Feb 25

Become a Citizen Scientist in Yellowstone

Have you ever wanted to conduct field research in the great outdoors? Growing opportunities in citizen science provide an exciting way to assist Yellowstone National Park by helping researchers collect data that aids park managers in planning their conservation efforts. Here’s your chance to think like a scientist about the future of Yellowstone’s plants and animals, while giving something back to the park.

The Yellowstone Citizen Science Initiative is a collaboration between Yellowstone National Park and Yellowstone Forever. The program engages visitors to collect essential data that will help park scientists and management officials better understand how the Yellowstone ecosystem is responding to changing environmental conditions.

The projects that citizen scientists work on are all priorities of Yellowstone National Park, so the work they do directly contributes to the science-driven management of the park.

“By leveraging our unique partnership with the park, we are able to provide unique experiences for park visitors, reach our educational objectives, and contribute usable data—it’s a win, win, win,” says Joshua Theurer, citizen science program manager at Yellowstone Forever.

Some active citizen science projects include the Yellowstone Phenology Project—the study of plant and animal life-cycle changes over time—plus red-tailed hawk nest monitoring, and northern range ungulate research. During the summer season, volunteers commit to several days in a row, or a series of weekends, to participate in one of the studies.

Yellowstone Forever is currently working to create even more opportunities for participants to become involved by folding the research projects into existing educational programs.

“We are building out our youth programs to incorporate these projects as a core component of those experiences,” says Theurer. “There is profound value in allowing students to contribute to real research.”

Starting this summer, the Yellowstone Forever Institute will also add four new citizen science programs to the wildly popular Field Seminar series. Participants will contribute to a citizen science project while learning new skills, engaging with Yellowstone on a deeper level, and enjoying spending time in the park.


Upcoming Citizen Science Field Seminars include:

Citizen Science: Red-Tailed Hawk Nest Monitoring
May 27-28, 2019

Help monitor red-tailed hawk nests by conducting nest surveys and observing hawk behavior. The data collected will be part of a continent-wide effort to provide baseline information on nesting success, serving as an important indicator of future changes to red-tailed hawk habitat and distribution. Learn more

Citizen Science: Field Skills Workshop
June 3-7, 2019

This seminar is focused on developing field skills.  Participants will be introduced to all five citizen science projects while collecting data on plants, insects, bison, pika, and environmental conditions. Learn more

Citizen Science: Home on the Range
June 18-19, 2019

A historically large bison population is changing the landscape of northern Yellowstone. Is there home on the range for the most diverse and abundant ungulate and carnivore community in North America? Help answer this question by collecting data on a variety of ungulate species. Learn more

Citizen Science: The Yellowstone Pika Project
July 11-12, 2019

Due to their sensitivity to warming temperatures, the pika is considered an indicator species for detecting ecological effects of climate change. Help monitor the persistence of this small mammal in Yellowstone to assist researchers in understanding the effects of climate change on the ecosystem. Learn more


Learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Yellowstone Citizen Science Initiative and related Field Seminars at


Photos, top to bottom: Citizen Science, Home on the Range – Yellowstone Forever/Matt Ludin©2019; Bison – NPS photo; Citizen Science, Home on the Range – Yellowstone Forever©2019; Red-Tailed Hawk, Gardner River – NPS photo.