Citizen Science

Citizen science involves the public in science through crowd source data collection, reporting and analysis. The South Dakota Discovery Center invites families, educators and individuals to participate in a citizen science project both to contribute to the body of knowledge about a research topic and to learn more about your environment, community and world.

Be a Debris Tracker!

And picker upper if it's safe...

Become a citizen scientist and help protect our rivers and streams. Use the Debris Tracker app to map the litter you encounter on your walks around our community. This data is useful to scientists who are trying to solve the problem of plastic pollution in the water by understanding the trash on the land. 

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for an opportunity to win a sturdy reusable bag that can be sanitized. Share our #DebrisTracker posts between April 1 and May 16. We will select three posts from people who share our posts tagged #DebrisTracker. We will announce our winners at the Discovery on Tap event with National Geographic Explorer and plastic researcher Justine Ammendolia.
Download the app

Be a Land Cover Observer!

Use the GLOBE Observer app to make observations of lake, river and stream shorelines, riparian areas and middle of the lake. Whether we are in a drought, flood or normal hydrological year, these photos provide watershed managers important information about the condition of water bodies now and in the future.

GLOBE Observer is a project of NASA. Learn more about land cover and other GLOBE Observer projects at

Get the app!

South Dakota Water Quality Monitoring Volunteer

The South Dakota water quality monitoring volunteer program is part of the 319 Information and Education outreach project, funded by the US EPA Region 8 through the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Participation in this program requires training with department staff. For more information, please contact Anne Lewis.

Links of interest


Citizen Science Projects the SDDC Supports!

  • GLOBE is our school based citizen monitoring project. If you are a teacher or out of school time educator, contact Anne for more information about how you can collect and report data with your students.

  • GLOBE Observer. GLOBE Observer is the citizen science arm of GLOBE. Currently, it is configured to collect data on clouds and mosquito habitat. 

  • iNaturalist. is a community where you report and identify your photos of wild (i.e. not cultivated or tame) flora and fauna. Whether it's a weed in your backyard or a mammal in a national park, share your photos to help document species distribution around the world!

  • Earth Echo Water Challenge. Suitable for kids and families. The Earth Echo Water Challenge uses simple, safe tests to collect data on water temperature, water clarity, pH and dissolved oxygen. Contact Anne for a monitoring kit.

  • Journey North: Journey North offers a lot of different options for citizen science. 

    • Robin Watch is our citizen science event to welcome spring! We kick it off on Valentine's Day and it runs through the first day of spring. Use the resources from  Journey North to learn about robins and what to look for. You then report your observations about the robins' arrival and behavior to their website.

    • Monarch Migration is the citizen science project to kick off fall. Watching (and planting milkweed) for monarchs is a fun summertime activity that also has a strong geography component.

  • TEMPO Ozone Garden: NASA's Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring Pollution (TEMPO) mission uses a satellite flying about 22,000 miles above the Earth's equator to measure air pollutants hourly across North America. We have established an ozone bioindicator garden to help contribute data on local air quality. Get in touch with Rhea to find out how you can observe ozone-induced leaf injury on the plants in our garden as a n individual, a group, or a school, and help monitor pollution for the TEMPO mission.


There are many other citizen science projects. Go to SciStarter to find more to chose from and get involved.

  • CoCoRaHS - The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network collects precipitation information. The SD Discovery Center supports this project in South Dakota by providing rain gauges. 

  • Bird Sleuth and the Great Backyard Bird Count - The GBBC is an annual citizen-science project that asks novice bird watchers and lifelong bird enthusiasts alike to collect data that scientists will use to create a “real-time snapshot” of the locations of birds around the world. Scientists use this information to understand how populations of birds are changing from year to year.

One of the easiest citizen science projects you can do is to keep a nature journal. A nature journal can include weather, birds and animal sitings and behavior, plant activity,. Include sketches or photos. Whether you snap a photo with your phone and upload it with a few comments or keep an actual little notebook like Aldo Leopold, a nature journal is a citizen scientist's document that can provide important, day to day information for the historical record.