Project BudBurst to debut
In a new campaign managed
by EO, citizen-scientists head outdoors to observe the
signs of spring and gather data related
to climate change.
UCAR photographer Carlye Calvin took
this photo of a Pasque flower near Nederland. Pasque
flowers grow at a variety of elevations, usually
in dry, open, rocky areas. The flower heads on this
early bloomer can appear when patches of snow are
still present. The word Pasque comes from paschal,
Hebrew for Passover, as the flower usually blooms
around the time of Passover and Easter.
Cultures around the world have used phenology, the study
of climate-related cyclical patterns in plants and animals,
since ancient times to track the natural world and organize
the human one. In Japan and China, for example, the blossoming
of cherry and peach trees is associated with ancient festivals,
some of whose dates can be traced back as far as 974 BCE.
For three months this spring, children and families will
continue the longstanding tradition of phenology by heading
outdoors to observe the budding, leafing, and blooming of
trees and flowers as part of a national “citizen science” field
campaign. By recording their observations via the Internet,
participants will add to the growing body of data on climate
Called Project BudBurst, the campaign is managed by EO in
conjunction with the Chicago Botanic Garden and a number
of other research and academic organizations. Funding for
the 2007 inaugural event was provided by the U.S. Bureau
of Land Management.
“We’re hoping to build more awareness of the
importance of phenology as a field of investigation, make
a link to climate change, and get kids and families
outside observing their environment,” says EO’s
Project BudBurst begins in April and runs through June. The
campaign is geared towards students and teachers, families,
scouts, 4-H groups, gardening clubs, and others with an interest
in observing the timing of phenological events.
“One of the neat things about phenology is that you
don’t need any sophisticated equipment,” says
EO’s Kirsten Meymaris.
To take part in Project Budburst, participants first select
a tree or flower to observe and begin checking it several
weeks prior to its average budburst date (the point when
bud scales have opened and leaves are visible). They continue
to observe the tree or flower for subsequent phenological
events, such as first leaf and flower bloom, and record the
dates. When they submit their records online, they can view
maps of these phenological events across the United States.p>
Phenological records are an important part of climate change
research. Some plant species are responding to warmer temperatures
by sustaining longer growing seasons. Others are shifting
their ranges toward the poles or to higher elevations. Such
changes could have major impacts on timing-sensitive relationships
with insects that pollinate and disperse seeds and with herbivores, leading
to a decoupling of events that have long occurred in synchrony.
Particularly vulnerable to climate change are species with
limited ranges and dispersal abilities. One of the first
steps toward conserving plant species threatened by climate
change is to implement local monitoring programs that measure
how climate change is affecting these plants.
On the Web
about Project Budburst, including how to participate
GLOBE at Night
In another citizen science project, GLOBE, EO, and
Windows to the Universe are again sponsoring GLOBE
at Night, an annual campaign to encourage schoolchildren
around the world to gaze skyward after dark, looking
for specific constellations and then sharing their
observations on the Internet. The campaign, which
runs March 8–21, is helping scientists map
light pollution around the world while educating
participants about the stars.
An official Star Hunting Party took place on March
8 at the Mesa Lab to kick off the GLOBE at Night event,
giving children, families, and citizen-scientists
a chance to observe the skies above Boulder and learn
more about a particular constellation, Orion.
During the 2006 event, more than 18,000 people from
96 countries on all continents except Antarctica reported
more than 4,500 observations. The campaign was extended
an extra week this year to improve the odds that children
around the world have at least one cloud-free night.
Learn more about GLOBE
In this issue...
Polar Year kicks off this month
BudBurst to debut
Stephenson Hawk joins SERE
interview with Katy Schmoll
Lab a medieval castle?
Just One Look
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