UCAR Staff Notes masthead
Home Our Organization Research News Center Education Community Tools Libraries
About Staff Notes
Past Issues
Favorite Photos
How to Subscribe


staff notes header

March 2007

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.

pasque flower

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 change.

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 Sandra Henderson.

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

More 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 at Night.


In this issue...

International Polar Year kicks off this month

Project BudBurst to debut
GLOBE at Night

Short Takes

Denise Stephenson Hawk joins SERE

An interview with Katy Schmoll

Mesa Lab a medieval castle?

Just One Look


Staff Notes home page | News Center