ecoEXPLORE 101

ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an incentive-based citizen science program for children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, this innovative 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 citizen science.

What is citizen science?

Citizen Science encourages volunteers of any age to collect and submit scientific information to real life scientists, which will assist in their research and data analysis. Scientists around the world need help collecting data. By becoming a citizen scientist, participants can help professional scientists understand changes in the environment and see how these changes impact plants, animals and other natural resources.


See It!

After signing up online, participants go outside in their own backyard or at designated ecoEXPLORE HotSpots to find wildlife species, including plants, reptiles, amphibians, insects and birds.

Snap It!

Participants can use their own device – or check out an iPod Touch at a participating LoanSpot location – and photograph their wildlife observation, noting the data, location, time, size and species observed.

Share It!

Participants then log into their ecoEXPLORE profile online and submit their “share” or observation. Arboretum staff will then review the data and submit all approved submissions to the iNaturalist Network, which is used by real scientists!

Where to EXPLORE

ecoEXPLORE is a North Carolina-based program, but you can submit observations from anywhere in the world. The North Carolina Arboretum is both the lead institution of the ecoEXPLORE, and is the hub for the Mountain Region.

The Greensboro Science Center is the hub for our Northern Piedmont Region and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is the hub for our Northern Coastal Region.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences serves as both the Central Region Hub from Prairie Ridge Ecostation; and their Whiteville location as the Southern Coastal Region Hub.

This program is free of charge to all children and families in North Carolina. Non-North Carolina residents are also welcome to attend programs, post observations and earn badges but are not permitted to earn prizes at this time.

Does your organization want to join ecoEXPLORE?

Thanks to our generous supporters we have funds available to bring ecoEXPLORE to all 100 North Carolina counties. We are looking for parks, greenways and nature/science centers to serve as ecoEXPLORE HotSpots and public libraries to serve as ecoEXPLORE LoanSpots.

We are currently not taking applications for HotSpots or LoanSpots. We plan to reopen the application process January 2022.

The North Carolina Arboretum Program Staff

  • Jonathan Marchal, ecoEXPLORE Creator and Director of Education
  • Libbie Dobbs-Alexander, ecoEXPLORE Statewide Coordinator
  • Jenna Kesgen, ecoEXPLORE Creative Coordinator
  • Rich Preyer, Evaluation Specialist
  • Meghan McDevitt, Western Hub ecoEXPLORE Specialist
  • Charles Zimmerman, Statewide ecoEXPLORE Specialist
  • Andrew Dundas, ecoEXPLORE Creative Specialist


A number of partners and collaborators participate in ecoEXPLORE, an initiative of The North Carolina Arboretum. These include:

  • North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation,
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
  • Duke Energy Foundation
  • Buncombe County Recreation Services


For more information on ecoEXPLORE, please get in touch.