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These examples are all forms of “citizen science” happening at environmental education centers, National Park research learning centers, nature centers, and other non-formal education institutions. Citizen science is a research and education tool that involves everyday people in real and meaningful forms of science, including biological inventory, long-term monitoring, and investigative research. All of these examples demonstrate ways that these institutions are using citizen science as a tool for furthering their missions of educating the public about the environment, teaching people about the process of science, and connecting people to the natural world. They also demonstrate ways that citizens are helping to generate reliable, useful data for science.
While this approach is known by many names (e.g., citizen monitoring, collaborative research), “citizen science” is a term in wide use and recognized by many individuals in both the education and science community. Citizen science can take many different forms, but typically includes several elements that make it distinct from other education and research tools.