Each spring, thousands of visitors flock to the University of Washington campus to see the iconic cherry trees in the Quad. Class discussions, casual Frisbee tosses, lunchtime picnics and even wedding portraits all take place under the beautiful blossoms, which typically hit their prime in late March or early April. This year, they reached peak bloom on March 29.

But there’s no easy way to predict when peak bloom will occur each year for the trees in the Quad. Every spring, UW Facilities staff diligently check on the blossoms as they progress, but it’s hard to say down to the day, or even week, when the blossoms will be at their best. In contrast, peak bloom periods for Washington, D.C.’s impressive cherry trees can be predicted with reasonable accuracy, thanks to years of meticulous data collection and models linking the historical bloom data with temperature, such as the one developed by UW professor Soo-Hyung Kim.

Now, a team of UW students hopes to make it possible to accurately predict peak bloom timing for the Quad cherry trees. Led by Michael Bradshaw, a doctoral student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, 10 undergraduate students are documenting bloom information on all 118 cherry trees across campus, including the 29 Quad trees.

“We started this project to collect data on trees to predict more accurately when they will bloom, and also to see how climate change is affecting bloom times,” said Bradshaw, who began collecting data on a handful of trees by himself last season. This year, he enlisted the help of other students, who each are responsible for a block of trees around campus.

Read more at UW News »