USA NPN National Phenology Network

Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

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Tree Spotters

We are the continuation of the tree spotting group originally organized by Lizzie Wolkovich at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. We are an unfunded group of about a dozen volunteers trained in the original program.

The Arnold Arboretum originally hosted two phenology programs, including the Native and Indicator Observation Program and the Tree Spotters program, organized by Dr. Lizzie Wolkovich and other researchers at Harvard University. These programs ran from 2016 until 2019, when Dr. Wolkovich departed Harvard University.

Since then, a dozen of the volunteers trained in the original program have continued the Tree Spotters Program, observing phenology of trees, reading and discussing relevant books and articles, Zooming with researchers in the field, sharing information about related activities, and setting up a webpage on Dr. Wolkovich’s temporal ecology lab website. In their words, "We have worked to keep the initial trees and shrubs tagged in the Arboretum, and have offered to guide anyone interested in this project. We not only recognize the value to collecting this data for research purposes, but have embraced our trees and shrubs as family members that we care about. Tree spotting has opened our eyes to the marvels of nature, awakening our concern and curiosity for all."

The Tree Spotters were awarded the USA-NPN's 2021 PhenoChampion, as an exemplary program that shows a dedicated group of volunteers can overcome challenges, maintain a critical long-term dataset, and create excitement in learning about phenology.   

Organization Type: 
This LPP is working with K-16 students: 
More than 30 students: 
Under-served Communities: 
Involves indigenous communities: 
This LPP is part of a Phenology Trail: 
Personal Site Network: 
First Observation Date: 
August, 2009
Partner Group

2017 Impact Statement

Lizzie Wolkovich, Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, launched the Arnold Arboretum Tree Spotters program pilot in 2015. Her research explores how climate and community assembly may explain and forecast plant phenology, which is strongly linked to climate and can be easily observed. Lizzie is interested in engaging citizen scientists to collect phenology data to support her research.

From 3/25/15 – 3/26/17: Trained 238 volunteers to make/record observations in Nature’s Notebook (68,651 observations to date); offered 33 training classes (28 for new Tree Spotters and 5 refresher classes for returning volunteers), 22 opportunities for volunteers to meet with researchers on the grounds, and 6 educational sessions (also open to the public); held 3 social events. Staff: research assistants/graduate students/interns and a volunteer.

Forty-three volunteers have participated actively in the program (making multiple observations and/or collaborating on special projects). We have also engaged the general public via our educational sessions. We have an active social media presence (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter), a monthly eNewsletter, a website, and a volunteer database. As a result of the success of this pilot, the Arboretum is now looking for funding to ensure that the program will continue.