Perhaps best known for its pungent smell and medicinal properties, Ginkgo biloba trees boast an impressive backstory. Surviving three mass extinctions, including the one that killed the dinosaurs, ginkgo has retained a remarkably similar appearance throughout its time on Earth. This characteristic makes it possible for scientists to easily compare modern specimens with fossils dating to the distant past—a practice that could help researchers assess how the planet’s atmosphere has changed over time, as well as predict what effect future climate shifts will have on Earth’s living creatures.
The Smithsonian project includes a multi-phase citizen science initiative, and they would like you to participate.
You can do so by keeping an eye out for Ginkgo biloba trees this month – August 2019. If you find one, take a moment to pluck a few leaves, snap some photographs of the scene, and record your observations via the iNaturalist mobile app. Then, package your sample in an envelope, drop it into the mailbox, and give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulations: You’ve just become a citizen scientist, helping researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History use ginkgo leaves to study the past, present and future of climate change.