Q: And what exactly is “Project Budburst”
A: National Phenology Network Field Campaign for Citizen Scientists.
A: Project Budburst engages the public in making careful observations of the phenophases of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses.
Q: And phenophases are what, exactly?
A: Phenophases are the life events of a plant: first leafing, unfolding of the leaves, first flowering, first fruiting. You know, the highlights in the life of a young, nubile forb.
Q: And why would we be doing this?
A: It’s the climate, stupid.
A: Right. Apparently everything is moving up due to global warming. That is to say everything is happening sooner and sooner each year, hormonally-speaking. Seeds are germinating sooner, buds are bursting sooner, flowers are getting pollinated sooner, etc. The Project Budburst folks need people like you and me to document all the precociousness.
Back when I was in college, my school discouraged anybody from going into biology because there were never, ever going to be any jobs in that field. They told all of us Jane Goodall wannabes to study chemistry instead. I did and that’s why I’m a writer today. I wanted to be Jane Goodall, they wanted me to be Rosalind Franklin. Losing proposition, that, as we all know. The point is, about the same time my school was discouraging its students from studying field biology, other schools all across the country were doing the same thing. Nobody wanted a bunch of loser grads that couldn’t get jobs so they pushed anybody with a love of anything that might lead down a fulfilling but not overly alumni-fund endowable career path into a more lucrative curriculum. Therefore there are no biologists in the country anymore.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. I’m sure there are some, but not enough. So you and I get to play scientist now. It’s fun for the whole family. Good and good for you. Here’s how to do it:
Pick your plant, watch its phenophases, document them, report your results. That’s it in a nutshell. Naturally you’ll want a little more guidance than that, so you’ll head over to the Project Budburst website to sign on.
Don’t know your wild plants? No worry, they have ID guides. Besides with such easy species as Eastern White Pine, Tulip tree, Southern Magnolia, and forsythia on the list of observables, I’m sure you’ll do fine. They also have grasses and wildflowers if you’re into the more dramatic members of the plant kingdom. Something for everyone.
If you are like the former me, touched by the when-I-grow-up-I-wanna-be-Jane-Goodall syndrome, this just might be the way to satisfy your Stalking the Wild Asparagus jones.
Go forth and endow the world with your wonderful scientistness.
Sue Lange’s bookshelf at Book View Cafe