Citizen Science

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Citizen Scientist Program

Since our founding, the Smithsonian has relied on the talents and dedication of Citizen Scientists. James Smithson was a "gentleman-chemist," and our first Secretary, acclaimed scientist Joseph Henry, recruited volunteers to submit daily weather reports by telegraph, thus laying the groundwork for the National Weather Service. Today, Smithsonian researchers enlist volunteers for an array of tasks, both onsite and online. Depending on your interests, you can help sustain species around the globe and even solve mysteries of the planets and stars!


Smithsonian Transcription Center

Join our distinguished corps of Digital Volunteers and make the Smithsonian's vast scientific collections accessible for research and education.  Our award-winning online platform offers opportunities for enthusiasts to transcribe critical data contained in specimen collection records and transcribe full text of field books and other archival materials significant to the history of science.  Whether you're fascinated with botany or astronomy or the experience of women in science, you'll find meaningful projects on the Transcription Center.

fox looks at camera


Place “camera traps” in your community to assist researchers in answering questions about mammal distribution and abundance.  The eMammal program is managed by a consortium of research organizations including the Smithsonian, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and North Carolina State University.  Professional and volunteer camera trappers use eMammal software to view pictures, identify animals, and upload images to the Smithsonian Data Repository for review and storage. 

Ginko leaf and ginko leaf fossil.

Fossil Atmospheres

Contribute to climate research by collecting samples from ginkgo trees, or help us collect data from microscope images to learn about the ancient atmosphere of the Earth. Ginkgos evolved before the dinosaurs, survived three mass extinctions, and one species is still living today. Join us in researching how the cells of leaves on these trees have changed over time and how we can use this knowledge to learn about past atmospheres.

leaf snap app


Leafsnap is an electronic field guide that helps you learn about tree species and contribute to biodiversity research.  Developed by researchers at Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian, the free mobile app uses visual recognition software to identify tree species from high-resolution photographs of leaves. Leafsnap users automatically share images, species identifications, and geo-coded stamps of species locations with a community of scientists who use the data to map and monitor the ebb and flow of flora.

neighborhood nestwatch

Neighborhood Nestwatch

Be a biologist in your own backyard! Neighborhood Nestwatch participants help answer questions related to the survival of bird populations. Launched in 2000 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Migratory Bird Center, the Nestwatch program focuses on the impact of rapid development on wildlife. Each backyard becomes both a research site and an outdoor classroom.

tagged crab

Opportunities on the Chesapeake Bay

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) located in Edgewater, Maryland, is dedicated to understanding ecosystems to ensure a sustainable future.  Volunteers of all ages work with researchers to investigate topics such as environmental archaeology, forest biodiversity, invasive species distribution, and water quality. SERC Citizen Scientists become partners in discovery, helping researchers gather information on a much larger scale than would otherwise be possible.

people survey in field of flowers

Virginia Working Landscapes

Virginia Working Landscapes is an initiative of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, headquartered in Front Royal, VA. The program promotes conservation of native biodiversity and sustainable land use through research, education, and community engagement. Citizen Scientists are trained to monitor birds, plants, pollinators, salamanders, mammals and other wildlife throughout 15 counties in Northern Virginia.