Prairie Research Institute

Illinois Natural History Survey

The scientific work done at the Illinois Natural History Survey doesn’t just benefit Illinoisans – Illinoisans can also participate in INHS science!

Community science (or “citizen science”) refers to scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, typically under the direction of professional scientists. There are many opportunities for Illinoisans to help the scientists at INHS monitor the state’s biodiversity and habitats.


I-Pollinate aims to collect statewide pollinator data. Volunteers can participate in three research projects and collect data on monarch egg and caterpillar abundance, pollinator visitation to ornamental flowers, and state bee demographics. Visit the I-Pollinate website for more information.

I-Tick & Ticks of Illinois

Individuals whose work or leisure take them outdoors can submit collected ticks to the Illinois Tick Inventory Collaboration Network (I-TICK). Then scientists identify these ticks to better understand where and when ticks come in contact with people, pets, and livestock, and also examine what human activities affect the risk of finding a tick. I-TICK is a collaborative effort between the INHS Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Lab and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Visit the I-Tick website to learn more about how to participate.

If you’ve found a tick in Illinois and aren’t sure what species it is, you can upload a photo to the “Ticks of Illinois” project on the iNaturalist platform. Scientists in the INHS Medical Entomology Lab will identify the species you’ve encountered and will use this information to develop a clearer understanding of where different species are found throughout the year and what they are found on.

If you have found a tick on or near bats or a bat roosting site, you can submit photos or specimens. Visit the Bat Ticks website for more information.

Monitoring Owls and Nightjars

The volunteer-powered Monitoring of Owls and Nightjars (MOON) program conducts annual monitoring to determine population trends and distribution of these nocturnal bird species in Illinois. It also investigates potential causes for the species’ decline, such as decreased habitat availability and food sources, and provides the data needed to implement best management practices to conserve them. Visit the MOON website for more information about volunteering.

Spring Bird Count

Each spring, citizen scientists fan out across Illinois to conduct the Spring Bird Count. These volunteers record all birds that they see and hear on a designated Saturday in May. This annual census began in 1959, and the resulting data can be used to estimate changes in populations of bird species throughout the state. Visit the Spring Bird Count website for more information.