Being a biologist and in an educator role, I'm seeing an increase in the amount of projects and activities directed at citizen scientists. There seems to be something for everyone. Data collection is no longer for the degreed alone. It's pretty cool. Recently, I learned that my employer is a member of a collaborative citizen science effort called "Project BudBurst". It's plant stuff (not my forte), but I wanted to share it here as it may tickle some reader's fancy.
The purpose of Project BudBurst:
Scientists are too few and far between to gather needed data about phenology -- the first unfurling leaves and flowers following winter. Fortunately, every citizen represents a possible scientist! Documenting phenology basics in your area -- to whatever degree you can -- will help scientists better understand the local effects of and regional trends in climate change. Project BudBurst also fosters citizen awareness of local ecology, and helps us feel a little more aware and connected to the place we call home. It was piloted April - June 2007 with wide citizen participation.
Who can get involved (and how):
Participation begins with a quick online registration at www.budburst.org. Individuals must be at least 13 yrs. old to log their observations; however, there is a built-in component to the program for young kids (k-6) to log their observations through school, along with lots of fun stuff for teachers to use in and out of the classroom.
How it works:
Project BudBurst has taken as much guesswork out as possible so folks won't get bogged down in options and frustrated: they've broken down plants into obvious groups (native shrubs/tree, common ornamentals, etc.) in an activity guide. After looking over the activity guide, you can start keeping an eye on the vegetation in your backyard, on your neighborhood walk, or a street you regularly drive down... and log it in when you see that first unfurling leaf or flower. The program makes identifying your observation locations easy, too: you can enter a street address or break out that fancy GPS unit you may have gotten for Christmas and enter coordinates.
If you've got kids, you already know they love this stuff. Have fun!