Citizen Science

Citizen science entails recording and summarizing the observations made by amateur naturalists. Having many “eyes and ears” studying nature helps advance our understanding of species trends over time. For example, the best information available on long-term changes in bird populations comes from the Breeding Bird Survey, which is entirely based on the contribution of amateur birders. Taking part in citizen science programs is also a great way to get out and experience nature. Get involved!

Here are some popular community science programs in Alberta:

Since 1976, Nature Alberta has promoted the annual May Species Count. This program includes counts of flowering plants, birds, and sometimes mammals. Summaries of the data for each year can be found in the May Species Count Archive. All of our bird data is shared with Bird Studies Canada, where it is available for download on their Nature Counts website.

By reporting when certain plants bloom and leaf out in spring, Albertans contribute vital information for climate change studies. The speed of spring plant development is controlled mainly by temperature, and there is evidence that warming winter and spring temperatures are already resulting in earlier appearances of flowers. Join us in tracking spring timing at Alberta Plantwatch! Read the latest in their newsletters.

The Alberta SaskatoonWatch tracks blooming saskatoon shrubs with Hands on Alberta and Alberta PlantWatch using NatureLynx. Participating is easy! Simply download NatureLynx™, join the Hands on Alberta group, and find the SaskatoonWatch mission. During the month of May, snap photos of saskatoon buds and flowers in your community and tag them to the mission. Read more about the project on the SaskatoonWatch mission on the NatureLynx website or in this downloadable PDF Info Sheet.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey is designed to collect long-term data on the population status and trends of breeding birds throughout North America. The survey has been running in Alberta since 1968, when it started with four routes. Today 85 to 90 routes are visited by volunteers every year.

The annual winter bug count occurs throughout December, January, and February for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Any arthropod (insect, spider, sowbug, etc) found active indoors or out, on land or in water (but not including pets or pet food) counts. Take a photo if you don't know what you have found and post it on the Winterbugs Alberta Facebook page for help in identifying it. Click here to watch a YouTube video description of the event by Naturalist John Acorn.

NatureLynx is a social media platform established by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI). Users download a phone app and use it to identify local species, learn about biodiversity hotspots, and connect with other naturalists. The initiative encourages users to network and mobilize their efforts, both socially and to contribute to the scientific understanding of Alberta’s ecosystems.

The Winter LakeKeepers program is a citizen science program run by the Alberta Lake Management Society. This program equips and enables citizen scientists to independently monitor lakes or reservoirs for parameters important to ecological health while ice fishing. Contact the Alberta Lake Management Society to learn how you can get started monitoring your favourite lake under the ice. Data from Winter LakeKeepers is stored on DataStream.

The Summer LakeKeepers program is a citizen science program run by the Alberta Lake Management Society. Summer LakeKeepers allows volunteers to independently monitor lakes or reservoirs for parameters important to ecological health. Training manuals and monitoring equipment are sent to LakeKeepers to collect monthly data from their lake or reservoir. Data from Summer LakeKeepers is stored on DataStream.

LakeWatch is a volunteer-based water quality monitoring program offered to Albertans who are interested in collecting information about their local lake or reservoir. For more than 25 years, Alberta Lake Management Society technicians have assisted volunteers to test their lakes four times during the summer, collecting important data such as water temperature, clarity, a suite of water chemistry parameters, and invasive species. Once all of the data is collected we produce a LakeWatch Report for the lake which summarizes the data in an easy-to-understand manner. LakeWatch Reports can be used to educate lake users and guide water restoration and management efforts. If you are interested in having your lake monitored as part of the LakeWatch program, please contact

Recent Articles

Using iNaturalist on a smartphone to identify a plant
Using iNaturalist by Matt Wallace

The Rise of Citizen Scientists

By Steph Weizenbach | 20 April 2021


Today, nearly everyone is equipped with the tools to make citizen science observations — even if they do not know a thing about plants or animals! Apps such as iNaturalist use artificial intelligence to help users immediately identify the subjects of photos taken with their smartphone cameras.

Read More
Big brown bat

Bat House Monitoring at Ellis Bird Farm

By admin | 15 October 2020


Bats are fascinating creatures, playing a critical role in supporting biodiversity.

Read More

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