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The Sciences

6 Ways to Dive Into the Science of Thanksgiving

Avoid the Black Friday crowds and deepen your holiday enjoyment with these citizen science projects to get you out of the house.

Citizen Science Salon iconCitizen Science SalonBy Caroline NickersonNovember 28, 2019 5:00 AM
Thanksgiving Day, a holiday primarily centered on gratitude and food, is celebrated in the United States in November. (Credit: Susanne Jutzeler/Pixabay)


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Avoid the Black Friday crowds and deepen your holiday enjoyment with these citizen science projects to get you out of the house. Each of the “courses” below are paired to a project that needs your help accomplishing real scientific research, from the study of seasons to understanding the monarch butterfly migration. This meal is guaranteed to satisfy even the most insatiable curiosity.

Bon appétit!

The SciStarter Team

Citizen Science at Southeast Regional Library
(Credit: Emily Maletz/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Hors d'oeuvres: Nature's Notebook

At Nature’s Notebook, nature is always in season; currently, the program features the spicy flavors of autumn! Deepen your connection with nature by making observations as fall turns to winter. It’s a giant smorgasbord of activities that feeds the soul, but still keeps you hungry for more.

Location: Global

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(Credit: Lauren Nichols/Students Discover)

Bread: Sourdough for Science

Leaven your Thanksgiving dinner with this hearty offering of yeasty science exploration: just add flour and water and discover how microbes affect the flavor and texture of bread.

Location: Global

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(Credit: Shirley Hirst/Pixabay)

Salad: Leaf Pack Network

Refreshing and flavorful, this organic, all-natural offering consists of free-range leaves that you collect yourself, place into distinctive mesh bags, stake into a stream, and then retrieve weeks later. You’ll harvest a delightful assortment of macroinvertebrates to sort and identify! (fees may apply)

Location: United States

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(Credit: Arek Socha/Pixabay)

Main Course: American Gut

Your gut bacteria work diligently and (mostly) quietly every meal, helping to regulate your appetite, metabolism, and even your mood. Shine a spotlight on these hardworking bugs with the American Gut project! Swab your sample (don’t ask…), put it in project-provided test tube and send it in! You’ll be contributing to important research, and get a report identifying your gut bugs, so you can thank each microbe by name. ($99 fee for sample kit).

Location: United States and Canada

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(Credit: Adege/Pixabay)

Side Dish: Mushroom Observer

Bursting with B vitamins and potassium, mushrooms are a great complement to any Thanksgiving feast! Yet 95% of all species of fungi remain unstudied. This Thanksgiving, consider adding the Mushroom Observer project to your bill of fare, and start contributing to this thriving network of mushroom hunters.

Location: United States

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Monarch Butterfly
(Credit: Yolanda Coervers/Pixabay)

Dessert: Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count

No matter how much you’ve indulged, there’s always room for butterflies! This year’s California- based monarch count runs from November 16 through December 8th. Not in California? No problem! Search the SciStarter Project Finder to find a butterfly project near you!

Location: United States (West Coast and Midwest States)

Get Started!

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