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Cincinnati Museum Center helping citizen scientists contribute to research

iNaturalist app and curator-supported projects encourage exploration and observation

CINCINNATI – Calling all scientists! Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is seeking citizen scientists to help observe and record data on the plants and wildlife in our community. CMC is rolling out a series of projects on the iNaturalist app to help collect data that can contribute to the work of professional scientists.

Citizen scientists are important contributors to our understanding of the world around us. They help provide data to biologists, botanists and other scientists that can fill gaps in their research and provide valuable perspective. So if you’re looking to contribute to scientific studies or just connect with nature, CMC has the tools to help.

CMC has launched a series of projects on iNaturalist, a citizen science app and website developed by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. With the iNaturalist app your phone becomes your logbook, helping you and scientists around the world document observations in your own backyard or in the great outdoors. The app is even helping scientists right here at CMC, providing data on long-term projects to track migratory birds, identify invasive vines choking out native trees and more.

Every two months, CMC will release a new project on the iNaturalist app, each one encouraging observation and exploration of the tristate area. The current project asks citizen scientists to observe plants in the area to determine which are native and which are non-native and what cultivated plants have the possibility to become a wild non-native plant. Beginning in November and running through December, birds are the focus and in January and February, winter observations.

Though the iNaturalist app is open and available to anyone, inclusion in the individual projects requires proper identification of your observations, making it useful for scientists and also a resource for casual explorers looking to identify plants and animals they see on their own journeys. The app even shows where similar specimens have been identified around you, displaying real-time data for your own analysis.

Citizen science projects are also valuable additions to CMC’s ongoing research. To supplement their own research, CMC curators are asking citizen scientists to use the iNaturalist app to document the location, date and species of bird strikes – birds that have died as a result of striking windows, a common phenomenon and growing problem in urban areas. Winter is also a great time to identify invasive tree-killing vines, which stay green while most native plants do not. Identifying and then eradicating these vines can be critical to the health and maintenance of mature trees, which are the habitats of a variety of species. As spring rolls around, identifying crayfish burrows will help CMC better understand the impacts of climate change on our water table and the wildlife that depends on it. As each spring becomes increasingly wet and each summer drier, the success of active crayfish burrows over time may help show that impact on the water table.

Getting started with the iNaturalist app is easy.

  • Sign up on or search your phone’s app store for the iNaturalist app to download directly.
  • Join CMC projects by searching for CMC Local Wildlife or CMC Plants. Revisit the CMC page bimonthly for new projects.
  • Get comfortable using the system by watching the Getting Started video or video tutorials.
  • Have fun exploring your own bit of wilderness and start making observations.

For the youngest explorers, Seek by iNaturalist is a great introduction to scientific observation and recognition.

If you need a little inspiration to explore your own backyards, CMC’s newest OMNIMAX® film Backyard Wilderness shows in stunning detail the variety of incredible plants and animals that call our neighborhoods home. Groundbreaking cinematography makes Backyard Wilderness an immersive experience that brings you nose-to-nose with deer, coyotes, frogs, ducks, birds, bees and more. The film is sure to make you want to grab your coat, lace up your shoes and log in to your iNaturalist app as you begin exploring the wild all around you.


About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of a select few museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than 1.8 million visits annually. For more information, visit