With the beautiful, warm weather recently I have spent a lot more time outside and have enjoyed watching the first signs of spring every where I look. My chives are coming up in the garden and my lilacs are leafing out. Here at the Gardens there are so many plants starting to bloom, from the daffodils to the magnolias. Observations like these make up the science of phenology.
Phenology is the study of relationships between climate and the seasonal events, like flowering dates. Phenology is one of the most sensitive and easily observed indicators of biotic response to climate change and is affected by factors such as temperature, water and nutrient availability, and timing and duration of pest infestations and disease outbreaks. We use phenology to manage timing of seasonal work, like crop harvest and pest management. Organizations like the USA National Phenology Network gather phenological data from all types of contributors (including researchers, educators and citizen scientists) to understand the impacts of climate change on phenology. Efforts such as these provide valuable data to scientists that they otherwise would not be able to gather on their own.
This year, the Gardens is getting involved in plant phenology by participating in the Project BudBurst Cherry Blossom Blitz March 20-April 30, 2012. Project BudBurst is a network of people across the United States who monitor plants as the seasons change, collecting important ecological data on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants (plant phenophases). The data are being collected to allow scientists to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally. We encourage you to explore the cherries here at the Gardens. For each plant, you can participate by observing the phenophase of one or more cherries and share your observations on the Project BudBurst website or the Android Mobile BudBurst app.
Whether you are observing cherries here at the Gardens or in your own yard, I encourage you to think about the significance of that observation and how valuable your data can be when combined with those of other citizen scientists across the country…every observation counts.