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.

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 their organizations and is supported by generous contributions from our sponsors.

Jessa Finch in the field.

Jessamine Finch, Manager

is a PhD candidate in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. A central aspect of her dissertation research hinges on the impact of climate change on seed germination of native species, and other early plant life stages. For nearly a decade, Jessa has been working within botanic gardens in curation, horticulture, and research. Before joining Budburst, Jessa served as a climate scientist and ecologist for Connect, a project aimed at increasing climate change literacy and action through a positive, place- and asset-based approach.

H. Jean Bryan, Ed.D., Director

brings a lifelong interest in nature and gardening to her work at Budburst. Jean is an expert in online learning and teacher development, as well as website design and management, and she is a natural fit for this transitional period. Before joining Budburst and the Chicago Botanic Garden she served as a senior instructional technology consultant at DePaul University in Chicago, where she also taught freshman discovery courses on the urban food system.

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.

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)