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University of Reading tracks fruit tree flowering as spring breaks, with Oracle

University is working with Oracle for research to monitor fruit trees as they blossom into spring

As we approach the Vernal Equinox on 20 March, the University of Reading and Oracle are letting it be known that they have teamed up to monitor fruit tree flowering.

The university’s Fruitwatch project is led by Chris Wyver, who is researching for a PhD. “We need members of the public to go out into gardens, allotments, orchards or parks and tell us what they see,” he said. “We want as many eyes on as many trees as possible to tell us if climate change really is having an impact on fruit tree pollination. If it is, then action will be required to prevent a potentially significant impact. 

“Everyone who takes part in this landmark study will be playing an important part in telling us what is going on across the country, whether they’re in the ‘garden of England’ [Kent], central London or the north of Scotland.”

The project has buddied up with Oracle for Research, a venture in which the supplier provides technology for academic researchers, in this case for natural scientists.

Oracle for Research has developed a website, www.fruitwatch.org, where people can enter information about blossoming they have spotted. A statement about the site said it should take no more than five minutes to upload information about when and where the varieties of cherry, apple, pear or plum trees in their private or commercial gardens start to flower. 

The project is starting with cherry and plum trees, with apples soon to follow.

Data from the research project will be uploaded onto an interactive map, providing a picture of how climate change is impacting flowering times compared with pollinator activity across the UK, as well as how it varies between different regions.

Oracle said the project follows through from a study into bees, the World Bee Project. Launched in 2018, this used Oracle cloud storage and analytics to monitor honeybees globally.

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Richard Pitts from Oracle for Research said: “This is another extraordinary marriage between nature and cloud technology – enabling advanced research and, crucially, action by individuals that makes a fantastic contribution that has an impact on a nationwide scale. The more we understand the relationships between pollination, food and indeed human wellbeing, the more we can do to protect our planet and ourselves.”

Oracle for Research’s mission features the extension of the use of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure by academic scientists. Two previous outcomes of that were research projects at the University of Bristol – one to combat the tropical disease chikungunya, the second to aid in the search for a smoking cessation drug. Both have featured in Computer Weekly.

The Reading research is also funded by the Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership.

According to the project, volunteers will have access to the study findings, showing how their data has contributed to a better understanding of how climate change is having a bad impact on the timing of fruit tree flowering and the flight of pollinators, which could reduce pollination and fruit production.

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