Phenology Today

With more attention given to environmental and climate change, phenology is enjoying increasing interest.

While not exactly a household world, phenology is a rapidly growing field of science that lends itself to engaging citizen scientists in making simple observations of changes in their environment. Be part of the growing of interest in plant phenology in the United States by joining Project BudBurst.

Today, the well established science of phenology is seeing a resurgence of interest as researchers seek observations of changes in plant phenology to help them better understand changes in our environment. For the past few decades, Dr. Mark Schwartz of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee has worked hard to maintain The Lilac Network – an excellent example of a plant phenology effort dependent on the observations of large numbers of volunteer observers that date from the 1950's to the present. The Lilac Network has made significant contributions to the science of phenology.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

The success of The Lilac Network in engaging citizen scientists formed the basis of today's USA National Phenology Network, established in 2004 to monitor the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals, and landscapes. This national network has great potential in being able to promote scientific interest in plant phenology in the US, as well as providing data and models that may eventually help scientists monitor and predict drought, wildfire risk, biological invasions, and the spread of diseases more accurately region to region than is possible now. Project BudBurst is a key partner in the USA-NPN.

In Europe, the European Phenology Network has active monitoring, research and educational programs. Nature's Calendar in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have active websites and events. Canada has PlantWatch, India has SeasonWatch, and many other countries, including China and Australia, have phenological programs.

People behind Phenology

The dedication of many men and women have shaped the rich study of phenology. In this section,we feature the People Behind Phenology so you can learn more about the scientists who have dedicated their careers to plant phenology and how they got started. Some of the people you will be reading about are the very ones who may be using the data you contribute through Project Budburst!

Jennifer Ison

Dr. Jennifer Ison collaborates with Stuart Wagenius of the Chicago Botanic Garden to monitor the daily flowering phenology of purple coneflower. She's learning more about how flowering time affects pollen movement between plants. Read Jennifer's story...



Dr. Julio Betancourt was ten years old when he and his family fled Cuba and Fidel Castro for the U.S. Their first stop, the nation's capital, where his most vivid memory was raking autumn leaves in an uncle's backyard. Read Julio's story...


Caitlin McDonough McKenzie

Even before she knew how to define 'phenology,' Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie was monitoring it. Her research aims to track the ecological effects of climate change on plant communities through time. Read Caitlin's story...


David Inouye

Dr. David Inouye has spent more than 37 summers making careful observations of over 100 wildflower species as part of an ongoing scientific study at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, Colorado. Read David's story...


Kay Havens

Dr. Kayri Havens was born and raised in the Chicago region, so has always eagerly anticipated the first signs of spring. It was a happy coincidence that Kay was able to collaborate on the development of Project BudBurst because it brought together many of her interests…the effect of climate on plants, citizen science, and her love of spring! Read Kay's story...


Mark Schwartz

During a fateful day in 1983, Dr. Mark Schwartz was discussing possible topics of research when his advisor mentioned that phenology might be an interesting area that offered many future options. "What's that?" he recalls asking, little realizing at the time that this was to become his life's work. Read Mark's story...