Calling All Citizen Scientists!

Photo:  Citizen Scientists-in-Training on Jenkintown Creek,Tookany-Tacony/Frankford Watershed

Many volunteer opportunities in our natural spaces!

By Paul Racette

Interested in observing natural spaces and providing valuable information to scientists monitoring water quality, protecting wildlife, or studying climate change?  You can do all of that and more by becoming a Citizen Scientist or a nature volunteer.

Plants & Animals:

  • Heinz National Wildlife Refuge: Heinz Refuge at 8401 Lindbergh Blvd. has many volunteer opportunities in wildlife and habitat preservation, refuge maintenance, removal of invasive plant species and administration (  Or, become a member of the Friends of Heinz refuge by contacting:
  • Bartram’s Garden: Become a steward of Southwest’s unique natural treasure:  Bartram’s hosts regular volunteer sessions each month and in readying the community’s Sankofa Farm.  Also available are special youth programs on a volunteer and paid internship basis.  (
  • Cornell Lab Bird Watch Programs: Participate in one or more bird watch programs including Celebrate Urban Birds (learn about urban birds), eBird (track and share your sightings), NestWatch (monitor bird nests), Project FeederWatch (watch and record birds at your feeders), and Great Backyard Bird Count (in February, count birds at home or in your community).
  • Audubon Bird Watch Programs: Audubon conducts similar bird watch programs including the Christmas Count and Hummingbirds at Home
  • Chicago Botanic Garden:  Report on the life cycle of trees, shrubs, and flowers to help scientists monitor insect pests, report on allergy seasons, or study wildlife that depend on certain plants for food. The Budburst program enables you to observe and report on leafing out, flowering, fruiting, and more for plants in your yard or nearby.

Combine your interest in wildlife viewing, plant observations, and more with the following programs:

  • Watch the WildTM: This Nature Abounds program allows you to report on a suite of natural features.
  • Natures Notebook: This USA-National Phenology Network program allows volunteers to observe specific plant and animal species listed by state.
  • iNaturalist: This app identifies the plants and animals around you.

Clean Water:

Citizen scientists provide data useful to scientists working to solve issues of great importance. How clean are our local creeks? Are recent heavy rain fall events causing more flooding? Are efforts to protect woodlands providing habitat for migratory birds? As a citizen scientist you can help answer these questions while you also enjoy the natural world in your yard, neighborhood, and parks.  Examples of volunteer opportunities to watch and monitor your local stream.

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center:  The education center at special location has programs and activities in water monitoring and other nature activities.  For more information phone (215) 685-1900, or visit › Centers

Weather and Climate:

Report on rain, hail, and snow events to provide real time data to weather forecasters, water managers, and flood watchers:

Food and Nutrition:

Fairmount Farmers Market will begin its Spring Thursday operations March 18 and continues its regular Saturday open market at Clark Park on 40th Street.  Volunteers help with setup/breakdown, customer flow and EBT processing, among other duties.


(Paul Racette is a Program Manager for Watersheds at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). PEC protects and restores the natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education, and advocacy. Through a partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department, PEC is raising awareness of the effects of water pollution via stormwater runoff. For more information, visit PEC’s stormwater page at

Text Box: Volunteer at Heinz National Wildlife Refuge – April 12 - 17
The Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is hosting a series of volunteer litter clean up days April 12th-17.  The cleanup will run from 9-12 each of those days and volunteers will be most welcome.  Heinz Refuge, the nations first and largest urban wildlife refuge, is located at 8601 Lindbergh Blvd.  For more information contact the refuge at 215-365-3118 or email 

(Added info on SW programs for this article was provided by Globe Times Staff)

Share This