Citizen science: Project BudBurst 2010

Spring is in the air, and that means it's time for Project BudBurst. Launched in 2007, BudBurst sends students, teachers, families, gardeners, and citizen-scientists outdoors to observe the budding, leafing, and blooming of trees and flowers.

Participants submit their records online, helping build a collection of phenological data that researchers can use to study climate change. (Phenology is the study of the timing of cyclical natural events, such as plant flowering or bird migration.) The BudBurst website features maps of phenological events across the United States.

New this year is a focus on America's Ten Most Wanted Plants, which include red maple, common lilac, forsythia, red-osier dogwoods, and Virginia bluebells.   BudBurst science advisors chose these plants because they've been very popular with participants in years past. Building multi-year datasets will help scientists better pinpoint the timing of budburst, flowering, and fruiting.

In addition, BudBurst staff in EO have been developing a suite of teacher resources to make classroom implementation more effective. A online resource for younger students, the BudBurst Buddies, highlights the graphic work of Lisa Gardiner.

"By recording the timing of the leafing and flowering of the same species each year, we may learn that climate change is affecting our backyards in ways that we otherwise might not even notice," says EO's Sandra Henderson, adding that 2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year for phenological data collection.