Project BudBurst

Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit

What scientists don’t know is exactly how or where the cycles are changing — or how fast the changes are happening. Hiring researchers to track the changes across the nation would be impossible.

That’s where citizen science can help. In 2007, climate change researchers decided to engage volunteers in collecting data on seasonal changes in plants. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and run by the National Ecological Observatory Network in partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden, Project BudBurst is now a flourishing network of volunteers across the United States who monitor plants for seasonal changes.

Volunteers begin by creating an account on the Project BudBurst website. Next, they get online training in what to look for as they monitor plants. They choose a particular plant to monitor, such as a tree in their own backyard. Then they use a standard monitoring form to describe the plant’s location and to observe seasonal changes — changes that range from leafing, to flowering, to fruiting, to the timing of fall color and leaf fall. Finally, they report their observations on an online database.

Project BudBurst has thousands of volunteers in all 50 states, with participants tracking more than 250 plant species. The volunteers can track any plant they choose, but project organizers encourage them to choose from among 10 plants in particular. The “top ten” are easily identifiable, widely distributed and scientifically interesting. They include species such as California poppy, red maple, forsythia and Virginia bluebell.

A full case study of Project BudBurst: Citizen Scientists Track Seasonal Plant Changes is located in the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit,

Project BudburstSM is co-managed by NEON and the Chicago Botanic Garden



Project BudBurst Overview


Project BudBurst is on a mission – to get you outside taking a moment to observe how plants in your community change with the seasons. Then, share your observations so they become part of an ecological record. Spending time outside with plants is calming, educational, and just plain fun.

High Level Impact: 

Through Project BudBurst, citizen scientists are collecting valuable information about seasonal plant cycles in a consistent way across the country. Scientists use the data to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally and nationally. By comparing the results to historical data, researchers can detect some of the long-term impacts of climate change, and data from Project BudBurst are already going into scientific studies across the country.

In addition, Project BudBurst provides opportunities for volunteers and others to learn how plants are changing in response to changing environmental conditions. The project’s website has lots of information on the seasonal cycles of plants, how they have been studied and how they have changed over time. Project BudBurst educational materials are highly regarded by educators in both formal and informal settings. Online professional development courses for using Project BudBurst in various educational settings are available through NEON’s Citizen Science Academy.

Point of Contact: 

To request more information about Project BudBurst or to share your suggestions or comments with us, please contact us at: