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 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 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!

How to Make a Great “Share”

To make a great “share,” an observation that can be valuable to science, please be sure to:

  1. Include the location (HotSpot name or other description) and the date/time.
  2. Take several pictures. Make them from different angles, if possible.
  3. Take quality pictures. Try and take them up close if you can, in good light.
  4. Include the identification. Even if you are not sure what species it is, be as precise as possible.

Program Staff

  • Jonathan Marchal, ecoEXPLORE Creator and Program Leader
  • Libbie Dobbs-Alexander, ecoEXPLORE Coordinator
  • Josh Perkins, AmeriCorps Member
  • April Hausle, Community Engagement Educator


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.