Citizen Science

Global issues are changing the natural world. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to assist scientists in gathering baseline data that can be analyzed in real time.

Citizen Science started in 1900, with ornithologist and founder of Audubon Magazine, Frank M. Chapman. At that time, many ornithologists and conservationists worried about the decline in bird populations, especially with the popularity of hunting birds for sport. Chapman proposed the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) as an alternative to seasonal hunting. The first year, 28 birders identified, counted, and recorded all the birds seen during the holiday season. A total of 90 species was identified among 25 count circles across the country.

So began what is considered the world’s most significant, longest running, citizen science project. All that effort has paid off. Today, data from 116 annual Christmas Bird Counts has become an invaluable resource to scientists studying avian population trends. Many organizations turn to the database to analyze population shifts in avian species across the world, with Audubon leading the way in analyzing the impacts of climate change and other global impacts on birds.

The Christmas Bird Count is one of hundreds of citizen science projects out there, actively mobilizing everyday people to study the natural world around them and then share their observations and data with scientists. Citizens experience real field work, researchers gain greater depth and breadth of data for analysis, and all play a significant role in the scientific process.

The landscape of western Pennsylvania is in flux. Global issues, like climate change, coupled with local impacts, like those from development, are changing the natural world. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to assist scientists in gathering baseline data that can be analyzed in real time, with actions implemented as quickly as possible. Citizen science comes with minimal time requirements and many observations can be accomplished from the comforts of your own home. Anyone with an interest—regardless of experience or training—is welcomed and encouraged to participate.

As a member of ASWP’s Western PA Citizen Science Corps, you will be able to choose the projects that interest you and as varied as birds, lady bugs, fireflies, and even plant phenology. For each project that you select, you will:

  • Attend the training session, which provides project details and natural history information
  • Select a location to perform your own observations, and participate in the project consistently.
  • Select 1—2 days to perform the same observations at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, Succop Nature Park, Todd Nature Reserve or other ASWP designated areas.
  • Assist ASWP with project work open to the general public.

ASWP also offers free citizen science programs at locations across our service region. These programs are made possible by a generous donation from the Dominion Foundation.

We’re always adding new programs and dates, so be sure to check our website for times and locations! Act 48 credit is available for all programs. Call (412) 963-6100 to learn more.