Citizen science in action

From counting seabirds to collecting rare plants, UW professors and students are partnering with caring Washingtonians to research pressing environmental issues.

Be A World of Good

A University of Washington program powered by citizen scientists aims to characterize debris washed up on beaches in terms of potential harm to seabirds and other marine animals. It’s one of thousands of research projects around the globe in which citizens collect, verify, analyze and report data about everything from what’s on the beach to what’s in the stars.

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Stephanie Valdez

2014 graduate in biology

As an undergrad, Stephanie helped for three years organizing and communicating with citizens volunteering with the seabird watch-group COASST where she most liked “interacting with all ages – from kids as young as 4 to volunteers in their late 80s.” Today she’s putting that experience to work on-the-job for a research project at Hood Canal organizing citizens, tribal shellfish biologists and shellfish hatchery personnel.


Hillary Burgess

2013 master’s in environmental and forestry sciences

While earning her master’s, Hillary recruited landowners across Snohomish County who were willing to keep detailed logs regarding the pollinators visiting their gardens. Unexpectedly, her project led to the documented sighting of a white-bottomed Western bumble bee, the first confirmed sighting in the state in two decades.


Rachel Whitehead

Senior, biology and art

Rachel joined July’s foray collecting specimens for the UW Herbarium, gaining experience in recognizing and identifying angiosperm plants as well as the process of collecting and pressing plant specimens. She is also one of the botanical illustrators working on the illustrated manual Flora of the Pacific Northwest.


Tessa Forbes

Senior, biology and history

As part of the Urban Pollination Project, Tessa (right) learned about bee ecology and plant-pollinator interactions, what goes into experimental design and has conducted data collection and data analysis. The opportunities have “helped me learn more effectively than in many of my classes,” she said.


Jessica DaBell

2011 graduate in environmental and forest resources

Jessica participated in the 2011 UW Herbarium foray learning to voucher plant specimens while working with a diverse group of professional botanists. At the herbarium in the months that followed, she used technical keys to identify some of the specimens brought back. She went on to do botanical field work for the Bureau of Land Management and is currently applying to graduate school in plant biology.

Join in: Examples of UW citizen science opportunities in the natural sciences