Using Budburst Groups

Over the next several months, we will be making changes to the Budburst website. Please note, changes made during fall and spring school semesters will be minor. The first of these changes is that Budburst ‘Classrooms’ are now called ‘Groups’. Teacher accounts are now ‘manager’ accounts, and student accounts are now ‘member’ accounts. These changes increase flexibility and expand the organizations that participate in Budburst. 

In response to the COVID-19 emergency and need for remote learning and collaboration tools, Groups also added new functionality for selecting species and locations and adding members, either by creating member accounts or inviting participants via email. For details, see the instructions below this box.

Budburst has rushed these features in response to the COVID-19 emergency; help make them more useful to you and others by reporting problems, providing input, and sending questions to This document will be updated regularly so please check back. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and understanding.

Budburst Groups are great for classes, clubs, and other organizations. They allow for collaborative work and sharing observations. Groups can serve many purposes: students can gather data on specific plants in a schoolyard or research garden; clubs can monitor a local species of interest; visitors can monitor multiple plant species in a forest preserve, etc.

Using Budburst Groups is as easy as...

  1. Create or login to your own account
  2. Create your Group: add plants, locations, member accounts
  3. Report your observations
  4. Explore your data

Follow these steps to get started! 


Create or Login to Your Budburst Account

Participation in Budburst begins with an account. Through an account, you have access to your own Budburst dashboard where you can:

  • Report observations
  • Join or create and manage Groups
  • View/download your own or your Group's data


Creating a Group will allow you (the manager) to:

  • Invite members to your Group via email or set up anonymous member accounts within the Group - particularly important for participants under the age of 13 years (see our privacy policy).
  • If desired, restrict the data members can submit to the Group by individual plant, species, location, and/or observation type. 
  • Conveniently manage all of your Budburst Groups under your own account. A manager can have multiple online Groups with multiple member accounts.
Create Your Budburst Group

Once registered, you can create a Group by going to the GROUPS tab (top right) and clicking on the green ‘+ New’ button (see the picture below). You will then provide information about your Group and choose its settings in order to customize how your members will participate.

Screenshot of a user Budburst dashboard under the GROUPS tab


Restrict Observation Type

As the Group manager, you can restrict the types of observations members can submit. When the restricted status is on (see picture below), you can check which observation type(s) can be submitted. 

Restrict observation type setting


The central element of Budburst involves participant observation of the timing of annual events (e.g., bud burst, first leaf, first flower, first ripe fruit). These observations can be made using our phenology observation protocol. Specific projects - such as Budburst Nativars - may have unique data collection protocols. These are summarized on the project page. 

  • The Phenolgy Observation protocol allows participants to make a status-based observation of a plant at a single point in time, identifying the current phenophase status of a study plant and the date of the observation. This is the most popular method of reporting observations.
  • Participants can also monitor their plant over the growing season in order to track when the plant reaches different life cycle stages. Monitoring a plant regularly involves watching that plant throughout its growing season and submitting a phenology observation on the dates when phenology events start occurring. Checking a plant periodically is not time-consuming, but committing to do so throughout the year requires some coordination.


Restrict Sites and Species

Budburst provides three levels for Group managers to control the species and locations for member reporting. When the restricted status is on (see picture below), you will see options 1 and 2 (detailed below). These options allow you to select locations and plants for which members can submit data. Selected locations/plants become quick-pick options within Group members' Budburst accounts.

Restrict participation to member accounts only setting

Paired Plants at Locations (option #1)

In this option, you designate specific plants at specific location(s) for members to collect data on. These plants can be identified for the Group using a 'nickname’. This would be the perfect group setting for a research garden. This particular plant (Rudbeckia fulgida #2) at this particular location (School East Garden).  If you have two research gardens you might also have a Rudbeckia fulgida #2 at the School West Garden!

Unpaired Plants and Locations (option #2)

In this option, you may identify one, two or more plant species.  And separately, one, two or more locations. Members visit the locations and report on whichever of the species they observe. They might observe flowering for one of several cherry species at a local park versus cherry trees planted next to the schoolyard. 

