He is one of a small handful of botanists in the world who study climate change by analyzing how flowering plants are adapting their flowering cycles in response to warming global temperatures. Botanists say such research is important because it draws on little-known historical data to help illuminate the scientific present.
“When these collections were established, no one really thought about climate change research,” says Richard Primack, a professor of biology at Boston University who studies flowering plants in the US and several Asian countries. But today they help scientists “to very consistently demonstrate that climate change is the new reality.”
It's rewarding to study plant collections in regions where botanists have made a habit of roaming. Mr. Primack, for example, inspects naturalist records that writer Henry David Thoreau kept of Concord, Mass. Scientists Yasuyuki Aono and Keiko Kazui analyze 9th century chronicles of flowering cherry trees in Kyoto, Japan.