About the MSU Citizen Science Lending Library

The Science Math Resource Center and MSU Library, with support from Montana NSF EPSCoR and NASA AREN, are excited to support citizen science in Montana through the MSU Citizen Science Lending Library. With the tools inside the lending library kits, you too will be a citizen scientist: a person who helps scientists by making observations, collecting data, or documenting changes in nature. Anyone can be a citizen scientist: kids, families, classrooms, busy working adults, retired people, and even entire communities.

The MSU Citizen Science Lending Library consists of four unique kits that include projects on collecting water quality data, measuring light at night, and observing biodiversity and pollinators in your own backyard. The kits are based on citizen science projects from SciStarter.org. The kits contain all the information and materials needed to do each project and will be free to check out at the MSU Library to anyone at MSU or the community. By completing a kit project, you too will be participating in science that helps Montana! More information about avilable project kits can be found below.

Want to check out a kit? Visit the MSU Library on campus – these kits are available to anyone in Montana, even if you are not affiliated with MSU. If you would like more information or are interested in bringing citizen science kits to your local Montana library, please contact [email protected].

Available Citizen Science Projects

Water Wonders: Collecting Water Quality Data

Picture of water quality citizen science lending library kit

Citizen science projects: EarthEcho Water Challenge, Crowd the Tap

Season: Any time of year

This kit contains supplies for participating in two citizen science projects. EarthEcho Water Challenge participants test their local water quality, share their data in the global online database, and use this data to influence and inform actions to protect their local water resources. Crowd the Tap is a public science project focused on identifying and addressing lead contamination in household drinking water. This kit also includes a chemistry strip that will give you information about the pH, alkalinity and other water chemistry metrics for an indoor or outdoor water source. This strip is for educational purposes only; if you suspect a health hazard, please consult with an expert.

Contents: LaMotte water quality testing kits, Crowd the Tap kits for identifying pipes, Crowd the Tap chemistry strips for water quality, logbook and pencil, citizen science stickers

Exploring Biodiversity

Picture of biodiversity citizen science kit

Citizen science project: iNaturalist

Season: Any (although some species are only present in warm weather)

Biodiversity is an important marker for an ecosystem’s health. Healthy ecosystems ensure natural sustainability for all life forms and can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.

Use the binoculars, lenses and smartphone to take and share detailed pictures of nature and help create a living record of life on Earth. By recording and sharing your observations on iNaturalist, you’ll create research-quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. You can also connect with people who can identify the species you spot!

Contents: Celestron Outlander X binoculars, magnifying lens, Pocket guides: Montana Trees and Wildflowers;
Montana Birds;  Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountains; Montana Wildlife, logbook and pencil, citizen science stickers

Dark Skies: Measuring Light in the Night

Picture of measuring light at night citizen science kit

Citizen science project: Globe at Night

Season: Any time of year

Light pollution is intrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light. Too much light pollution can wash out starlight in the night sky, interfere with astronomical research, disrupt ecosystems, have adverse health effects, and waste energy.

Take part in an international citizen science project, Globe at Night, that involves the public in measuring and collecting night sky brightness observations to help scientists understand the impact of light pollution.

Contents: SQM (Sky Quality Meter) to measure light pollution, Field Guide to the Night Sky, Planisphere (night sky map), red flashlight (for night vision), logbook and pencil, citizen science stickers

Observing Pollinators

Picture of exploring pollinators citizen science kit

Citizen science project: Great Sunflower Project

Season: Later spring, summer, fall

Pollinators are animals that assist plants in their reproductive cycles and are critical to the world’s food supply. Pollinators include ants, bats, bees, birds, butterflies and more. In recent years, their populations have suffered severe declines, especially among honey bee colonies. The Great Sunflower Project engages volunteers to help scientists understand and respond to changes in pollinator populations and the types of flowering plants that pollinators prefer from wherever they are.

Simply observe any flowering plant for less than 15 minutes, count and identify the pollinators that visit the plant, then log your data online.

Contents: Clip-on lenses for phone, Wildflowers of Montana guide, Guide to North America’s Bees, Lemon Queen sunflower seeds, logbook and pencil, citizen science stickers


For information on bringing a citizen science kit to your Montana library, email [email protected]

This material is based upon work supported in part by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Cooperative Agreement OIA-1757351

Montana NSF EPSCoR logo