Students as Scientists: Project BudBurst and NEON Educational Resources
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale ecological observation platform. NEON contributes to global understanding and decisions in a changing environment using scientific information about continental-scale ecology obtained through integrated observations and experiments. NEON is dedicated to engaging and supporting a variety of audiences in learning about and using ecological data. NEON’s education goals include (1) promoting and facilitating public understanding of ecological science, and (2) providing tools for students, educators, scientists, and decision makers to use NEON data to make informed decisions about ecological issues. Citizen science programs are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of both the science and education communities. NEON’s Project BudBurst (budburst.org) is a continental-scale citizen science project focused on plant phenology. The educational goals of Project BudBurst are to (1) increase awareness of climate change, (2) educate citizen scientists about the impacts of climate change on plants and the environment, and (3) increase science literacy by engaging participants in the scientific process. Plants are readily accessible in nearly every neighborhood, park, and wild area across the continent, so people can make observations whether they live near an inner city park or in the rural countryside. Students have the opportunity to participate in data collection, data entry, simple analysis, and interpretation. Project BudBurst is Internet-based, and all aspects of the program—including data, educational resources, and training materials—are open and freely available to anyone that wants to participate.