Citizen Science

We couldn't fulfill our mission without a dedicated crew of volunteers. Some of our researchers rely on citizen scientists--volunteers who actively help out with research projects in the field or in the lab. SERC citizen scientists have planted experimental forests, joined archaeological digs and hunted for invasive species. They become partners in discovery, finding answers to new questions and getting an inside look at science in the real world. In return, the scientists are able to gather information on a much larger scale than would be possible on their own.

Below you'll find current opportunities for citizen scientists to get involved in SERC research. To sign up or learn more, contact Alison Cawood.

Chesapeake Parasite Project

An invasive parasite is infecting mud crabs in Chesapeake Bay. The culprit, a microscopic barnacle called Loxothylacus panopaei, burrows into the crab's shell and hijacks its reproductive system, forcing it to give birth to thousands of barnacle larvae. SERC's Marine Invasions Lab tracks this parasite every summer by laying out crates of oyster shells beneath the water and searching for infected crabs. Help our marine biologists for two weekends in June and August as they hunt for the Loxo parasite.

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(By John Beale Bordley, courtesy Sally Sellman)

Sellman Plantation Archaeology

The Homestead House, a red house barely a quarter-mile from SERC's entrance, used to be the center of a large tobacco plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries. For almost 200 years, the Sellman family and their slaves worked the soil and left marks on the land that remain today. SERC archeologist Jim Gibb is looking for short-term and long-term volunteers to help excavate the soil around the Homestead House to uncover clues about the Sellman's lives and their environmental footprint. Volunteer days are Monday, Tuesday and Friday, May 27 through June 20.  After June 20, volunteers will be needed on Wednesdays and some Saturdays.

Read the family legacy



The Smithsonian's first 100-year forest experiment in North America, BiodiversiTree is taking 70 acres of former cropland and planting more than 100 "mini-forests" with one, four or 12 species. Over the next century, SERC ecologist John Parker and his successors will watch them grow. They're looking for answers to two questions: Is diversity good for forests? Will 30 years of farming change the way the forests grow back? Currently, most of our trees are below knee height and need lots of TLC.  Volunteers can help by tagging trees and removing weeds to give the trees more space to grow.  Help us keep the new forests healthy during the summer as we prepare for the next round of tree planting.