March 11, 2008

BudBurst: Citizen Science to Study Climate Change

Are you a global warming doomsdayer or skeptical that climate change even exists? If so then join BudBurst and help scientists continue to study our Earth and how its changing. Participants volunteer to look out for first bud bursts, first leafing, first flower, and seed or fruit dispersal in their area. Those are all phenological events, meaning biological phenomena that are sensitive to climate variations.

From Project BudBurst:

Phenology is the study of the timing of life cycle events in plants and animals. In other words, studying the environment to figure out how animals know when it is time to hibernate, and what ‘calendar’ or ‘clock’ plants use to begin flowering, leafing or reproducing.

Phenology is literally “the science of appearance.” Scientists who study phenology – phenologists -- are interested in the timing of specific biological events (such as flowering, migration, and reproduction) in relation to changes in season and climate. Seasonal and climatic changes are some of the non-living or abiotic components of the environment that impact the living or biotic components. Seasonal changes can include variations in day length, temperature, and rain or snowfall. In short, phenologists attempt to learn more about the abiotic factors that plants and animals respond to...

Phenological observations have been used for centuries by farmers to maximize crop production, nature-lovers to anticipate optimal wildflower viewing conditions, and by almost all of us to prepare for seasonal allergies. Today, this well established science is also used by scientists to track the effect of global warming and climate change on organisms and to make predictions about the future health of the environment. By tracking changes in the timing of these phenological events, scientists are able to better understand how our environment is changing.

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