Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 4, 2014

Mammoth Cave National park has budding job

Needs help collecting data

By GINA KINSLOW
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW —

Want to take part in a science project? If so, consider Project Budburst – an effort started by the National Ecological Observatory Network that enlists the help of everyday people to record plant data.

“Project Budburst is a citizen science project,” said Shannon Trimboli, education coordinator for the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, a partnership between Mammoth Cave National Park and Western Kentucky University. “It is online. It is a national project. What they are looking at is the phenology of plants – when they start to bud out, when they get their flowers, when fruit appears, when their leaves fall – all those sorts of things.”

Mammoth Cave National Park recently became a Project Budburst Partner and is asking visitors, as well as those who live around the park, to participate.

The data recorded will be used to determine the effect of climate change on plants over a period of time.

“The data will be available online for scientists to analyze. It will also be available for teachers or anybody who wants to download and look at it themselves,” she said.

Those who want to view the data can also take a look at information collected by observers in other states or even in other countries, Trimboli said.

An example of how climate affects plants should occur in the next few days with the blooming of Eastern redbud and dogwood trees.

“This is going to be a really cool year, because with it being so cold for so long, there is a chance that this is going to be one of those rare years where the dogwoods and the redbuds bloom pretty much at the same time,” Trimboli said. “They’ve always had a little bit of an overlap, but it may be more of an overlap this year.”   

Another example would be the blooming of daffodils. In years past, daffodils have been in full bloom by Valentine’s Day.

“This year it was more toward mid-March before we saw them bloom,” Trimboli said. “I remember 10 years or so ago that was normal, and I’ve caught myself doing this, saying ‘Oh, wow, they are so late this year.’ “

The national park’s staff members have chosen 10 species they wish to learn more about and are hoping Budburst observers can help record data about them. The 10 species are: mayapple, Virginia bluebells, flowering dogwood, garlic mustard, eastern redbud, Virginia creeper, beefsteak plant, spicebush, tulip poplar and eastern serviceberry.

“These are plants that can be easily found. Most of them are native plants,” she said. “That was something we wanted. You can go anywhere and find these plants.”  

Two of the 10 species chosen by the national park’s staff, garlic mustard and the beefsteak plant, are not native to the area.

“They are invasive species. If left alone, they will pretty much take over everything,” Trimboli said.

Mammoth Cave staff have been fighting the growth of garlic mustard at the national park for about 12 years.  

“The beefsteak plant is one that we’ve found most recently. It’s also one that is in many cow pastures across the state and can actually be toxic to cattle,” she said.

To participate in Project Budburst, visit http://budburst.org/parks/mcnp.php and download a data form. Observe plant activity, record findings and enter the data on the website.

Those wishing to collect data on plants that aren’t one of Mammoth Cave’s 10 focus species can check out the other plant lists on the website. Information gathered on those plants will be used by other scientists and researchers.



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