White House report showcases NOAA citizen science efforts

At NOAA and beyond, federal scientists are engaging members of the public in citizen science projects to collaboratively address real-world problems. This summer, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published a report to Congress that showcased federal citizen science and crowdsourcing activities from the past two years. Out of the 86 projects highlighted from 14 government agencies, 11 came from NOAA.

Three people looking at their mobile phones while walking on an outdoor path.

Walking down a bike path in Boulder, Colorado, three citizen scientists collect data on the Earth's magnetic field using the CrowdMag cellphone app. (Image credit: Jennifer Taylor/CIRES)

Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced the Implementation of Federal Prize and Citizen Science Authority: Fiscal Years 2017-18 report at the June 14 U.S. Government Open Innovation Summit to an audience of over 150 public and private sector workers. 

“America has always been a nation of thinkers, doers, and problem-solvers,” Dr. Droegemeier said. “By encouraging everyday Americans to engage in scientific research, our citizen science authorities benefit communities and the country as a whole, as well as advance our science and technology enterprise.”

Want to learn more about the NOAA citizen science projects highlighted in the report? Read on to see these 11 examples of the public helping to move science forward, and learn how you can join some of the projects yourself.

  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network   offsite link
    Citizen scientists in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network measure precipitation from their backyards, helping to inform weather forecasting and research. Get involved! offsite link

  • CrowdMag
    You can help map the world’s magnetic fields by simply downloading the CrowdMag app. Your smartphone will detect magnetic fields, and the app then automatically and anonymously sends the data back to NOAA. Get involved!

  • Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground (mPING)
    Is it raining? Hailing? Snowing? Your observations of what’s happening now can help improve weather forecasts later. Download the mPING app to easily and anonymously report the type of precipitation you are experiencing. Get involved!

  • Old Weather  offsite link
    Daily logs from historic ships contain a trove of climate and weather data, but these paper records are difficult for scientists to use. Participate in the Old Weather Project to transcribe data from vessel records. Get involved! offsite link

  • Steller Watch offsite link
    NOAA researchers use remote cameras to keep an eye on endangered Steller sea lions, but they could use a hand reviewing the hundreds of thousands of images they’ve collected. Through Steller Watch, you can help comb through these images to flag the ones in which tagged sea lions are present. Get involved! offsite link

  • Cyclone Center offsite link
    Through the Cyclone Center, citizen scientists helped climatologists decipher and understand tropical cyclones. The program analyzed hundreds of thousands of hurricane satellite images using input from citizen scientists worldwide. 

  • Cooperative Research Provides New Data for ESA-listed Rockfish in Puget Sound, WA
    This project gathered knowledge about rockfish in Puget Sound, ultimately leading scientists to re-draw population boundaries for the yelloweye rockfish and remove the canary rockfish from the endangered species list.

  • Crowdsourced Bathymetry
    The Crowdsourced Bathymetry project encourages mariners to act as citizen scientists, providing measurements of the seafloor in areas where we have little data.

  • Hawaii Bottomfish Heritage Project
    The Hawaii Bottomfish Heritage Project collects oral histories from fishermen to explore how the culture, traditions, and fishing techniques for the Hawaii bottomfish fishery have evolved from Native Hawaiian populations to modern times, helping to sustainably manage the fishery in the future.

  • National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program
    Across the country, National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program observers record temperature and precipitation daily to support weather forecasts and warnings.

  • Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign
    “Urban heat islands” are areas within cities that can run 10 to 20 degrees hotter than other areas. In 2018, volunteers for the Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign worked in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to make detailed temperature maps of each city. Ten U.S. cities are expanding upon this work in 2019.


These projects are just a subset of the many citizen science programs that NOAA and other federal agencies support. To explore more projects, visit the CitizenScience.gov project catalog. You can also read more about the White House report and the use of citizen science across the federal government in this CitizenScience.gov blog piece.