Reading Recommendation: Diary of a Citizen Scientist

One way for you and your students to get your feet wet with data is citizen science. Citizen science endeavors involve collecting data, which make such projects great activities for applying data literacy skills. In fact, citizen science is one of our themes for the second year of this project, starting in the fall!

For ideas to embark on a citizen science project, check out the book, Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World by Sharman Apt Russell. Russell writes about her project to study the Western red-bellied tiger beetle by the Gila River (pictured above) in southwestern New Mexico. This book is mix of a diary, environmental messages, and how-to guide for being a citizen scientist. Her work will inspire you to dive into a citizen science project. Not only will you learn about Russell’s research but also about other citizen science initiatives, like Galaxy Zoo and Project FeederWatch.

Russell chronicles her successes and challenges, as well as reflects on her motivation for doing citizen science, in the book:

We all want to be part of something larger. We want to be part of a family, a community, a cause. We want to be part of something meaningful. Studies show that long-term happiness depends on this engagement. I personally want to advance conservation policy. I want to do real science. I want to learn more science.

It’s inspiring! This book is in the style of nature writing with both personal reflections and scientific information. Russell weaves stories and tips in with descriptions of her experiences. Reading her account makes a citizen science project seem manageable and provides a great introduction to citizen science.


Source: Russell, Sharman Apt. Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2014.

Image: Middle Fork of the Gila River, SW New Mexico” by Joe Burgess, on Wikipedia. Public Domain.