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Starting a Citizen Science Club at a University

Citizen Science Salon iconCitizen Science Salon
By Guest
Jan 25, 2019 7:39 PMNov 12, 2019 3:40 PM


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Why Start a Club?

Creating a citizen science student organization is a great way to build community both on campus and in your local community. Citizen science provides a platform for peers to share their individual interests and passions while working together on unique projects. Citizen science student organizations are able to give members an incredible sense of camaraderie through plenty of fun and exciting opportunities.

Citizen Science Club Member Amanda makes friends with a butterfly while on a club day trip to Prairie Ridge Ecostation!

About the Citizen Science Club at NCSU

The first student organization of its kind, Citizen Science Club at NC State serves undergraduates at North Carolina State University. Citizen Science Club is based on the idea that “Science is for Everyone,” and we truly stress that science is an interdisciplinary endeavor. Members are not only citizen scientists, but are also champions of community action, diversity in STEM, and science as a tool for empowerment.

How to Start a Citizen Science Club at Your University

Reach out to your peers.

Before starting the Citizen Science Club at NC State, Brianna Johns (the author of this blog!) set out to find others on campus with a passion for public science. By handing out flyers, sending out mass emails, and posting on university social media pages, they were able to find passionate and like-minded peers, which today compose  the electoral board of our student organization. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and take initiative!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

After finding that initial group of peers, it is time to plan out the objectives of your citizen science student organization. It is better to work together as a small team for at least one semester before making your student organization official. During that time, you can work together to decide how your student organization will be structured. Outlining the roles of executive members, finding a faculty advisor, brainstorming the objectives of the student organization, and promoting the club are just a few things that may need to be covered.

Possible Objectives of Your Citizen Science Student Organization

This is not to say that every citizen science student organization needs to have the same objectives! If you are looking for a starting point,  I will provide some of the objectives of Citizen Science Club at NC State below.

  • Diversity in STEM: 

    We aim to foster a diverse and inclusive environment, and often go to events on campus that promote diversity in STEM, as well as constantly collaborate with the Society for Multicultural Scientists, another student organization on campus.

  • Collaborate with other Student Organizations: 

    Citizen Science Club collaborates with a variety of student organizations. In addition to the Society for Multicultural Scientists, we have also hosted events with Wolves4Wolves, a student organization focused on wolf conservation. We enjoy working with other student organizations because it exemplifies how citizen science is applicable to so many different facets of life.

  • Citizen Science Initiatives: 

    Working with both the campus and local community on citizen science projects is integral to Citizen Science Club at NC State. Most of our projects incorporate public participation in citizen science. Anyone in our student organization with an idea can pursue an initiative; this is not something reserved for executive board members. Our club uses resources, faculty, and community connections to help club members create a citizen science initiative. This past semester, a club member with a passion for science education began leading an initiative focused on citizen science and placed at-risk youth in Raleigh. By introducing them to hands-on science projects we are able to get these kids excited about learning.

  • Field Trips and Weekend Opportunities: 

    At least once a month, club members plan a one-day or weekend trip centered on public science, citizen science, or science education. In the past, we have watched meteor showers while camping and visited the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

  • Connect Students with Faculty: 

    The executive board of Citizen Science Club at NC State reaches out to faculty members on campus, most of which are eager to work with us. We invite them to club meetings, and faculty members often share research/internship opportunities in their lab with us.

Citizen Science Club tabling at Wolfpack Welcome Week, where students explore all the student organizations NC State has to offer!

Spread the Word!

There are plenty of ways to get the word out about your club. You can give short presentations to classes, reach out to faculty members and advisors, get on listservs, and more! One great way to promote your citizen science student organization is by tabling, where you can not only tell other students about your club, but you can also show them citizen science in action by allowing them to try a project themselves at your table!

Citizen Science Club at NC State tabling in the Spring of 2017, where we offered a shark tooth paleontology citizen science project and cookies to those who participated and signed up to our email list!

Your First Semester

Logistics will become incredibly important during your first semester as a student organization. Establishing meeting times, creating an email list, reserving rooms for meetings, and maintaining finances can be cumbersome at times, but all these factors are integral to ensuring your student organization is running smoothly. It is important to note that things aren’t always going to go to plan, so be prepared for anything!

NC State students are able to use their NCSU school account to authenticate a SciStarter in one click! Not only can they find projects that the Citizen Science Club at NC State recommends, but they can easily find projects assigned by their teachers. Because SciStarter enables them to tally contributions across projects and platforms, they can keep track of their participation while helping NC State measure the collective citizen science impact of their campus.

About the Author

Brianna Johns

Brianna is undergraduate student studying zoology and international studies at NC State. In addition to being the founding co-chair of the Citizen Science Club, she is also a program assistant for the Public Science Cluster at NC State.

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