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Southwest Natural History Resources: Citizen Science in New Mexico and the Southwest

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, New Mexico

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


"A citizen scientist is someone who is not a trained or professional scientist but helps to conduct and contribute to scientific research. Citizen scientists can offer hypotheses, design experiments independently or as part of a larger group, collect and report scientific data, analyze the results, and offer solutions to problems. Through citizen science projects, anyone can help to make scientific breakthroughs happen."  Learn more about citizen science at Citizen Science 101: How Anyone Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Development (many thanks for sending me this suggestion! 😉)

North American Butterfly Monitoring Network, New Mexico Network Started by the New Mexico BioPark Society in 2020, The New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network aims to contribute to the scientific knowledge of New Mexico’s butterfly fauna. Through this initiative, the BioPark Society will continue to fulfill its commitment to wildlife conservation, education, and the community. The standardized long-term data collected by citizen science volunteers, will be utilized by researchers, land managers, and conservationists to evaluate trends in butterfly populations. Shedding light on the health and needs of butterfly populations in the state will enable us to better protect and preserve precious resources.

Western Firefly Project For many years, the Natural History Museum of Utah's entomologist Christy Bills had been hearing anecdotes from Utahns about occasional firefly sightings. The purpose of this project is to continue to find fireflies in the western U.S. in places where they are not expected to be. Started in 2014 as the Utah Firefly Citizen Science Project, the project is expanding to other western states in 2019. Since its inception, the Western Firefly Project has confirmed new populations of fireflies in Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado.  

City Nature Challenge Started in 2016 as a competition between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the City Nature Challenge (CNC) has grown into an international event, motivating people around the world to find and document wildlife in their cities. Run by the Community Science teams at the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the CNC is an annual four-day global bioblitz at the end of April, where cities are in a collaboration-meets-friendly-competition to see not only what can be accomplished when we all work toward a common goal, but also which city can gather the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the event. Look for your city here. Organize a event for your city here.

Zooniverse The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Our goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. Zooniverse research results in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wider research community, and many publications. You don’t need any specialised background, training, or expertise to participate in any Zooniverse projects. We make it easy for anyone to contribute to real academic research, on their own computer, at their own convenience. You’ll be able to study authentic objects of interest gathered by researchers, like images of faraway galaxies, historical records and diaries, or videos of animals in their natural habitats. By answering simple questions about them, you’ll help contribute to our understanding of our world, our history, our Universe, and more. With our wide-ranging and ever-expanding suite of projects, covering many disciplines and topics across the sciences and humanities, there's a place for anyone and everyone to explore, learn and have fun in the Zooniverse. To volunteer with us, just go to the Projects page, choose one you like the look of, and get started.

Great Backyard Bird Count Grab your binoculars and head to the Botanic Garden for the nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count. Volunteer with other citizen scientists around the country for this annual snapshot of migratory birds. All information collected will be given to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to be compiled with data from around the country. Take a look at the Bird Watcher's List for birds you could see at the BioPark.

Birdathon Birdathon is an important annual fundraising and community science event that involves Audubon New Mexico’s staff, volunteers, and supporters in bird watching for a continuous 24-hour period and collecting pledges from generous sponsors like you! It isn’t necessary to bird watch for the full duration of 24 hours, just a portion of the day can be fun and helpful. Birdathon takes place in mid-May, often coinciding with Global Big Day. Everyone is welcome – expert birders, casual birdwatchers and beginners! Like a walk-a-thon, Birdathon participants collect pledges and donations from friends, family members, and coworkers for finding and counting bird species. is an official government website designed to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across the U.S. government. The site provides a portal to three key components: a catalog of federally supported citizen science projects, a toolkit to assist federal practitioners with designing and maintaining their projects, and a gateway to a community of hundreds of citizen science practitioners and coordinators across government as called for in the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2016 (15 USC 3724). In citizen science, the public participates voluntarily in the scientific process, addressing real-world problems in ways that may include formulating research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, developing technologies and applications, and solving complex problems. In crowdsourcing, organizations submit an open call for voluntary assistance from a large group of individuals for online, distributed problem solving.