Citizen Science Projects

a photo of volunteers being trained

CoNPS iNaturalist Program

The iNaturalist Working Group is a great way to hone your identification skills while supporting CoNPS citizen science efforts. Every time we meet virtually, we select a single species to study in Ackerfield’s Flora of Colorado. We ascertain what you need to see on the plant to verify the species. This teaches us about botanical vocabulary and hones our identification skills. Then we go into iNaturalist and look for observations of those species. When we can confirm a species, we elevate the observation to research grade status.

We focus on the CoNPS Budburst species thereby strengthening the data associated with the CoNPS Budburst Citizen Science project. Our efforts also increase data quality for other botanical researchers using iNaturalist. We have fun finding each others’ observations, talking about the plants we’ve seen and the trails we’ve visited…it’s social media CoNPS-style.

Join us! No experience necessary. iNaturalist working group meets virtually once per month September-April. You can join at any time.  Check the CoNPS events calendar for the next online meeting.

a photo of volunteers looking at native plants

CoNPS Field Research and Bioblitzes

For many years CoNPS has run a series of research studies of ecologically important areas. Over the past few years these studies have taken the form of BioBlitzes. Wikipedia defines BioBlitz as: “an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period.” Being the hearty souls Colorado volunteers are, our BioBlitzes generally run two days with camping in the middle. This program attracts interesting scientists from many disciplines, and for us some wonderful botanists. But this program isn’t just for the heavy-duty botanists. It is a wonderful opportunity for amateur botanists to pair up with experienced botanists and learn a great deal about our native plants. In this role, they can record species, help collect and press specimens and photograph plants to record plants both collected and not collected.

This program is run by  Field Studies Committee.
Interested volunteers should email Steve Olson at

a photo of Karen Cleaver studying at Penstemon eriantherus

Budburst Phenology Project

Phenology is the science of investigating how climate and other environmental factors influence plant growth. We are interested in when flowers first bloom in spring, when seeds ripen in summer and when leaves turn color in fall. Data on Colorado natives make important contributions to our scientific understanding of how plants are responding to environmental stresses. There just aren’t enough scientists to make the observations that are needed. That is where YOU, the Citizen Scientist, comes in. Ordinary citizens, including children and teenagers, can collect data which is accurate and reliable, once they learn what to look for. It’s a great excuse to spend more time outside, and a great activity for families.

CoNPS is partnering with Budburst, a national citizen science project which tracks environmental changes across the country using data on plants. Volunteers simply make regular observations on stages of plant growth from their own gardens, in natural areas, open spaces or on trails and enter the data on the website or on a phone app. Photos can be added along with observations. For plants you are not sure of, suggestions pop up for you to confirm ID’s.

For information on how to join this effort, contact:

Undecided? Watch videos on phenology recorded by CoNPS members Paul Alaback and Maggie Gaddis on youtube: Citizen Science and Phenology Webinar.

Denver EcoFlora Project

The Denver EcoFlora Project is a citizen science program run by the Denver Botanic Gardens in conjunction with the New York Botanical Garden and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  The program is designed to engage citizens in the Denver and Boulder areas to participate in collecting information about plants and fungi in their own communities.

The program started in 2020 and has the following two main goals:

Meaningfully engage citizens in observing, protecting and preserving the metro area’s native plant species.

Assemble novel observations and data on the metro area’s flora to better inform policy decisions concerning land management and conservation strategies.

Anyone may join the program.  All you need is access to an Smartphone and take a few minutes to learn the iNaturalist application which you download to your phone.  Then start taking photos of the plants, fungi, animals and insects that you see.  iNaturalist suggest what species it might be and then the photo is sent on to be verified by experts.