PS 1-26 - Project BudBurst and FieldScope: Prototyping continental-scale citizen science data visualization tools

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Dennis L. Ward1, Eric Russell2, Anna Switzer2, Sarah Newman3 and Sandra Henderson4, (1)National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON, Inc.) Education and Public Engagement, Boulder, CO, (2)Outdoor and Experiential Education, National Geographic Society, (3)NEON, Boulder, CO, (4)NEON, Inc., Boulder, CO

Project BudBurst is a continental-scale citizen science project, currently conducting its fifth annual campaign to increase awareness of the impacts of changing climates on plants and the environment by engaging individuals in the collection of phenological data. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is working with Project BudBurst explore ways that interested laypersons can actively participate in meaningful scientific research. National Geographic Society’s (NGS) FieldScope is a project to create and study a technology infrastructure that enables deeper learning about scientist topics, and providing a central, easily accessible repository for citizen science data. Project BudBurst is collaborating with the National Geographic Society on a multi-year, full-scale development project to create a set of publicly available tools to increase the impact of public participation in scientific research.  Specifically, NGS FieldScope is developing online data visualization tools utilizing data collected by Project BudBurst in order to determine if citizen scientists and the informal education community can perform data analysis to answer relevant research questions such as: “What is the geographic pattern of the onset of phenological events?” “How has the timing of phenological events changed over the long term?” and “Can growing degree days be used to model phenological events?”


During the first year of the Project BudBurst and NGS FieldScope collaboration, detailed reviews of observation and data collection protocols were conducted to determine a suite of data analysis tools appropriate for use by citizen scientists to answer the research questions posed above.  To facilitate the exploration of phenological event onset patterns, an online GIS tool was developed to provide an animated view of reported events over time, providing the user with an intuitive way of observing patterns such as green-up and brown-down.  A time-series plotting tool was developed to explore long-term changes in the timing of phenological events.  In order to evaluate the validity of plant growth models based on growing degree day calculations, it was necessary to locate and process daily minimum and maximum temperature data at hundreds of locations across the country, in addition to creating simple analysis tools to guide citizen scientists through model creation and evaluation.  In conclusion, the collaboration between Project BudBurst and NGS FieldScope resulted in the creation of a suite of prototype data visualization and analysis tools that proved effective for use by citizen scientists and the informal education communities.  These tools will be improved and refined in subsequent years.

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Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.