- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) - Officials at Mammoth Cave National Park want visitors and nearby residents to participate in a science project.

The park has partnered with a national initiative called Project Budburst that allows citizens to record plant data. The data that’s collected will be used to help determine how climate change affects plants.

“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.”

Park staff told the Glasgow Daily Times (http://bit.ly/R13FOf) that they want to begin by learning about 10 different plant species: mayapple, Virginia bluebells, flowering dogwood, garlic mustard, eastern redbud, Virginia creeper, beefsteak plant, spicebush, tulip poplar and eastern serviceberry.

In order to participate, people must first go to the Project Budburst website - http://budburst.org/parks/mcnp.php - and download a form to record data. After making and recording observations, the data can be entered on the website.

“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,” Trimboli said.

An example of how climate affects plants might occur this year 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.”

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Information from: Glasgow Daily Times, http://www.glasgowdailytimes.com