What We Do

Budburst citizen scientists work together with research scientists, educators, and horticulturists  to answer specific, timely, and critical ecological research questions by making careful observations of the timing of plant life cycle events, also called phenophases. These life events differ depending upon the type of plant, but usually include leafing, flowering, and fruiting phases of plants as well as leaf color and senescence.

Spring, summer, fall, and winter phases are all valuable. These observations are used to better understand how plant species and ecosystems respond to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally. Our projects and campaigns reflect the many ecological questions and issues raised by the ways humans impact the environment and how plants respond to those changes.

As a Budburst citizen scientist, you may invest as much or as little time as you like. You may observe and report on one or more plants over one season or over many years, or report on one plant observed for one day. All data contributions are valuable.

You may also want to join or form a Budburst Group. Groups, previously referred to as ‘classrooms’, allow for collaborative work and sharing observations. They are great for classes, clubs, nature centers, and other organizations.

Do you have a Budburst-related research question? Can the greater Budburst community help? We would like to know what data you think would be useful and how you would like to use it. Share your ideas at info@budburst.org.

Our Roots

Budburst began in 2007 as Project BudBurst in response to requests from people like you who wanted to make a meaningful contribution to understanding changes in our environment. Since then, close to 10,000 people from all 50 states have participated.

Previously hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Budburst moved to the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2017.

Budburst is open to people of all ages and abilities. There is no cost to participate and no special training required. Our participants include individuals as well as groups from schools and universities to gardening clubs and volunteer organizations. If you’re interested in participating, we have a place for you in our community.

What Happens to All the Data?

Budburst data are freely available for anyone to download and use and have been used by scientists, horticulturists, and educators in the Budburst network and beyond to address current research questions. Visit the Publications page for examples of research that includes Budburst data.

Who We Are

Budburst is managed by the following individuals and is supported by generous contributions from our sponsors.

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Emma Oschrin, Ph.D., Budburst Director

received her Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior from Indiana University where she studied plant community ecology. Her research focused on how co-occurring invasive plant species interact with each other and how they impact native prairie communities. She also brings experience from the conservation non-profit sector, previously working at the Mono Lake Committee in eastern California, where she gained an appreciation for interpretive science education. Throughout her work and education experience, she developed a passion for effective science communication and believes that connecting to the plants all around us can serve as a gateway to broader environmental activism.

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Sarah Jones, Ph.D., Education Manager,

received a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from Michigan State University. She has taught field and college courses on a wide range of subjects, including evolution, genetics, animal behavior, and general biology. She has spent significant time working with K-12 educators and students to incorporate current scientific research into classroom activities. She currently also serves as a director of Project Biodiversify, which aims to enhance human diversity and inclusivity in biology courses. She believes all community members deserve and need an understanding of biology and its relevance to their lives. 

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Taran Lichtenberger, MS, Community Engagement Manager,

is a recent graduate of the Plant Biology and Conservation Program at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. She previously researched the diversity of plants in the Colorado Plateau, as well as the germination of seeds in the Midwest prairie. Taran is dedicated to removing barriers to science education and participation, recognizing the importance of justice, accessibility, and communication.  

Kayri Havens, Ph.D., co-principal investigator,

is the Medard and Elizabeth Welch Senior Director of Ecology and Conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her research interests include the effects of climate change on plant species, restoration genetics, pollination networks, ex situ conservation, and invasion biology. She is on the adjunct faculty of Loyola University, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. She chairs the Non-federal Cooperators Committee of the Plant Conservation Alliance and collaborates with a variety of academic institutions, agencies, and stewardship organizations to help improve conservation efforts for plants and plant communities.

Dr. Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Ph.D., co-principal Investigator,

is vice president of Education and Community Programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden. As such, she supervises youth and adult education, horticultural therapy, and the Windy City Harvest urban agriculture programs. Jennifer brings expertise in both formal and informal science education. Her specialities include diversity studies, program design, and evaluation. Before joining the Garden, she completed her graduate studies in learning sciences at Northwestern University.

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Bianca Rosenbaum, Lead Programmer

is a programmer at the Chicago Botanic Garden, working with Plant Science and Conservation staff to develop a variety of web applications. Her passions include nerding about data management, designing intuitive applications, cooking, and removing garlic mustard from her garden. She is a graduate of the Computer Engineering program at Northwestern University.

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Charlie Hoffman, Developer

is a graduate of the Computer Science program with a minor in Mathmatics at Bemidjii State University. He is currently a developer at the Chicago Botanic Garden working with Plant Science department staff to develop a variety of applications. As well as the proud owner of a single succulent. 

Current Sponsors

Budburst is supported by a private endowment for native habitats restoration.

Past Sponsors

We would also like to acknowledge past sponsors who made the growth of Budburst (formerly Project BudBurst) possible through their generous funding and support:

  • Harvard University
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
  • National Geographic Education Foundation
  • National Geographic Society
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Centers for Urban and Interface Forestry
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
  • University of California (Los Angeles), Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS)