When I was growing up, we used to be able to time the moment our crabapple trees would burst into bloom in near-perfect synchrony with the arrival of my late April birthday. Fortunately, my parents don't need to see flowers in order to remember the day, because the blossoms have started to come out early. This kind of observation may seem somewhat trivial -- a small-scale, personal reminder that the climate's changing -- but it is just the kind of observation that Project Budburst wants people submitting to their citizen science field campaign.
Project Budburst is having its first test run this spring, with a 10-week pilot program gathering phenological data from around the U.S. They're hoping in particular to collect information on the leafing and flowering of native species, but since the season is well underway, they're also looking at time of "full flower, end flower, and seed and fruit dispersal." The aggregated regional observations will form a nationwide measuring stick for the rate and impact of climate change on plant species.
You can participate in the citizen science project by submitting observations from your own neighborhood or region online. Toward the end of the project, Budburst will post maps containing accumulated data from other parts of the country so that citizens researchers can have a chance to analyze what they've collected. Another reason to stop and smell the flowers.
Great post, and spring is a great time to become an amateur phenologist!
As noted in the Worldchanging book, the British are really experts at this kind of citizen science, and to learn from the experts it's worth a visit to the U.K. Phenology Network at
and also to visit the informative "Climate Change in Your Garden" Website: