What is Community Science?

Community science, also called citizen science or participatory science, is a way for any member of the public to contribute to scientific research. It can take the form of species or habitat monitoring, BioBlitzes, nature observations, and more. Community science enables scientists, research organizations, and the general public to better understand the world around us.

Current Projects


The Garden partnered with Budburst on their Nativars Research Project. This project seeks answers to the questions many of us in the garden business get about cultivated varieties of native plants, sometimes called “nativars.” Nativars can be different from their native parents in flower color and scent, the shape or number of flowers and petals, phenology, foliage color, and more. Since color, scent, timing, and size of flowers are very important to pollinators, it is easy to imagine that nativars might be more or less attractive to pollinators than the wild (native) species.

Caterpillars Count!

Caterpillars Count! is a community science project for measuring the seasonal variation, also known as phenology, and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Caterpillars Count! was started by Dr. Allen Hurlbert from the University of North Carolina, and is part of a broader National Science Foundation funded project on phenological mismatch.


ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an incentive-based community science program for children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, this innovative pilot program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology to foster a fun learning environment for children while encouraging them to explore the outdoors and participate in community science.


Contribute to science during your next nature outing by recording your nature observations on iNaturalist.

iNaturalist entries:
North Carolina Botanical Garden, Piedmont Nature Trails, and Coker Pinetum
Mason Farm Biological Reserve
Battle Park
Penny’s Bend

Mason Farm Butterfly Project

The Mason Farm Butterfly Project is a community science project to monitor butterflies at Mason Farm Biological Reserve, a nature preserve managed by the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. The project is a partnership between Joel Kingsolver’s lab in the UNC Chapel Hill Biology Department and the Garden. We invite participants to record butterfly observations at Mason Farm and contribute their sightings to our database, which will be used by members of the Kingsolver lab to study changes in butterfly flight seasons over time.Pilot project focused on butterfly monitoring at Mason Farm Biological Reserve.

NC Native Plant Materials Development Project

The purpose of the Garden’s NC Native Plant Materials Development Project is to identify locations of native plant species that are important restoration targets, but are currently unavailable to practitioners. For more information about this project, please contact Michael Kunz, Conservation Ecologist, 919-962-2378.

Research Permit Application

Are you a researcher interested in conducting research and/or making collections at NCBG-managed properties? Please complete this form.