Citizen Science at NOAA

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Public participation in scientific research is a growing trend in our increasingly crowdsourced world. Citizen science, as it is called, typically involves data collection by members of the public who pass their information along to researchers trying to answer real-world questions.

Volunteer monitoring has contributed for many years to diverse fields ranging from astronomy to medicine and computer science to natural resource management. Volunteers benefit from opportunities for informal education, while contributing to outreach efforts that promote public understanding of scientific issues.

The idea behind citizen science is that anyone, anywhere, can participate in meaningful scientific research. Transcript


There are dozens of citizen science projects within NOAA that provide opportunities for people to engage in scientific investigation. At NOS, popular citizen science projects include:


  • Report Nautical Chart Errors to Keep Boaters Safe


    You can increase boater safety, help reduce the risk of accidents, and increase the quality of NOAA charting products by submitting nautical chart errors discovered while boating. Learn more.



  • Citizen Science Water Level Application


    A citizen science application to report water levels is available online, anyone can submit a water level report from their mobile device. This application collects photographs and associated GPS locations of water levels. Learn more.





  • Marine Debris Monitoring Toolbox


    The Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project, or MDMAP, is a citizen science initiative that engages NOAA partners and volunteers across the nation to survey and record the amount and types of marine debris on shorelines. Learn more.



  • Marine Debris Tracker


    This mobile application lets people report litter on the water anywhere in the world. Learn more.




  • National Marine Sanctuaries Opportunities


    Volunteers help to ensure national marine sanctuaries remain America’s underwater treasures for future generations. These volunteers participate in a wide variety of activities including diving, whale identification, beach cleanups, water quality monitoring, collecting field observations and surveys, acting as visitor center docents, and wildlife monitoring. Learn more.




  • Phytoplankton Monitoring Network


    This volunteer network was established to monitor marine phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms. Learn more.



  • Volunteering at Estuary Reserves


    You can contribute in many ways to protect estuaries and conserve their valuable natural resources. No matter what your background or talent, we have volunteer opportunities at every national estuarine research reserve. Learn more.



  • GPS on Bench Marks


    A bench mark is a permanent mark or disk that’s either in the ground or attached to a large structure. This permanent mark has a known elevation or height which makes it valuable to NOAA. There are over 400,000 bench marks in the United States, and in the GPS on Bench Marks project, anyone can visit the bench mark of their choice, record field notes, take digital photos, and collect GPS observations or coordinates and then use online tools to send the information to NOAA. Learn more.




Infographic Transcript

6 Ways to Be a Citizen Scientist

  • Track the Tides: Report local water levels and flood impacts to help NOAA better understand and communicate about future floods.
  • Monitor Marine Debris: Record the type and amount of debris on your beach to help scientists tackle the challenge of marine debris.
  • Watch for Whales: Share your whale sightings so scientists can track their population trends.
  • Fight Harmful Algal Blooms: Collect water quality data that helps NOAA respond to harmful algal blooms.
  • Geocache for a Good Cause: Gather field notes, photos, and GPS data at bench marks for location and height data.
  • Be a Sanctuary Steward: Pitch in at a local marine sanctuary or estuarine research reserve.
  • Video Transcript

    Make a difference: volunteer at NOAA! The Earth. Our home. We enjoy everything it provides. But what we take, we must give back. And you, too, can give back. Get your feet wet and team up with people who, just like you, want to pay it forward and have an adventure. Join a volunteer program at your local National Marine Sanctuary or National Estuarine Research Reserve. Help count whales and fish, plant sea grass, remove debris from our waterways, or collect data while making friends and having fun. Volunteering is one of the best ways to enjoy our beautiful coastal and wetland destinations. And to make a difference.



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