Tree Spotters Program FAQ

Tree Spotters Program FAQ

Have questions about the Tree Spotters program? Find answers here!

Who can become a Tree Spotter? Does this program require a background in biology?

The Tree Spotters program is geared toward anyone interested in learning more about the Arboretum’s trees, phenology, and climate change. No background in biology is required! As this program involves data collection on the Arboretum’s grounds, it is most appropriate for anyone of middle school age or older who is within reasonable traveling distance of the Arboretum.


What does volunteering as a Tree Spotter entail? Will I be trained?

New Tree Spotters are expected to attend a training session (2½ hours, plus option 30-minute outdoor component) to learn about the fundamentals of Tree Spotting, including basic botany and phenology, as well as methods of observing. Once trained, volunteers may choose their level of involvement. Typically, Tree Spotters can gather excellent data by making bi-weekly, weekly or monthly visits to the Arboretum to observe trees. Data collection is self-directed, although many Tree Spotters prefer to pair up with other volunteers or spot in groups!

To help volunteers build plant knowledge and observation skills, optional group events are offered throughout the year. Learn more about our events on the Events Calendar page. Educational resources and tutorials are available for volunteers on Tree Spotters Resources page. Program coordinators are available to answer questions and provide guidance, and our Social Media platforms offer opportunities for Tree Spotters to connect online.


Which trees should I observe? How many trees? How often?

That’s up to you! We recommend starting with one or two species on a single route. As you gain confidence in your observations and understanding of phenology, you can expand the number and type of trees you observe. Consistency is key! Regular visits to the same tree or trees will provide the best data. Tree Spotters data collection typically happens from early spring to early winter, before our trees enter dormancy.


How will our data be used?

Tree Spotters data is submitted to the National Phenology Network (NPN), an organization established in 2007 to collect, store, and share phenology data and information. NPN data is open and accessible to researchers, educators, and the general public. Data collected by Tree Spotters is used directly by researchers studying phenology and ecology at the Arnold Arboretum, including the Temporal Ecology Lab.


What is Nature’s Notebook? How do I register? How do I enter data?

Tree Spotters use Nature’s Notebook to submit data to the National Phenology Network. You’ll find video tutorials to help you register and enter data on our Guides, Links and Handouts page.


How should I report the amount of time I spend Tree Spotting?

Volunteers can report their time spent Tree Spotting while entering phenology data on their Observation Decks in Nature’s Notebook, or while using the Nature’s Notebook phone app. To learn more about reporting time, watch our video tutorials on entering and editing data in Nature’s Notebook and downloading and using the Nature’s Notebook phone app. By entering your time, you’ll help the Tree Spotter’s Team assess volunteer participation and improve the program.


How do I start observing? What should I wear?
Check out our Quick Start Guide for useful tips on what you’ll need to get started out in the field.


How can I contact the program coordinators?

Email us at with comments or questions.