Project BudBurst: How I Can Help Scientists Study Climate Change

seedlings formated1 300x298 Project BudBurst: How I Can Help Scientists Study Climate ChangeLast week I was watching the evening news, and saw more huge ice shelves dropping off glaciers in Canada, and was again hit with just how common this phenomenon is becoming.  How many times in even just the past two years have we seen these dramatic events unfold on national TV, showing us just how drastically things are changing in the world around us, whether or not we can feel the change in our own neighborhood yet?

Hindsight being 20/20, I’m sure I’m not the only person who laments the fact that I didn’t understand the philosophy and science of unnatural climate change until a few years ago. I’m not always sure if I believe that this wave of climate change is solely the result of human irresponsibility, but I’m sure that it factors in. Sure, there are things I would have done better in the past, to reduce my carbon footprint, and give back to my local ecosystem, but with the past firmly behind us, I went looking for a way that I could make a difference using my own gifts, and interests, and found a great way that I can help scientists monitor the changing climate by sharing with them what is going on in my own garden.

Project Budburst,” is an national online database thus far only available in the USA, that allows registered volunteers to document one, or many trees, flowers or shrubs in their local area.  The purpose of the site is to feed bloom, leaf, and dormancy times across the United States into a form usable by climate change scientists, who can then use the data to monitor changes in natural plant life cycles, and any changes in pollinator activity as related to changing global temperatures. The hope is that by by monitoring these plants beginning now, scientists will have a better idea of how to plant for the future, if and when more issues related to climate change impact the crops and environments we rely on.  The website is run by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, with support and funding from several government agencies, including the National Science Foundation.

There are large lists of targeted plants that scientists want specific data on, organized by state, that can be chosen by volunteers to document. I chose to monitor my own Forsythia bush in the front yard of my house, since I will walk by it everyday to and from work. Documenting the obvious will be easier for me than trying to monitor the many plants at work, where I will be bogged down by other concerns during the day.  I’m planning to monitor the plant for the next year, and log in to the “Project Budburst” database to share the dates I find for things like “leaf out,” “budding,” blooming,” etc.

The thing I like about this project, is that it allows me to feel like my yard is that much more useful, since I can assist in the scientific research that climatologists can’t collect on their own, and I can log in to see what other people’s findings are across the nation.  The reason I wanted to share this project with you is because any green minded person can find a garden plant, or urban street tree to monitor, and can help in some capacity these climatologists in their study of changing global patterns.

What do you think: What are your thoughts on “Project Budburst?”  Would you ever volunteer to assist in a climatology study, or do you think the data these groups collect are ”too little too late?”

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  1. Milan says:

    To have much value, such a project would need to be maintained for many years. That’s the only way year-to-year random aberrations in weather can be isolated from genuine climatic trends. That said, it could be a valuable source of information on how plants are responding to changes in the global environment. Other studies have already shown that the ranges inhabited by plants and animals are shifting in response to changes in temperature and precipitation. What is most interesting is what happens when those gradual changes encounter an obstacle: when creatures moving upslope towards colder air find themselves at the top of the mountain, or when plants flowering earlier miss the time when the insects pollinating them are active.

    At present, the project only covers the continental United States. It aims to track 30 native trees/shrubs, 24 native wildflowers, 3 common exotic weeds, 2 common exotic ornamentals, and all of the U.S.A. National Phenology Network calibration species. The Woodland Trust does similar work in the United Kingdom.


  2. Fred says:

    This is a little off topic, but the geek in me must say it. I love the photo style you’ve got in the upper right corner. Makes you want to reach out and grab it.

  3. Amy says:

    Thanks! It’s always cool to try new things visually.

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