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Calling all citizen scientists: UGA needs your help collecting dogwood data

A dogwood tree blooms. Photo by Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org.

With dogwoods in bloom, researchers ask for public help to collect data

Are you ready to be a citizen scientist?

If you’ve got a smartphone, then you are all set. The University of Georgia needs people across the Southeast to help with the Dogwood Genome Project now that the trees are starting to bloom in Athens and across the state.

All you have to do to help is register as a volunteer observer with the National Phenology Network’s Nature’s Notebook and then help collect data on the appearance of flowers, leaves, and fruits on dogwood trees. After registering as an observer, dogwood lovers and science enthusiasts can collect data through an app that is available in both the Apple and Android stores. The National Phenology Network is a partner with the UGA Dogwood Genome Project. More information can be found at usanpn.org/nn/dogwood_genome.

"This information is especially important for developing projections for how dogwood populations will respond to a changing environment," said Warnell Professor C.J. Tsai.

photos pointing to dogwood traits researchers want documented

Horticulturists will also use the phenology and genome data to guide their breeding programs and produce more beautiful and robust dogwoods. One of the most important aims of the project is to identify genes that provide some dogwoods with natural resistance to fungal diseases like powdery mildew, which twists and deforms the leaves of the tree. This not only makes the trees less attractive, but it can also significantly weaken the tree's ability to collect the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Dogwoods account for nearly 10 percent of the retail market for flowering trees in the U.S., which tops $343 million annually, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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