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Climate Change and Citizen Science

Citizen Science Central, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

These slide sets (one for the Eastern US and one for the Western US) describe how citizen observations can document the impact of climate change on plants and animals. They introduce the topic of phenology and data collection, the impact of climate change on phenology, and how individuals can become citizen scientists.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 9 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 10 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This is a good entry point to a unit on phenology.
  • The slides can be used to stimulate participation in student projects in climate change and phenology, to get students collecting data at school or community.
  • Students can be engaged in citizen science projects like "Project Budburst" http://neoninc.org/budburst/.

About the Science

  • Produced by Citizen Science Central, Cornell Lab of Ornithology; slides are also on the website of the National Phenology Network.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Resource provides several concrete examples of changes likely due to a warming climate that have been documented by interested citizens who were simply taking note of their surroundings over long periods of time. It does so in a fairly simple way, which is easy to understand, and may even inspire people to look around a bit more. All the literature cited is >5 years old. It also presents the warming trend as constant and fairly steep. While that's true at large scales, there isn't any acknowledgement that year to year weather is still variable and so long time periods are required to document species range change due to climate, not just one year.

About the Pedagogy

  • By giving examples of citizen science with a focus on seasonal changes observed in plants and animals, these slide shows will encourage students and other citizens to develop and share their own quality data sets.
  • This is a great opportunity to introduce the concept of Citizen Science to students.
  • The National Phenology Network website has training videos and resource materials on how to become a citizen scientist and gather and contribute data to their database.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent technical quality.
  • The slide shows can be expanded for projection in a classroom.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.C1:Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

MS-LS2:Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

Cross Cutting Concepts: 9

Systems and System Models, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C2.3:Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

MS-C7.3:Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

MS-C7.4:Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

MS-C7:Stability and Change

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.


MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.


High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 10

HS-ESS2.D3:Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.


HS-ESS3.C1:The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.

HS-ESS3.C2:Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation.

HS-ESS3.C:Human Impacts on Earth Systems

HS-LS2.A1:Ecosystems have carrying capacities, which are limits to the numbers of organisms and populations they can support. These limits result from such factors as the availability of living and nonliving resources and from such challenges such as predation, competition, and disease. Organisms would have the capacity to produce populations of great size were it not for the fact that environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension affects the abundance (number of individuals) of species in any given ecosystem.

HS-LS2.A:Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

HS-LS2.C:Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

HS-LS4.D:Biodiversity and Humans

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P3.1:Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.


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