Citizen Science

Embedded Assessment

We are working with colleagues on an NSF-funded project to understand how best to assess individual participation in citizen science projects.

One of the target concepts being pursued is around estimation. Estimating counts, distances, sizes, percent cover, or other metrics is notoriously difficult.

Biosphere 2 is developing a protocol for citizen participation, assessment, and training in collaboration with one of our on-site research projects: Agrivoltaics. The approach of Agrivoltaics is to co-locate energy production (photovoltaic cells) and food production such that land can be used for multiple purposes simultaneously: evaporation from growing plant leaves cools the microhabitat 1) improving solar-panel efficiency, and 2) food (like tomatoes and peppers) can be grown with 3) less water needed per unit food grown, and the growing season can be extended. This provides a great solution to the perennial challenges at the intersection of Food, Energy, and Water - the FEW Nexus.

Citizen scientists are especially helpful in recording large numbers of observations about plant growth, leaf size, flower count, and fruit set - the kinds of data that are not easily recorded with a single instrument like temperature, humidity, or wind speed.


Agrivoltaics at Biosphere 2 with Greg Barron-Gafford and assistant under panels growing food.














See more at Greg Barron-Gafford's lab website:



Gila Monster Research!Gila Monster Photo


Public involvement is a large component of many research programs. Input from non-scientists brings together widespread or infrequent data points and contributes importantly to studies in disciplines as diverse as meteorology, sociology, and ecology.


this project is no longer being regularly maintained, but you can still participate via iNaturalist (


My lab has been involved in a long-term research project on the Gila monsters in and around Saguaro National Park, located on the east and west edges of Tucson. These charismatic (and venomous; be careful to keep your distance) animals are an iconic component of our Sonoran Desert. However, they are infrequently encountered. By calling upon the many thousands of Tucsonans and visitors that frequent Gila monster habitat each year, we can increase the number of sightings and amount of information collected.

Help us better understand these amazing lizards!  But, remember it is illegal to harass, touch, pick up, or otherwise compromise the health and well being of wild Gila monsters.


Please (if safely possible) record:

1. Photographs

2. Date and Time seen

3. Location seen (GPS coordinates if possible, otherwise find on available map on iNaturalist site)

4. Estimated body length

5. Observed behaviors

6. Weather description

Upload sighting details and photos toiNaturalist (


Because the pattern on each Gila monster is unique, we can track individuals through time if we have photos! Help us study this long lived species and better understand where they go and what they do.

Gila Monster Repeat Photography, Don Swann, NPS



Many thanks for the support of Saguaro National Park, National Park Service, University of Arizona, Friends of Saguaro National Park, Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, Western National Parks Association, and our many contributors.



Other Interesting Citizen Science Links:

National Phenology Network, Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

Christmas Bird Count, organized by the Audubon Society for more than a century!

Climate Change Observations, Crimmins' UA Research and Citizen Science

Plants Take a Hike as Climate Changes, Bertelesen & Crimmins