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Current volunteers can access the Citizen Science Portal here:

What is Citizen Science?

The term "citizen science" has been used to describe a range of ideas, from a philosophy of public engagement in scientific discourse to the work of scientists driven by a social conscience.

In North America, citizen science typically refers to research collaborations between scientists and volunteers, particularly (but not exclusively) to expand opportunities for scientific data collection and to provide access to scientific information for community members.

As a working definition, we offer the following:

"Projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions."

(Used with permission from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Citizen Science Central)

Citizen Science at Severson Dells and Forest Preserves of Winnebago County

Citizen scientists are volunteering at forest preserves throughout Winnebago County to record observations of a variety of species along with the environmental conditions that support their presence here. Data collected by these individuals in the field are submitted to a variety of repositories to aid in our collective understanding of the natural world, inform natural resource management and inform the public education programs offered. 

Upcoming Events:


Bats are important—if underappreciated—members of our ecological community. Because they are nocturnal, these mammals often escape our attention. Severson Dells and the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County have teamed up with other area forest preserves, state agencies and institutions to form the Illinois Bat Working Group. Citizen Scientists are using acoustical equipment to record the presence of various bat species in the county.

Learn more about the bats of Winnebago County with this Quizlet!


Catching sight of the Eastern Bluebird used to be a rare occurrence in this region, but thanks in part to the installation of nesting boxes, Bluebirds have been making a comeback. Volunteers in Winnebago County tend to these Bluebird nest boxes, preparing them for occupancy, recording the number of eggs in a clutch, along with the number of young who fledge. Field data are submitted to Severson Dells and the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County at the end of the season.

Bumble Bees:  Beespotter

Bumble bees and other native pollinators are in dire straits so it is important that we collect population data that can be used to help conserve these important species. BeeSpotter is a collaboration between citizen scientists and the professional science community through a web-based portal at the University of Illinois. Volunteer monitors in Winnebago County learn to identify 11 bumble bee species native to Illinois and upload photographs and site information to the Beespotter website.

Enter your findings into the Bee Spotter Database!

Learn more about the bumblebees of Northern Illinois with these Quizlets!

Butterflies:  Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network

Butterflies are charismatic insects. Moreover, some of them rely on certain, very specific, host plants to support their larva (caterpillars) and, as such, can be important indicators of ecological health. Citizen Scientists in Winnebago County visit their butterfly monitoring sites 6 to 8 times over a 10-week period to record their findings. The Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network is coordinated through the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Learn more about the butterflies of Winnebago County with this Quizlet!

Enter your findings into the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network Database!

Learn more about this project and its findings here.

Frogs/Toads:  Calling Frog Survey

One of the early signs of spring is the sound of chorusing frogs as they call from their wetland breeding grounds. Throughout the warm weather months, a progression of different frog and toad species call to attract their mates. Citizen scientists participating in the Calling Frog Survey, coordinated by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, learn to identify 11 species of frogs and two species of toads according to their respective voices. Presence, relative abundance, and atmospheric conditions are reported.

Learn more about the frogs of Winnebago County with these Quizlets!

Enter your findings to the Calling Frog Database at

Learn more about the project and its findings here.

Odonata—Dragonflies and Damselflies

Winnebago County is home to 33 species of dragonflies and 24 species of damselflies, members of one of the most ancient orders of insects, the odonata. Volunteers may submit their findings to Severson Dells or directly to the Illinois Odonate Survey, coordinated through the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.

Learn more about Odonates in Winnebago County with these Quizlets!

Visit the Illinois Odonate Survey website to learn about the project and its findings.

Plants | Project Budburst

Plants are fantastic indicators of environmental quality and are easy to observe. Project Budburst uses plants to answer important ecological questions by observing the timing of plant life cycle events, also known as phenophases. Citizen Scientists participating in this project may participate in two ways: observing plants across several phenophases or making one-time observations of plants they see in the field. Both approaches collect valuable scientific data that inform conservation decisions and give Citizen Scientists the opportunity to pick a protocol that suits them best. If you enjoy being outside, can tell the difference from a leaf and a bud, and want a low-stress way to contribute to the field of ecology, this may be the project for you!

Learn more about plants in Winnebago County with these Quizlets!

Visit the Project Budburst website to submit data and learn more about the project!

Learn more about participating in the Citizen Science, contact us:

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