What comes to mind when you think of plants? Beautiful meadows of wildflowers? Stately oak trees providing shade on a summer afternoon? Tasty salads for lunch? Your thoughts on the role of plants in our lives will be expanded when you join Project BudBurst and discover the techniques scientists use to learn how plants can ‘tell’ us stories about our changing environments.


Project BudBurst is a network of volunteers across the United States who monitor plants by collecting important ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants, also known as plant phenophases. Project BudBurst volunteer participants make careful observations of these phenophases from plants in their communities, in their gardens and yards, and from their school campuses as the seasons change.


The data is collected in a consistent manner across the country so that scientists can use the data to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally. Why are plants so important in understanding changing climates? Because plants are everywhere we live and they respond to changes in their environment such as variations in temperature, precipitation, and day length.


Project BudBurst is using FieldScope to visualize data collected through the project. Here are some ways you can get started with the Project BudBurst FieldScope maps:


  • Explore the Data Discovery map of volunteered observation data to compare Project BudBurst observations with other environmental data layers; filter the data to look at observation of a plant or plants you are interested in; or search for your home town, school, or city and see which plants participants are observing near you, then consider joining the project!
  • Explore the Seasonal Visualization map to see a time lapse animation of changing phenophases over the course of a year.
  • Explore the Species Comparison map and graph tool to compare phenophase timing for different plant species within different geographic locations.

Use the FieldScope 5 downloadable Activity Guides to explore further and answer the questions below.


Activity 1: Exploring Project BudBurst Observations               

  • What types of Project BudBurst observations are near my location?


Activity 2: Is There a Relationship between Temperature and Vegetation?           

  • What types of plants are observed in locations with different surface temperatures?
  • Is there a relationship between land surface temperature and healthy vegetation?


Project BudBurst also offers resources for getting your classroom started with the program, including connections to science, geography, and Common Core ELA and Mathematics standards:


For Grade K-4 Educators

For Grade 5-8 Educators

For Grade 9-12 Educators

For University Educators 

  1. A phenophase is an observable stage, such as flowering or fruiting, in the annual life cycle of a plant. Can you name and explain the three main environmental factors that influence the timing of phenophases? Which one(s) are climate related?

    • Answer

      Phenophase timing is directly affected by temperature, rainfall and photoperiod (day length). While these factors change through the year in places where there are distinct seasons, the first twotemperature and rainfallcan also be related to climate change

  2. ​Go to the “Exploring Project BudBurst Observations” map and zoom in to your current location on the map. Have observations been recorded in your area? Next, go to Filters (in the left menu) and remove the bud burst phenophase filter (click on the check box next to “Phenophase in {Bud Burst}”) to view all Project BudBurst observations submitted since 2007. Does this change the number of observations recorded in your area?

    • Answer

      Observations will vary by location. Whether your location has many or no observations, please consider taking the next step to report the changes in plants at your location.

  3. Go to the “Is There a Relationship between Temperature and Vegetation?” map and use the Comparison Tool to compare Land Surface Temperature and Vegetation Health/Density during the same time period. What relationship is there between land surface temperature and vegetation health?

    • Answer

      The relationship between temperature and vegetation health varies. Between the Equator and the poles, the vegetation greenness rises and falls as the seasons change and temperatures warm and cool, but vegetation is abundant around the Equator all year long, where temperatures are relatively high (as are rainfall and sunlight).

  4. Project BudBurst data is collected by a network of citizen science volunteers across the United States. How might this influence the number and location of Project BudBurst observations?

    • Answer

      When looking at Project BudBurst data, keep in mind that these data do not represent all phenologic events occurring during this time. The number of Project BudBurst phenophase observations often parallels population distributions across the country.  Thus, Project BudBurst observations occur more frequently in areas where more people live. Project BudBurst observations are also more frequent in those parts of the country that have distinct seasonal change. The Southwest United States has very few Project BudBurst observations even though parts of these states are heavily populated.  

  5. Scientists who study phenologyphenologistsare interested in the timing of specific biological events, such as leafing, flowering, and fruiting, in relation to changes in season and climate. How might scientists use plant phenology data to investigate climate change?

    • Answer

      An important use of plant phenology data, including Project BudBurst data, is to document changes in the timing of phenophase events (leafing, flowering, and fruiting) trends over time. By comparing the date of onset of phenophase events in any particular location over many years, scientists can begin to assess how plants respond to a changing climate.

  6. I’m interested in participating in Project BudBurst. How do I get started?

    • Answer

      Please visit the Project BudBurst website to learn how to contribute your own observation of a plant to the Project BudBurst database and join the 15,500+ citizen scientists who have contributed to date. We look forward to seeing your contribution to Project BudBurst!


science project or program where volunteers who are not scientists conduct surveys, take measurements, or record observations.


having to do with the relationship between organisms and their environment.


something that is learned from watching and measuring an object or pattern.


study of cyclical biological events, such as animal migration or the flowering of plants.


likely to change with the seasons.


group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.


This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1114251. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.