Learn How to Observe
Watching plants and reporting what we see is the core work of Budburst. We watch for the key life events of a plant during the growing season. These events differ depending upon the type of plant but usually including leafing, flowering, and fruiting events. The study of these events is called phenology. Budburst observers benefit from knowledge of these topics:
- The definition of phenology: its history and key research questions
- Five plant groups: based on similarity of phenology events
- Reporting Protocols: the two Budburst reporting protocols.
In the science world ‘how” we observe and report is referred to as a protocol. These are the common set of procedures each researcher uses when recording new data so as to standardize the data. Following the same procedure minimizes potential data inconsistencies based on the individual. Using Budburst protocols assures that every observation report includes the same set of data points: the date, plant name, location, and the phenophase(s) observed.
Observe Your Plant
Observing a plant requires, of course, that you first identify your plant. Secondly, you identify what it is, precisely, that you are seeing. So...
Which plant do you want to watch? Common names for plants vary greatly, often by region. Therefore, Budburst recommends learning and using the scientific name of your plant whenever possible. Your local nature center or nursery can help you identify native plants common to your area.
Some Plant Suggestions:
- Budburst Plant List - It's easy to report observations of a plant in your backyard, school, or local park!
- Budburst Partners - Your local Budburst partner recommends ten ecologically important local plants for you to observe.
- Budburst Projects - Join one of our focused projects and contribute your unique data.
Your plant isn’t on the Budburst plant list? That's okay! You can still report observations for any plant whose phenology is similar to those in one of the five Budburst Plant Groups. Just add a new plant when submitting any Budburst observation, this plant will then be linked to your account and usable for any future reporting.
Budburst records specific data for each observation report: plant name, location of the plant, and the phenology of the plant. For a deciduous tree like the Eastern redbud, phenology events revolve around flowering, leafing, fruiting, and autumn leaf color and drop. Events for a deciduous tree differ from those of a wildflower or a grass, or even from another type of tree such as a conifer.
- See the Budburst Plant Groups page for an overview of phenology events for each of the five Budburst plant groups.
- To learn the phenology events for your specific plant check its Budburst page via the Plant Search page.
At Budburst, plant observations take two forms: one-time or life-cycle. All plant reports provide important information on how plants respond to changes in climate and environment.
Protocol 1: One-time Observations
A one-time observation is status-driven, a report of the phenology status for one plant on one day.
Example: You happen upon on an Eastern redbud while on vacation. You’ve never seen this tree before and you may never see it again. It is one tree on one day. Several branches have open flowers, but not all. You don't know when this individual tree started flowering, but you can say it is in “Early Flower.” You also check for leafing (none yet) and, of course, you observe there’s no fruiting yet. Enter the date and data online: you’ve made a one-time report.
Protocol 2: Life-cycle Observations
A life-cycle observation is event-driven. Each phenology event for a plant is reported by submitting the date it occurs. Monitoring a plant in this way includes watching that plant regularly throughout its growing season.
For Example: Perhaps you signed up with Budburst because you enjoy watching the redbud outside your kitchen window. You think, “I’ll report the phenology events for that tree.” Because you observe changes in that plant every few days, you can be fairly certain when the first flowers open; when bud burst happens; and when the first leaves unfurl. You look up the plant in the Budburst website and learn its phenology events. In spring you notice the first buds and flowers appear on the redbud. Time to make a report!
Printable Report Forms
Reporting your observation and uploading a photograph of your observation may be done via hand-held device or by computer (see next section). Printable report forms for field observations may be downloaded below or from each plant’s resource page. Carry these field reports back to an area with computer access for data entry into the budburst.org website.
Report Your Observations
To begin the process of reporting your observations - whether one-time or life-cycle - log into your Budburst account. To register with Budburst and create your account, follow these steps:
Create Your Budburst Account
Click the "Register" button in the upper-right corner of any page in this website or use the Create an Account link to set up your account. You must be at least 13 years of age to create your own Budburst account. You can create an account using your existing Google, Facebook, or Twitter credentials. To manually create a new account:
- Type in all required fields, including your choice of username and password.
