Science needs you. You can help scientists comb through data produced by sophisticated technology and pick the important pieces.

It’s happening already, as hundreds of thousands of citizen scientists from around the world accelerate space and cancer research, improve wildlife conservation and repair environmental damage.

Some online training might be required. But in many cases, all you need to help is a computer or a smartphone, some time, and some skills in pattern recognition and classification. The work teaches you about fascinating research and offers new understanding of scientific subjects and connections to fellow citizen scientists and even top experts.

Here are five endeavors waiting for you:

Planet Hunters

Find planets outside our solar system by analyzing data from the NASA Kepler space telescope. Look at a light curve, the time series of stars’ brightness measurements, and mark the brightness changes. Add your discoveries to 1,200 planets already found.

Cyclone Center

Chase tropical cyclones to help climatologists predict behavior of future ones. Classify and interpret infrared satellite images of the past storms. Your input will help scientists better estimate the intensity of future storms.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Watch birds in your area and join a worldwide bird census. The count helps researchers better understand birds’ distribution and movements. Just tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. In 2016, participants in more than 130 countries spotted 5,689 species.

Plankton Portal

Dive (virtually) into the ocean to help scientists understand plankton, the tiny oceanic organisms. You’ll be marking and classifying images taken by an underwater imaging system. As indicators of a marine area’s ecological health, plankton tell scientists a lot.


Help determine whether the Stardust spacecraft brought interstellar dust particles back to Earth. Look at images to search for dust impact. If you discover a particle, you can name it, and the name will appear on a related scientific paper.