Citizen Science

Students learning in a forestLooking to incorporate citizens into on-farm research? There are many different types of individuals, activities, and partners to consider incorporating. Most of all, it is important to ensure those activities fit into your research protocol. Learn how through the resources below.

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Citizen Science Data CollectionActivities Tied to ResearchProject OpportunitiesFarmers Helping Farmers

Possible Youth Groups

  • FFA
  • 4-H
  • Advanced Science (groups)
  • Science Clubs
  • Community Colleges
  • Boy/Girl Scouts
  • Home Schoolers







Possible Adult Groups

  • Garden Clubs
  • County Sanitarians
  • Farmers
  • Agronomists
  • Watershed Groups
  • Water Development Districts or Conservancy Districts
  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Environmental Groups
  • Master Naturalists/Gardeners
  • Farm Bureau
  • Elected Officials
  • Women in Agriculture
  • Agricultural Technical Organizations
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Lake Associations
  • Wild Turkey Federation
  • Fisheries organizations
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Military Installations
  • Commodity groups
  • Grassland groups

Sometimes collection of data can be a big project. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “many hands make light work”, know that it can apply to some aspects of on-farm research. Citizen scientists may be available to take in-field, real-time, soil health measurements such as:

  • Cover crop biomass data
  • Soil slaking data
  • Water quality data
  • Infiltration
  • Bulk density
  • Penetrometer readings
  • Earthworm counts
  • Residue measurements
  • Soil Temperature
  • Whitey-Tighty/ Tea bags Demo

The table below is a list of possible resources and lessons for teaching citizen scientists.

Source Resource Description
Soil Science Society of America K-12 Soil Science Teacher Resources Various, numerous soil topics and activities listed by grade level; many related to soil health though not labeled as such.
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health for Educators Links to soil health lesson plans (PDF) and provides YouTube videos. Also describes the soil quality test bucket.
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Quality Test Kit Describes USDA-NRCS Soil Quality Test Kit and provides a link to PDF Guide to using the kit.
Good Housekeeping 10 Easy Soil Tests that Pinpoint Your Garden’s Problems Simple observations that can be made about soil with explanations as to why each is important.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Crop Watch Youth Soil Quality Lessons and Videos Similar to USDA-NRCS Soil quality test bucket site.
MO DIRT: Missourians Doing Impact Research Together Soil Science Curriculum Information/activity sheets on soil components, texture, structure and water relations, and formation
Journal of Extension Soil Health Educational Resources Three soil health and cover crop demonstrations
Journal of Extension Three Soil Quality Demonstrations for Educating Extension Clientele Three soil demonstrations show how soil organic matter increases water holding capacity, improves soil structure, and increases nutrient retention.
Department of Agronomy, Purdue University Demonstrations in Soil Science Mostly college laboratory-level demonstrations. Some could be adapted for other audiences
Soil Science Society of America Soil Experiments and hands-on Projects Various links to soil experiments and projects
National Agriculture in the Classroom National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix Lesson plans for “Properties of Soils (Grades 9-12)”

If you have a group that is already collecting soil information, you might consider helping other organizations gather data by learning more about larger projects and initiatives related to soil health. Below is a list of potential projects to consider.

Source Resource Description
The Globe Program Pedosphere (Soil) Community The Global Learning and Observations to Benegfit the Environment (GLOBE) Progam is a world-wide citizen science and education program. Subsections include “Atmosphere”, “Pedosphere”, “Biosphere”, “Hydrosphere” and “Earth as a System”.
Geoderma Can Citizen Science assist digital soil mapping? Article describes citizen science and initiatives world-wide in soil science. It evaluates whether citizen science may aid digital soil mapping.
Geo-Wiki Engaging Citizens in Environmental Monitoring Several soil-related opportunities exist to validate global land cover maps.  Sometimes competitions are held.
Scientific American / The University of Oklahoma Citizen Science Soil Collection Program What’s in your backyard? Citizen scientists send in soil samples in hopes of finding new natural products and cures for diseases from the soils’ microbes.
Environmental Protection Agency Citizen Science for Environmental Protection Defines citizen science.  List citizen science projects supported by the EPA.  Provides resources concerning citizen science.
Missouri Epscor MO DIRT:  Missourians Doing Impact Research Together Citizens can collect soil health data as individuals or as teams.  Training, a manual, and a soil kit are provided.  Confined to Missouri.
Knoll Environmental Free Arsenic Testing Send soil samples in to be tested for arsenic.  The project aims to 1)use social media to help gather data, and to identify areas in the United States that have arsenic concentrations

Sometimes, the best learning tool is discussion. Encourage farmers to create their own local network to discuss soil health topics. Some ideas might include:

  • Using social media or group texts to report to each other what they are seeing in their fields or ask questions about what they are seeing in their fields.
  • Reporting runoff events (Water Quality)
  • Participating in
  • Conversations about soil health tests