Did you just feel an earthquake? Have you noticed that your back yard wildflowers are blooming earlier than usual? Did a new building just go up in your neighborhood?

Then the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) wants to hear from you.

Our environment is changing more rapidly than ever, and scientists have found that since they can't be everywhere at once, they can greatly improve their chances of keeping track of these changes if they get a little help from the field.  

The USGS is looking for citizen scientists who can report on what's happening in their back yards, their neighborhoods and throughout their communities. If you felt an earthquake, they want to know. If your flowers have just started blooming, give them a call. And if you live in Alaska, they want to know if you've seen any volcanic ash, or better yet if you can collect a sample.

What does the USGS plan to do with all of this data? Their scientists promise that it won't just sit on a shelf on languish in a database. Rather, it will be used to enhance interactive online systems. For example, their Did You Feel It? (DYFI?) platform is a is an online crowd-sourcing system that allows the public to document first-hand accounts of earthquakes they experience. Since its launch in 1997, the platform has garnered more than 2,790,000 responses from citizen scientists and has allowed the USGS to augment earthquake data from sensors and map earthquake intensity around the country.

There are several programs you can use to join the virtual USGS team and get involved as a citizen scientist.

  • To report an earthquake, check out Did You Feel It?
  • If you recently witnessed a landslide, let them know at Did You See It?
  • If you live in Alaska, let them know whether or not you have seen volcanic ash in your neighborhood at Is Ash Falling?
  • If a new school, hospital, police office or post office was just built in your neighborhood, report it at The National Map.
  • And if you want to report observations of the plants and animals in your backyard, head over to Nature's Notebook.

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USGS seeks 'citizen scientists' to track our changing environment
Federal scientists want to know how the environment is changing in your back yard.