Several months ago, I responded to an add in the local papers for volunteers for Jeffco Open Space. At their open house, they had many different options — desk
Chokecherry ready to bloom. Notice that the tiny flowers are still folded up on most of the blossoms.
worker, naturalist, trail maintenance. All these were possibilities, but the option I signed up for in the in was that of plant monitor for Project Budburst.
At the training session for Project Budburst, they asked us why we had chosen that particular program to volunteer with. People gave variations on the idea that they wanted to be out in nature, to enjoy the plants. When it was my turn, I told them that I signed up because I like to fill out data forms. That got a laugh, as I knew it would. But I wasn’t joking. If I want to be in nature, I grab my stuff and go for a hike. What I had been craving, the need Project BudBurst will fill was Doing Science.
The data forms are not the point, of course. It’s collecting the measurements and comparing them to other locations and other years. What could be more fun than to see how ecosystems change through time and space?
Chokecherry past flower. It took just four days for all the flowers to blossom and drop their petals.
I’m monitoring three plants: chokecherries, ponderosa pine, and a grass called big bluestem. I visit Apex Open Space two to three times a week to see what growth stage the plants are at. This information will be used for everything from pollen alerts to trail closures as bears search for berries. And of course, through the years, it will give ground data on Global Climate Change.
This spring started off slow — too snowy for the plants to be doing anything. But a month ago — just a month! — and the snow storms tapered off. The plants exploded in growth, trying to make up for lost time. Chokecherries went from first blossom to last in just four days, and are now working on producing fruit.
Ponderosa pine producing pollen. You can see the yellow pollen grains flying out after I flicked the tiny male cone with my finger.
The ponderosa pine have just put out their first needles, and at about the same time, begun to produce pollen. I can tell; people around me are sneezing and sniffling with pine allergies.