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Citizen Science in 2017: A Year in Review

January 31, 2018

2017 was a great year for citizen science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences! Check out some of the accomplishments we made over the past year.

Armpit and Earwax Microbes

We have already processed samples from more than 76 people. Thank you to those who have participated so far! We plan to hold more sampling events in 2018 and we are particularly looking for participants with dry (white, flaky) earwax. These people have two copies of the dry variant of the ABCC11 gene, and we’re excited to see how having this genotype changes the kinds of organisms that live on your skin.

fox camera trap imageCandid Critters

With the help of our amazing volunteers collecting and uploading data, we have been able to survey close to 1,500 locations around the state, resulting in over 600,000 photos from 84 counties! White-tailed Deer and Eastern Grey Squirrels are still the two most commonly detected species, adding up to 58% of all animal detections.


Cheese Alive!

We have processed more than 20 different kinds of cheese and we are currently collecting many more to process in early 2018. This project is looking at the microbes that give cheeses their distinctive flavors and how your ancestry may play a role in which cheeses you particularly love.


CitSciScribe participants completed 4 projects, or about 20,000 transcriptions, in 2017. Wow! Thanks so much to our returning users, and to our 100 new users in 2017 as well. We also participated in WeDigBio, an international data transcription event, again in 2017 by taking CitSciScribe on the road. We look forward to participating in WeDigBio again in 2018 and to all the new users we’ll recruit this year!

Dragonfly Detectives

Dragonfly Detectives was offered at 17 sites across North Carolina in 2017 and got close to 300 kids involved in dragonfly citizen science. Several participants presented the posters highlighting their results at BugFest 2017. They enjoyed being dragonfly experts during the year of the dragonfly at BugFest!

Dragonfly Swarm Project

The Dragonfly Swarm Project gathered information on close to 500 swarms from 20 countries in 2017. While swarms reported in the US and Canada still dominate the reports coming in (not surprising since the website it in English), it’s always exciting to add new countries to the list. These international reports are further evidence that dragonflies swarm all over the world, not just in places that have annual dragonfly migrations.

Natural North Carolina

Natural North Carolina had a great year! Over 14,000 observations were added to the project, helping us get closer to our goal of documenting all the plants, animals, and fungi in North Carolina. We also gained 126 new participants in 2017! Over 7000 of the observations made last year were made during the City Nature Challenge, a national competition to see which city could document the most species over a 5 day period in April. Raleigh came in 6th place behind the cities in Texas and California. We’re looking forward to participating in the newly international City Nature Challenge in 2018, so look for more information about the event coming soon.

Variation in house sparrow eggsSparrow Swap

Forty bluebird nestbox monitors across 15 states participated in Sparrow Swap in 2017. Together they removed and swapped over 750 House Sparrow eggs to study House Sparrow management strategies and the use of House Sparrow eggs as indicators of environmental contaminants.

Coming Up in 2018

2017 was a great year, but 2018 is looking great so far! Check out some things we have coming up this year:

The Genomics Research Lab, in collaboration with Rob Dunn’s lab at NCSU, will be studying the microbes in fermented foods in 2018. More info coming soon!

CitSciScribe is getting a facelift! We’re adding new document formats this year, including handwritten materials for the first time. Look for a dragonfly project soon. We’re planning to participate in WeDigBio again in October 2018 as well, so be on the lookout for more information about that event in the summer or early fall.

The City Nature Challenge is taking place April 27-30, 2018. Join us as we show the rest of the WORLD how amazing North Carolina’s citizen scientists are! We’re planning to have talks at the Museum, a table at the SciTech Expo, scheduled walks with naturalists, and are partnering with other organizations and sites to bring you even more great things during this event. The schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, but we’ll post details on the Musem’s City Nature Challenge listing on the event calendar so you can follow along as we add new activities.

And finally, we’re launching a new project soon, Sound Around Town! This project will have you recording sounds you encounter in your everyday life. We’ll keep you posted so you’ll know when the project is open to your participation!

Thank you to everyone who participated in NCMNS citizen science projects in 2017. We hope to see you again in 2018 as we share another great year of citizen science!

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