Human Flower Project
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Project Budburst ~ Late to Science
On the lookout for flowers? This is our kind of science project.
Pink Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) in Austin, TX
nearly ready to report on climate change, 2/26/08
Photo: Human Flower Project
We’re not much for joining. We were always mediocre at science. But as of today we’re all aboard Project Budburst.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research—a group of 70 universities—is trying to track climate change in the U.S. by engaging “citizen scientists” to report when plants leaf out, bud, and bloom. Has global warming changed the lives of lilacs, dandelions, or mayapples in our yards? Well, first we gotta look.
“Watch locally, discover globally” seems the motto of this effort. Compiling observations from people all across the nation, the scientists who dreamed this up can get a surer sense of how our planet is changing. “Plants can serve as quite sensitive climate sensors,” Dr. Kay Havens, a project leader and director of plant science and conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden, told Steve Curwood. “By looking at bloom time and leaf time that gives us a good indication of whether or not the temperature is changing in an area.”
Project Budburst makes reporting on local plants easy
Last year’s pilot study drew over 900 observations “and of those, nearly two thirds were done by children under 12,” Havens said. How often do you get to take part in a nationwide, multigenerational science project—no math skills required? They make it a cinch to register (either by name or anonymously), find your latitude and longitude, and then choose a tree, shrub, wildlflower or weed to keep an eye on. You can pick from their list or select a local plant that interests you.
We’ve selected Pink Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) as there’s a little patch of it right down by our curb (and Glenn Whitehead’s big pastel drawing of them on the wall inside; it blooms twelve months a year). As of today we see leaves but no buds in the yard. But three doors down, at Victor’s, it looks as if we may be able to report a bloom later today. (Any specimen within a half mile is in bounds.) This plant, we learn, blooms in the mornings in some parts of Texas, in the evenings elsewhere. so we’ll also discover whether the primroses hereabouts are larks or owls.
Project Budburst was launched two weeks ago, so we’re a bit late getting started. But there’s nobody handing out grades (or gold stars, for that matter). We hope that our U.S. readers will consider taking part in this far-sighted Human Flower Project and that readers in other parts of the world will let us know of more citizen-science efforts to study climate change.