The Tree Spotters are a group of tree enthusiasts and citizen scientists based on eastern Massachusetts who collect phenology data and contribute their findings to the National Phenology Database in the United States.
Lizzie Wolkovich, Associate Professor of Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia (formerly Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University) founded the original Arnold Arboretum Tree Spotters program pilot in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2015. It was a perfect match for her research that explores how climate and community assembly may explain and forecast plant phenology. The program was based on the premise that phenology is strongly linked to climate and can be easily observed.
In 2018, with Lizzie’s move to UBC, the Tree Spotters became an official program of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. From 2015-2020, the Tree Spotters program trained hundreds of citizen scientists to observe 75 trees and shrubs representing 15 native species. During that time, volunteers submitted over 330,000 phenological observations to the National Phenology’s Database.
While the official program at the Arnold Arboretum concluded in December 2020, a core group of Tree Spotters continues as a volunteer-run citizen science group.