The University of Arizona

Citizen Science


Citizen Science at
Tumamoc: People & Habitats


Even myriads of professional ecologists would not be enough to take care of all our world's environmental needs. It is a task too vast, too varied, and too costly. It must have participation by citizens who volunteer their effort — who may not even be professional ecologists.

So it's no surprise that citizen science has become very popular among conservationists. We need it. We hope for it. And we are getting it. It comes in three flavors.

  • Education & promotion of environmental awareness
  • Help with collecting data and performing labor
  • Help in running conservation experiments


Tumamoc: People & Habitats has programs in all three areas.


Education & promotion of environmental awareness: Always a deep part of everything we do... and has been for over a century. Our courses, our cooperation with schools, any tour we lead. Come to one (or more) of our evening talks and find out. And let us know if you have a special topic you would like us to feature.
Help with collecting data and performing labor. Each spring, as Tucson's fabulous birdlife prepares its nests and raises its chicks, The Tucson Birdcount deploys its hundred volunteers to document which species is breeding in what parts of our city. TBC workers fan out over a thousand census routes from the northern edge of Pima County to Sahuarita, and from the eastern part of Saguaro National Park to its western division. They are trained to count carefully and according to a strict scientific protocol. That's why they end up with — not just a good time playing bird golf — but the very finest database of urban/suburban birds in the entire world. The data collected by these citizen scientists cannot be collected in any other way.
Other citizen scientists help Tumamoc by maintaining our fence-line and making sure that other behind-the-scenes aspects of Tumamoc keep working. And citizen scientists have collected data about flowering times on the Hill, too. Kudos to TBC's citizen scientists. We expect a growing list of opportunities in which you'll be able to participate.
Help in running conservation experiments: Here's another place where Tumamoc leads the world. Most citizen science programs have settled for consciousness raising; a few have dared to ask for good, hard data to analyze. But Tumamoc looked at the opportunity to do reconciliation ecology and realized that research to get it done required, first, an army of experimentalists to learn how to do it. Enter citizen science.
We began with The Tucson Hummingbird Project. Three dozen families set up varied experimental conditions in their own backyards and collected data on the behavior of our four hummingbird species as they fed from artificial nectar sources. What they learned tells us how Tucsonans can increase the kinds of hummers that use their own backyards. The project also helped to answer a basic science question: how does all the fighting that goes on between male hummingbirds help to keep the number of hummingbird species high.
There will be more experiments for citizen scientists in the near future. Next up? Investigating the new associations of plant species to promote species diversity in our neighborhoods. Who will benefit? Our citizens all around the town. Give us a call and give us a hand.