Smiling woman in headphones working on laptop

How citizen scientists are mobilizing to save the planet

Anyone can take part in cutting-edge research, allowing ordinary citizens to unlock answers and contribute to real discoveries.

In brief
  • Through citizen science, passionate individuals are helping to accelerate data collection for critical research projects.
  • Big corporations can play a pivotal role in mobilizing employees, boosting research progress and fostering a culture of continuous learning.
  • AI's ability to rapidly decipher scientific images can augment human efforts, allowing citizen scientists to engage in more complex classification processes.

Citizen science projects activate millions of people around the world each year. These collaborations, between professionals in the scientific community and passionate individuals from the broader public, enable people to contribute to research projects, usually by collecting, analyzing, or interpreting data.

One citizen science project, Penguin Watch, has EY employees and the public tagging adult penguins, chicks, and eggs across Antarctica, which exemplifies how collective efforts can close the resourcing gap on hundreds of critical projects. This partnership highlights the immense value that citizen scientists bring, amplifying the scale and speed of data collection to get insights into penguin populations, behaviors, and ecosystem dynamics. Researchers can delve deeper into data analysis and accelerate conservation efforts, enhancing their understanding of penguin ecology and the preservation of Antarctic ecosystems amidst climate change and human impact.

However, the benefit is not just about scientific advancement. Beyond the value to research teams, the value of citizen science extends into society. For participants, these projects often foster a deeper connection to science, sparking new interests and opportunities beyond the project.

Microsoft has joined the global EY organization in contributing to citizen science projects, such as Snapshots at Sea, given the alignment and value these projects create. “The EY organization was pleased to invite Microsoft to participate in Snapshots at Sea, driving continued collaboration between the two organizations’ social impact agendas,” said Scot Studebaker, Partner in Markets & Business Development at Ernst & Young U.S. LLP. “Citizen science projects like Snapshots at Sea align with both organizations’ mission to use technology to drive positive environmental action, driving employee engagement in areas they care about.”

Only 26% of US adults have participated in an activity classified as citizen science.1 But research shows that 77% of citizen scientist volunteers who participated in one project then participated in at least one more, often crossing into multiple disciplines.

Citizen science projects like Snapshots at Sea align with both organizations’ mission to use technology to drive positive environmental action, driving employee engagement in areas they care about.

Corporates are mobilizing employees to become citizen scientists.

Big corporations have emerged as a pivotal force for catalyzing and sustaining this burgeoning movement. Multinationals are stepping forward as influential partners, facilitators, and enablers, forging innovative collaborations that extend the frontiers of scientific discovery.

Chris Lintott, the head researcher at a people-powered research platform, Zooniverse, has witnessed first-hand the difference it makes when corporates become actively involved in recruiting citizen scientists.

“Corporates such as the global EY organization have not only enabled us to bring a broad audience to transformative citizen science projects, but also made us think deeply about how these types of projects can fit into people’s lives. Their support continues to be invaluable as we reach toward our goal of enabling everyone on the planet to make a meaningful contribution to our understanding of the Earth, its ecology and the cosmos it belongs to,” says Chris.

SAP, another EY Alliance member, has also joined EY in contributing to citizen science through Zooniverse. “SAP saw the opportunity to join the global EY organization and Zooniverse as a win-win. We are giving SAP employees a chance to contribute to something they care about while also helping accelerate critical research,” stated Chelsey Lerdahl, Senior Corporate Social Responsibility Leader at SAP.

SAP saw the opportunity to join EY and Zooniverse as a win-win — we are giving SAP employees a chance to contribute to something they care about while also helping accelerate critical research.

When corporates and scientific communities come together, it drives both research progress and nurtures a workforce culture that values continuous learning and community contribution.

From penguins to iguanas — and beyond!

Since 2007, EY people have been making an impact in the realm of citizen science. Tens of thousands of EY employees have been immersed in Zooniverse projects, giving the platform the distinction of having the highest program participation in EY’s corporate responsibility history.

In the last three years, EY team members have participated in Penguin Watch and five other Zooniverse programs:

  • Weather Rescue (Completed): Helping to understand changing climate by transcribing logbooks
  • Invader ID (Completed): Searching for new occurrences of invasive species
  • Arctic Bears (Completed): Studying co-occurring polar, grizzly, and black bear populations in Wapusk National Park
  • Snapshots at Sea (Active): Identifying individual humpback whales
  • Iguanas from Above (Active): Logging endangered Galápagos marine iguana locations to support effective conservation

Will AI make citizen science redundant?

The future of citizen science will become even more exciting when paired with the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to decipher scientific data from images. Through machine learning (ML) algorithms and computer vision techniques, AI promises to revolutionize the way we collect, process, and interpret data gleaned from images.

One of the most compelling aspects of AI in the context of citizen science is its capacity to augment human efforts. The sheer volume and complexity of visual data can be overwhelming. AI steps in as a potent ally, automating the arduous task of data analysis. By swiftly and accurately identifying patterns, anomalies and species in images, AI will liberate human citizen scientists to engage in more intricate, intellectually dependent classification processes.

Citizen science allows us to share important scientific processes — such as classifying whale photos — that require human judgement. While we leverage AI image recognition to identify individual whales, the human element gives us the nuanced, qualitative data we need as well as providing training material for future ML development,” says Ted Cheeseman, leading researcher of Snapshots at Sea, emphasizing the relationship between technology and human involvement.

Echoing this sentiment, most scientists are in consensus that the combination of ML and AI with human-driven citizen science will not diminish the role of human participants but rather enhance it.


In Zooniverse's Snapshots at Sea program, you can help identify individual humpback whales by quality scoring and tagging distinctive features, like killer whale and ship strike scars in photographs. Join the global movement of citizen scientists and make a difference today!

Want to dive into citizen science?

Help identify individual humpback whales. Every classification you make can help shape the future of marine research. 

Humpback whale swims in the ocean


A form of collaboration between scientists and the public, citizen science allows ordinary people to participate in the collection and analysis of data, accelerating the progress of critical research. Organizations, like EY, have a key role to play in mobilizing their professionals to support citizen science projects, contributing to scientific advancement, and fostering a culture of continuous learning.

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