Citizen Science and Journey North
Thinking Carefully About Methods

Journey North is a "citizen science" project. As the name implies, citizen science involves regular people in a scientific study. Journey North involves the public in the data-collection step. As the monarch butterfly migration takes place, thousands of observers across the continent collect data about the migration. When you interpret the results keep questions such as the following in mind.

Who's Watching for Butterflies?
Here is a map showing where Journey North participants are located.
  • Describe what you notice about the distribution of Journey North observers.
  • Why is this map important to keep in mind when you interpret migration sightings?

Learning From Real-life Examples
The following cases have occurred while tracking the monarch migration:
Tip for Teachers 
See Inquiry Strategies for help in guiding class discussions

Journaling Questions
Review the real-life examples above with the following questions in mind: 
  • Think about the methods of our spring migration study, and describe them carefully. Who is involved? Where are they? Exactly what they are doing?

  • What examples can you think of that make citizen science challenging?
  • How are field observers one of the variables in this experiment? Explain.
  • Describe how this human variable could be "controlled" to make Journey North's experiment more valid.
  • Read about "effort," as described by biologist Andrew Davis. Can you add to your responses to the questions above?

Introduce the concept of citizen science at the beginning of the season. Have students watch for examples as the season progresses, and include them in their journals. Watch how class discussions and journal entries increase in sophistication.

National Science Education Standards

  • It is part of scientific inquiry to evaluate the results of scientific investigations, experiments, observations, theoretical models, and the explanations proposed by other scientists.