Unrestricted Sites and Species (option #3)

When the green switch is turned off (see picture above), the first two options disappear from the Create Group form. With restrictions turned off, members are responsible for reporting on a species and providing its location.  During the co-vid emergency, this option may be the most effective for classrooms. Students (‘members’) can choose their own plants found close to their own homes.


Restrict to Non-Email Accounts

Budburst allows you to add members by setting up member accounts yourself or by inviting them to your Group via a link sent to their email address.

Non-email accounts setting

The Create Group form has pre-selected the non-email accounts feature (see picture above).

Non-Email Accounts

In this option, you create an account for each member including a unique username. Note that Budburst will automatically add numbers at the end of the submitted username. 
Once the Group is set up and saved, you can download the member list as a CSV or Excel file.  You would then provide each member their username and password along with instructions on how to log in and post an observation. 

Why use non-email accounts for your Budburst Group?

  • Schools: Protecting the privacy of your students – particularly if they are under 13 years of age (as per COPPA) (see our policy statement). 
  • Informal Education or Conservation: Using a Budburst Group for a rotating set of data collectors – such as visitors to a nature center. 
  • Training: As part of a How-to-use-Budburst training session (be sure to delete ‘practice’ observations!). 
Email Invitations

When the green tab is turned off (see picture above), you add an email address for each person you are inviting to your Budburst Group. Budburst sends an email to each address inviting them to join the Group. The email includes steps to creating a Budburst account if the person doesn’t already have one. Note that, in this situation, you will not have direct access to the personal accounts of your members.

Why use email invitations for your Budburst Group?

  • Schools: Students in upper grades and college-level can create and contribute to their own accounts as well as to the Group. 
  • Informal Education or Conservation: Ease in gathering collected, centralized data for a local garden club, park staff, or volunteers. 

Hint: The email invitations are automatically sent out when the list of email addresses is ‘saved.’ If you want to set up the Budburst Group in advance - but don’t want members in the group yet - save your settings; come back when you are ready and “edit Group” to add member emails. 


Create a Budburst Classroom:  This video walks through the process outlined in this section: Create the Group (previously 'classroom'), add plants and locations, and create member (previously 'student') accounts. Note that the video was created before some of the newest changes to our website, including the new 'Groups' terminology and the ability to restrict by observation type. An updated video will be available shortly.


Make Observations

Group members can log in using their member accounts to report data. If they use their own accounts (email invite), they should be sure to report their observation in the GROUPS section of their account.

Post to Budburst Classroom:  This short video provides step-by-step instructions on how members (previously 'students') post an observation to their Budburst Group (previously 'Classroom'). Note that this video was created before the recent changes to the website, including the new 'Groups' terminology. An updated video will be available shortly.

Reporting observations and uploading associated photographs may be done immediately from the field via hand-held device or by computer.  Printable report forms for field observations may be downloaded below or from each plant’s resource page. These field reports can be carried back to a workspace for data entry into the website. 

Please note: A Budburst project may have its own field report form.  Check the project-specific protocols and resources on the Budburst project page. 

Wildflowers and Herbs - Phenology Form

Deciduous Trees and Shrubs - Phenology Form 

Conifer Trees and Shrubs - Phenology Form

Broadleaf Evergreen Trees and Shrubs - Phenology Form

Grasses - Phenology Form


Explore the Data

Once data are entered, they are immediately searchable and downloadable for both Group managers and members (under the GROUPS menu in their Budburst account). See the picture below for an example from the Group manager's view – they can download their Group’s observation (There is only one so far!) in Excel or CSV format (left corner, near the bottom).

Screenshot of Group observations

In the past, elementary school teachers have used Group data to help their students create simple graphs showing the timing of phenophase events for their study plant(s).

Organizations or more advanced classes have used data collected by the larger Budburst community in order to compare their Group’s observations with those made by participants in other locations or other years. All Budburst data can be searched, filtered, and downloaded from the DATA menu (see picture below).