Citizen science

In citizen science, the public participates voluntarily in the scientific process to address real-world problems. This may include forming research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, developing technologies and applications, and solving complex problems. This work can also go by other names such as “community science” or “participatory science.”

NOAA has a rich tradition of supporting such collaborative work, which continues to this day. Volunteers support a range of projects that do everything from improving our country's weather forecasts to protecting and managing marine species to charting the seafloor.

Students working on sea urchin studies with University of Hawaii Sea Grant.
Students working on sea urchin studies with University of Hawaii Sea Grant. (Pelika Andrade/University of Hawaii Sea Grant)

NOAA's Office of Education supports citizen science by helping to manage a community of practice, coordinating a catalog of projects and representing the agency in broader efforts.

NOAA citizen science project attracted over 564,000 participants who contributed 1.3 million volunteer hours in fiscal year 2022 alone. Citizen science was named one of six NOAA science and technology Focus Areas that help our agency achieve transformational advances in mission performance and efficiency. NOAA released its Citizen Science Strategy in 2021 to provide a path to better observe, predict, and understand the environment, and manage and conserve natural resources by harnessing the power of the crowd. In 2023, NOAA released its Citizen Science Action Plan, which outlines the agency's goals and objectives for the program over the next several years.

1.3 million
volunteer hours
in fiscal year 2022.
participated in NOAA citizen science efforts in fiscal year 2022.
1 of 6
science and technology focus areas
guide transformative advancements in the quality and timeliness of NOAA’s products and services.

NOAA Citizen Science Community of Practice

NOAA launched a Citizen Science Community of Practice in 2013. The community relies on grassroots participation from community members throughout the agency. It primarily works to:

  • Compile best practices.
  • Share resources.
  • Maintain a searchable database of NOAA's citizen science projects.

This community has grown steadily to include over 230 members.

If you would like more information on the Community of Practice, please email

Project catalog

NOAA's Office of Education supports over 60 citizen science projects. You can search through these projects to find information about local and national projects you may be interested in. Please go to catalog of projects (select NOAA in the "View by Agency" field).

Broader efforts

NOAA is an active member of the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. This community helped create a Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit. This Toolkit aids federal practitioners in finding resources to  develop, implement, and improve citizen science projects. Additionally, NOAA is active within the Association for Advancing Participatory Sciences offsite link, formally known as the Citizen Science Association, which provides a coordination mechanism for the field.

Citizen science in action

Watch NOAA citizen science webinars

The NOAA Central Library has created a YouTube playlist of webinars about NOAA citizen science efforts.