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Photographers: Capture the Wave of Spring Green
As tree leaves transform to vibrant orange and red colors in the fall, photographers come out to capture the view. However, scientists at NASA are interested in a slightly different nature picture. They are asking photographers to keep their cameras ready this spring as we watch leaves return to their normal color — green.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is a partner of the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, a hands-on educational program that is looking for photos to document the “green-up” of Virginia plants. Green-up is when the plants, well, turn green.


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To monitor the green-up process of a plant, photographers can focus on a single branch, pictured here, or a photo of the entire plant. Photo courtesy of David Beals Photography


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Budburst, portrayed here, is the plant phase marked by the emergence of new leaves on plants, which signals the beginning of a new growing season cycle. Photo courtesy of David Beals Photography

"The green-up initiative is part of GLOBE’s phenology protocol — or the study of how living things change with seasons," explained Jessica Taylor, the lead for GLOBE at NASA Langley. "We are focusing on plant phenology because it is easy to see change over time."

Seeing how plants change — even within just one lifecycle — helps researchers not only learn more about the plants themselves, but also about other changes to their environment.

"The change in plants can inform you of other important environmental factors, such as climate change and air quality," said Margaret Pippin, an ozone scientist for GLOBE. "For example, you can see and quantify the impact of ozone on the leaves of certain plants."

Increasing the number of plant photos that document a return to green life helps GLOBE train teachers to bring phenology into their classrooms.

"The information and photos will also go into a larger database, where students and researchers can access plant observations from around the world and use them as data points to compare differences in plant growing seasons," said Taylor.

To participate, Taylor recommends finding a native plant species that you are able to identify. Photos should be taken of the same plant throughout the green-up cycle: during dormancy, before the buds start bursting, during the bud burst process and finally all the way through full green. You can photograph the whole plant or just a branch — as long you take the picture from the same angle each time.

"With a larger collection of plant photos, students could compare the growing season of their plant to somebody else’s," said Taylor. "We also hope students will ask questions about how their native plant species reacts to the temperature and precipitation of that area."

To help GLOBE build its collection of plant photos, submit your green-up pictures to Jessica Taylor at jessica.e.taylor@nasa.gov. Make sure to include the species, location, date and the phase of the green-up cycle being represented in each picture.

For more information about GLOBE at NASA Langley, visit science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/GLOBE/.

Jennifer LaPan
NASA Langley Research Center

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