data of plants, animals, pathogens and microbes at terrestrial field sites across the continent. By participating in the following educational activities, you will be contributing valuable data that can help us understand how plant and animal abundance, diversity, and productivity change long-term.

Activity: Observing birds to learn about their abundance and distribution
Organization: eBird - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Related NEON Data: Breeding landbirds

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Activity: Observing plants, animals and microbes to contribute to biodiversity science
Organization: iNaturalist
Related NEON Data: Plant phenology and diversity, soil microbes, breeding landbirds, small mammals (rodents and shrews), ground beetles (family Carabidae)

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Activity: Monitoring plants to learn how they respond to changes in their environments
Organization: Project BudBurst at NEON Sites
Related NEON Data: Plant phenology

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Remote Sensing Project and Activities

The NEON airborne observation platform (AOP) collects annual remote sensing data over NEON field sites using sensors mounted on an airplane. The AOP consists of a hyperspectral imaging spectrometer, a full waveform and discrete return LiDAR, and a high-resolution Red, Blue Green (RGB) camera. By analyzing NEON remote sensing data, as well as other remote sensing data from other sources, we can learn about more about how vegetation cover and density, canopy chemistry, and topography change over time.

Activity: Using Citizen Science to Validate and Scale Plant Phenology from Near-Surface Remote Sensing
Organization: Season Spotter
Related NEON Data: PhenoCam Images, Vegetation greenness and health (NDVI, EVI)

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Connecting to NEON's data

In addition to collecting your own data, you can visit the NEON Data Portal and compare your observations to NEON field sites across the country. You can also request free airborne data from NEON. Want to know if a field site is located near you? Explore our Field Site Map.

Are you using NEON data? Share your experiences with us at

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