Botany Blasts Encourage Observations of Changing Climate

by Jon Hetman, Director of External Relations & Communications
January 12, 2016

Botany Blast Series Tree Spotters

Botany Blasts Encourage Observations of Changing Climate


The Season Spotters Blog features images like these from the National Park Service Webcam that highlight seasonal events in the lives of plants.

Recording details about when plants flower or leaf out (phenology) may not seem like a momentous undertaking at first glance, but when aggregated, this data can reveal much to scientists about how plants are faring in our changing climate. In order to better observe, appreciate, and understand trees and their life cycles, it helps to have a basic understanding of plant forms and structures (morphology) as they relate to seasonal changes. This winter and spring, the Arboretum offers a series of Botany Blasts – interactive lectures intended to inspire citizen science and facilitate a platform for people to learn how their own nature observations fit into, and may aid, global science understanding.

Starting on January 23, Botany Blasts will feature overviews of woody plant morphology, phenology, and ecology, explained by a variety of speakers including Dr. William (Ned) Friedman (Arboretum Director and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University). Speakers will introduce concepts of observational science and provide resources to help participants develop a foundational understanding of topics ranging from historical notetaking to animal behavior to data analysis. Building on the success of the Arboretum’s Tree Spotters program in engaging the local community, Botany Blasts are designed to encourage citizen scientists and recreational naturalists to take a closer look at the changing characteristics of trees for clues to their seasonal development and their role in the ecosystem.

The first Botany Blast will be led by Margaret Kosmala PhD, a Post-doctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Richardson Lab, who will share her work on how natural systems respond to human action like climate change. She will also demonstrate how quantitative methods and technology can help us answer pressing questions about biodiversity, ecosystem function, and sustainability. Participants will get a hands-on tutorial in using computational methods to assess data and learn how to translate their observations into scientific findings. Previous experience with data analysis is not required; Botany Blasts welcome scientists and recreationalists alike.

Botany Blast Series Tree Spotters

Tree Spotters make plant observations at the Arboretu m.

For a fun preview, try out Season Spotter, Kosmala’s new online citizen science project, which features an interactive platform to train your eye to spot seasonal details in landscapes. “Margaret [Kosmala, PhD] has an inspiring ability to bring together citizen scientists to achieve massive goals using online tools,” observed Jehane Samaha (Research Technician in the Wolkovich Lab and Tree Spotters Project Manager). “I am consistently impressed by the dedication to knowledge that citizen scientists exhibit.”

Visit our website to register for Dr. Margaret Kosmala’s Botany Blast: Observing Nature for Citizen Science, and check our calendar for more upcoming Botany Blasts in February and March. Botany Blasts are free and open to all. Experience the power of citizen science for yourself and register now.

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