- Click "Create Account" to submit your registration and automatically send a welcome email to the address provided. Use the link provided in that email to complete your registration.
Log into Your Budburst Account
Log into your Budburst account from the Budburst accounts page or click the "Login" button in the upper-right corner of any page in this website.
- Your Dashboard provides a summary of your activities in Budburst.
- In the upper right corner, click on the dropdown to access My Account, which allows you to edit your account information: upload a profile picture, edit your login information, or change your password.
- Observations allows you to view your reports, add a new phenophase date to a current life-cycle observation, and edit a recent report, as well as filter and download your data. (To view all Budburst data, see https://accounts.budburst.org/data)
Submit a New Observation
From your Dashboard or Observations, click on the +New button. Select a one-time, life-cycle, or nativars observation.
Select Plant: In the Plant box, begin typing in either the common name or the scientific name for your plant. Options from among the 300 Budburst plants will auto-fill from the dropdown menu. Choose your plant from among the options. If your plant does not show up in the Plant dropdown, type the name of the new plant (either common or scientific name) and select or press enter to add this plant to your personalized plant list. Select the plant group for this new plant.
Plant Nickname box is optional; we recommend using it if you are tracking more than one of the same plant at the same location. For example, if you have two Redbuds in your yard, name one, “front yard Redbud” and the other “side yard Redbud” so you will know which is which.
Select Location: Once created, your locations will appear automatically in your personalized Location dropdown menu.
To create a new location, click on the +New Location button and fill in the following details:
- Search by address or latitude/longitude: type in a location name or address, select from the dropdown. Click "Save".
- (Optional) Name of this location: add a name that is meaningful to you. This location will stay in your Budburst account and can be quickly selected whenever you add a new plant for that location.
- Each new one-time observation includes appropriate options to report the plant's phenology status on a particular date. Add Notes as needed.
- Add up to five photos of the plant you are observing. We suggest you aim for at least two photos, one of the entire plant, and one of each plant part of interest. Photos allow Budburst to verify your data and support research initiatives.
- Each new life-cycle observation includes a list of phenology events, each with accompanying spaces for uploading photos and providing the date. Add one or more phenophase dates; add Notes as needed.
- Add up to five photos of each of the phenophase(s) you are observing. We suggest you aim for at least two photos, one of the entire plant, and one of each plant part of interest. Photos allow Budburst to verify your data and support research initiatives.
- In the future, add remaining dates as needed by editing this existing report. Search for it using the filters on your Observations page.
Click Save Observation to complete the observation data submission process.
Every observation you report will show up on your Budburst account Observations page. It’s amazing how quickly your list will grow!
Budburst data is available for anyone to download and use. A budburst account is not required for data downloads.
Select 'Data' from the top menu item.
Querying the Data
Once at the data page, enter the parameters of the data you would like to download. For example, if you want to download all the data related to cherry blossom time:
- Report Type - select the report type of interest, or leave blank to get all report types
- Plants- click in the Plants field and type cherry; you will see all the types of cherries and you can pick one (or more than one by clicking in the bar and repeating the procedure)
- States - select the states of interest or leave blank to get all states
- Date range - select the date range of interest, or leave blank to get all dates
- Budburst Species Only - default "Yes". To download observations of all species added by users toggle to "No".
- Include Classroom Observations - default "No". To download observations submitted to classrooms toggle to "Yes".
When done entering your criteria, click 'Search'.
Downloading and Scrolling Through Data
You will now get a list of records found in the database that match your criteria.
You can download the data as an excel file by clicking the 'Excel' button, or as a CSV file buy clicking the 'CSV' button. The downloaded spreadsheet contains additional fields not displayed in the search results.
To scroll through the records, click on the page numbers on the bottom of the screen, or click the right arrow to go from page to page.