This course introduces students to the basic skills needed to conduct citizen science activities in the field. It emphasizes techniques for measurement and observations of wildlife and other natural phenomena and how to accurately record them along with necessary contextual data.

Because most of the anticipated field work will take place in a marine environment, the course emphasizes identifying marine organisms.

The modules will teach you basic skills you will need in order to conduct field observations and research as a Citizen Scientist. While this course is intended for Citizen Scientists operating mainly in a marine environment, it also includes information of a more general nature that will come in useful wherever you are working.

Conduct of the Course:

Each module includes an introduction, reading assignments, and a quiz.  Unless stated otherwise, each module includes all the assigned reading materials. You are to complete the modules in order, working at your best pace.

Some modules will also include recommended readings. These will not be covered on the quiz, but we strongly recommend that you at least look them over, as they will often include more detailed or advanced information. However, some recommended reading gets a bit technical. If recommended readings are above your current level, don't worry. But do download it for future reference.  

On a few occasions, modules will include "reference" items, which you should download and keep handy where you can refer to them as needed. 

For each module, complete the assigned readings and then take the quiz. Each quiz has twenty questions. To pass, you need a score of 14 (70%) or higher.

Quizzes are "open book" and may be repeated.

Tips and Suggestions:

There will be a lot of reading in this course. You may proceed at your own pace, but we strongly recommend that you study regularly and often. Don't let too much time go by between study sessions; try to complete at least one module each week

Grades, Course Completion and Official Certificate:

No grade will be assigned;  course completion is successful when students have read all of the modules and passed all of the module quizzes. At course completion students will be offered an opportunity to purchase an official certificate with a letter of citation. The message will look something like:

If you would like an official certificate and a letter of citation, please click here to Buy Official "Certificate of Completion" for: Citizen Scientist Certification, Level 01.

Course Curriculum

  • 1


    • Welcome to Citizen Science Certification, Level 01

    • Conduct of the Course

    • Examples of Citizen Science

  • 2

    Module 1: Basic Measurement

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • The Metric System

    • Significant Digits

    • Reading Assignment:

    • Scientific Measurement by David Katz

    • A Short Guide to Significant Figures

    • Module 1 Quiz: Basic Measurement

    • Module 1: Licensing and References

  • 3

    Module 2: Taking and Maintaining Field Notes

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • Reading assignments

    • Making, Maintaining, and Using Serious Field Notes

    • Keeping a Naturalist's Field Journal

    • Module 2 Quiz: Field Notes

    • Module 2: Licensing and References

  • 4

    Module 3: Field Optical Tools

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction:

    • Reading Assignments (See resources for this module):

    • How to Choose a Binocular

    • Binocular and Spotting Scope Basics

    • How to Choose a Magnifier

    • Advice on Choosing Birding Optics

    • Module 3 Quiz: Field Optics

    • Module 3: Licensing and References

  • 5

    Module 4: How to Use Topographic Maps

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • Reading Assignment (See resources for this module)

    • National Geographic Map Skills Booklet, pp. 3-27.

    • Topographic Map Symbols

    • Reading Topographic Maps

    • US Topo Map and Historical Topographic Map Users Guide

    • Module 4 Quiz: Topographic Maps

    • Module 4: Licensing and References

  • 6

    Module 5: Species Identification and Taxonomy

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • Reading Assignment (See resources for this Module)

    • Direct Instruction: Dichotomous Keys

    • Describing Species: Practical Taxonomic Procedure for Biologists

    • Marine Vocabulary (for reference purposes only)

    • Are We Losing the Science of Taxonomy?

    • Module 5 Quiz: Taxonomy

    • Module 5: Licensing and References

  • 7

    Module 6: Observation Skills

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • How our brains perceive what is around us

    • Understanding "inattentional blindness"

    • Reading Assignment (See resources for this Module):

    • Training in Observation File

    • Learning to Judge Distance File

    • Ten Ways to Improve Your Observation Skills File

    • Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills File

    • Module 6 Quiz: Observation Skills

    • Module 6: Licensing and References

  • 8

    Module 7: Ecology of Invasive Species

    • Module Objectives

    • Introduction

    • Environmental Effects

    • Economic Impacts

    • Reading Assignment (See resources for this module)

    • Marine Menace

    • Introduction to Invasive Alien Species

    • Module 7 Quiz: Invasive Species

    • Module 7: Licensing and References

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About the instructor

Ocean Sanctuaries eLearning Nonprofit Director

Sheldon Greaves

I am obsessed with forming and growing vibrant learning communities.I convey difficult concepts with clarity, economy, and precision.I am committed to the value of an educated, intellectually active global citizenry.Sheldon Greaves holds a Ph.D. in ancient Near Eastern Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a co-founder of Henley-Putnam University, a nationally-accredited online university serving the intelligence and counterterrorism communities. He was a board member for the Society for Amateur Scientists from 2001 to 2003. He also founded Tinker’s Guild, which published the complete collection of Scientific American’s “The Amateur Scientist.” In 2010 he founded the Citizen Scientists League, which he directed until 2013. He is currently on the Board of Directors for Ocean Sanctuaries.

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