Research & Education

Citizen Science Program Adds New Resources

Mark Eller - June 13, 2019

“The protection of natural areas requires a unified effort, calling on vast support from local land managers, community partners and natural area visitors.” So begins a new resource from the Center, the Leave No Trace Citizen Science Toolkit.


The Toolkit will be released for broad public consumption in early July, and will be available for downloading as a printable PDF file from the Center’s online citizen science resource pages. All Hot Spots partners will receive copies of the Toolkit, along with additional coaching on how to envision and execute effective citizen science projects. It provides guidance on recruiting volunteers for citizen science projects, posing research questions and forming partnerships with land managers so the collected data can be put to good use.

The Leave No Trace Citizen Science program encourages people to document the natural areas where they spend time by interacting with a technology-based platform and accompanying curriculum.

Participation in Citizen Science increases volunteers’ knowledge of ecology and conservation while promoting the stewardship of natural areas. It makes participation in the Leave No Trace community accessible to all and can expand both data collection and learning further towards the goal of Leave No Trace in Every Park.

The information collected by Leave No Trace citizen scientists is shared with land managers and land managing agencies, providing valuable information about the natural areas they oversee. Beyond providing useful information about public lands, citizen science presents the opportunity to expand Leave No Trace education to thousands of people that may never have the opportunity to attend an in-person training session or event. Examples of the observation categories catalogued with Leave No Trace Citizen Science include”

  • Trail impacts—measure trail width and record comments about condition, evidence of erosion, and trampling. Record where user-created, non-system trails exist.
  • Trash counts—observe instances of litter from a fixed point, and observe where trash containers are located.
  • Invasive plants—use an identification guide to capture data and photographs of common invasive plant species, and record their locations.
  • Fire rings—record geospatial data about their location, size, and condition.
  • Signs—observe instances of Leave No Trace messaging and other types of environmental awareness messaging as depicted by park signs.

For even more information about the goals of Leave No Trace’s citizen science program, a recent webinar with Board Chair Julie Klein and Foundations Director Mark Eller provides an overview.

Leave No Trace’s citizen science program facilitates visitor contribution to natural area protection by building a community of people working together to monitor impacts caused by recreation. Customized monitoring data collected by citizen scientists supplies resource managers with critical information to support management decisions and protect natural areas for future generations.
— From the Leave No Trace Citizen Science Toolkit, due out in July of 2019. Visit for more information.

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