White River in Flood, Mt. Rainier National Park


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For decades, scientists have used the seasonal timing of events like flowering to track the impacts of climate change. As these impacts accelerate, it’s becoming more and more important to understand where changes in climate are having the most severe impacts on ecosystems. Tracking flowering can help us understand how climate change is altering the risks of extreme climate events like growing season frost and drought.

In the past few years, new machine-learning approaches (“deep learning”) have finally made it possible to trawl the web for observations of specific species in specific places. This is a new type of observing system that is sometimes called a “macroscope” because it allows us to see patterns at extremely large scales, patterns that would otherwise be invisible. Over the next two years, we will be developing this system and using it to track bloom timing across mountain ecosystems in the western USA.