Citizen Science

A tremendous effort is made by agencies, institutions, and organizations throughout Wisconsin to better understand our natural resources and the complexities of management. With shrinking budgets and increasing human impacts, many scientists and land managers turn to volunteers to help collect data for research and management work. This citizen science work is critical for understanding Wisconsin's natural world.

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers participate in a wide variety of citizen science activities. Participation usually involves formal training to learn more about the topic or species, the research, and the data collection methods or protocols used.  

Some examples of existing citizen science opportunities include:

  • Stream monitoring

Insufficient data represents a major hurdle to making informed decisions about local water resources. Stream monitoring provides important baseline and trend data that may be the only data available for a particular waterbody.

  • Carnivore tracking and large mammal reporting

Because carnivores are often secretive and occupy very large home ranges, it is difficult to monitor them by direct observation. Scientists can still, however, estimate the abundance and distribution of carnivores by observing the number and location of their tracks. Volunteers assist scientists in this effort and have participated in snow track surveys for wolves and other carnivores since 1995. Citizen observations are important in determining the distribution and abundance of rare animals throughout the state, such as cougar, lynx, and moose.

  • Bird monitoring

From water birds to birds of prey, opportunities abound for citizens to assist with monitoring bird populations across Wisconsin. Currently citizen scientists are monitoring a variety of species, including loons, marsh birds, owls, and hawks.

  • Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey

The primary purpose of the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey (WFTS) is to determine the status, distribution, and long-term population trends of Wisconsin's twelve frog species. The survey provides a wonderful opportunity for Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers.

  • Invasive plants monitoring

Plant monitoring is used to identify populations of invasive species that are new to Wisconsin. The ultimate management goal is to monitor and eradicate these populations when possible and control the populations if eradication is not feasible.