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Looking for a summer project? Try citizen science!

Would you like to make important contributions to science, such as helping planetary scientists understand weather patterns on the south pole of Mars? Professional scientists need the help of volunteer "citizen scientists” to carry out research projects like this one that would otherwise be impossible. One great place to find these projects is the Zooniverse.

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The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Our goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. Zooniverse research results in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wider research community, and many publications.

Human perception exceeds the ability of computer algorithms to distinguish between similar objects or sounds. Humans excel at identifying, say, soil disturbances on Mars’ surface that indicate wind direction and speed or distinguishing bird songs from audio recordings or transcribing historical letters and documents. Unlike computers, humans can also sample water quality in local rivers and ponds and photograph insect species in their neighborhood. These are examples of the many types of citizen-science activities, which extend well beyond science into history, language, arts and literature. The Library of Congress, The National Archives and the Smithsonian all have needs for “citizen archivists.”

Interested students of all ages can benefit from participating in one or more citizen-science projects. You can find dozens of projects to choose from on Zooniverse and other platforms to match your area of interest. By participating, you’ll learn more about the process of research and build your own knowledge base in an area that interests you. You will also be contributing to scientific progress, and you can list and describe your citizen science work on college applications.

The major clearinghouse of citizen-science projects is Zooniverse, a collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Adler Planetarium. Zooniverse includes dozens of active and thousands of completed citizen-science projects at

Also check out these resources—or just Google "citizen science near me"!

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