Flower shows around the country are a pleasant reminder that spring is just around the corner!  One of my favorite things about spring is the blooming of the beautiful plants and flowers as the weather begins to warm.  (Even if my seasonal allergies beg to differ.)
This year, instead of just passing by blooming plants on our commute to work, we can take a moment to record our observations and send them to Project Budburst.  Founded in 2007, Project Budburst is a national citizen science campaign designed to collect data about the phenophases (stages of a plant’s life cycle, such as first leaf, first flower, etc.) of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses in our areas.  By collecting this data each year, Project Budburst will be able to determine how variations in our climate affects plant growth in regions around the country.  This project is funded by a variety of sponsors, including the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Chicago Botanical Garden, and the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana.
Phenology is a visible way of demonstrating the effects of climate change directly to young students,  and many elementary science classrooms around the country are participating in this year’s data collection.  I will be keeping tabs on the phenological observations of my mother’s fifth grade science students in the weeks to come.  When asked why she chose this particular science project for her students to become involved in, my mother replied, “I find my students are more interested in science that they do themselves; getting them out of the textbook is the easiest way to hold their interest.  I think with this particular project, they can involve their parents and siblings in getting excited about the arrival of spring without a big time commitment.  I also liked that once their data was submitted, my students could go back to the website to see their local results for Butler, PA posted on a map of the entire United States.  Seeing that their simple observations of the world around them impacted such a large study is a great reinforcement of what they accomplished as citizen scientists.”
Getting involved is very easy, and requires a minimal amount of effort each day as you observe the plants in your neighborhood…maybe even in your backyard!  To get started, download the starter packet here.
Statistics from 2007 (pilot year): 913 phenological events reported from participants in 26 states; Ohio and Illinois had the highest rate of participation; 2008 data collected all year round, but still being analyzed


> Topics Plants, climate control, phenophases, spring
> Location Close to home
> Duration As little as 10 minutes each day
> Cost Free
> Gear No special equipment required
> Level of Difficulty Easy

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