Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere. With all of this sunlight shining down on such large areas of land, it is also probably the most productive day of the year in terms of photosynthesis.* That’s reason to celebrate, right? Seriously, what are you doing reading my blog today? Go outside!** But don’t let the plants do all the work today. No, I’m not asking you to help with photosynthesis. We’ve covered that impossibility before.
I’m talking about participating in a citizen science project called Project Budburst. This NSF-funded project aims to collect observations on the plant life around your location at any given time of the year. As I’ve mentioned before, plants aren’t just beautiful scenery, they are vital components of the biosphere and we need to monitor their cycles. Scientists can use this data to track how plants respond to changes in climate on local and regional scales.
Here is their mission statement:
“Engage people from all walks of life in ecological research by asking them to share their observations of changes in plants through the seasons.”
Want more proof that they are legit? They even have a mission statement haiku:
People watching plants
Contributing to research
Join Project BudBurst
I rest my case.
Sure, spring gets all of the attention (hence the name budburst) with new green leaves and bursts of color after a weary winter, but the project needs information on the status of your plants all year round. By the time summer rolls around flowers just aren’t as novel. Everyone is headed to the beach or taking refuge inside air-conditioned structures. If trees are noticed, it’s for their shade not their fruiting stage. That’s why Project Budburst is having its summer challenge: Summer Solstice Snapshot. It’s easy to participate; just check the link for details. If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you probably have a head start on the general public when it comes to plant science knowledge. However, Project Budburst’s website has all of the information you need to record and login useful observations. It’s even easier if you have a Android device- they have a mobile app!
All of this data is freely available to anyone who’d like to use it. Not just scientists, but educators and citizens too. By having !MOAR DATA! we can track the changes in the world around us and make predictions on trends. Still having a hard time wondering when you will ever personally use such data? Just wait until two days before you or your child’s science project (worth 15% of their grade) is due and you have NO DATA. Voila! Project Budburst data to the rescue. Just come up with a semi-interesting question, like comparing species over different years or climate zones. You have an instant passing grade with minimal swearing and loss of sleep. Sorry, I cannot help you with your presentation board. Hope you have some glue and a fresh ink cartridge!
So, go ahead and take that snapshot and submit that report today. I am. Also, I’m calling out my Louisiana friends on this one. It turns out Project Budburst has an interative map with pins recording all observations. So I checked Louisiana….
WTF?!? Really? As much plant life as we have budbursting every day of the year? Not. One. Single. Entry. Now that you have been appropriately shamed, make an observation! Put down your Sno-cones or daiquiris or whatever and tell them what your Crape Myrtles and Magnolias look like. You really have no excuse. Check back tomorrow for my snapshots and reports.
*How do I know? Stay tuned more on that in an upcoming post.
**Unless of course you are reading this from a mobile device. In that case, give yourself a gold star and know that I am proud of you.
References and Links:
Project BudBurst. 2014. Project BudBurst: An online database of plant phenological observations. Project BudBurst, Boulder, Colorado. Available: http://www.budburst.org; Community Attribution: http://www.budburst.org/results_attribution; Accessed: June 20, 2014.