Acevedo was inspired by her past work with the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, researching herbarium specimens. At the time, she had come across a unique paper that analyzed the historical flowering times of cherry blossoms in Japan.
The paper’s source? Japanese poetry dating back to 800 AD.
“I was really excited to see that, because they're so famous,” she says. “I figured there would probably be a lot more data that I could find out there and I could draw comparisons between.”
Together with her advisor, interim IBES director Dov Sax, and University of Pittsburgh ecologist Sara Kuebbing, Acevedo combined historical records with citizen science data to track the flowering of fruit trees in Washington, D.C.
She is currently in the process of matching these records to climate data from the same time periods, to see how flowering times have been impacted.
“[From the preliminary analysis,] there are some pretty strong patterns with spring temperatures,” she says. “You see a shift to earlier flowering and fruiting because things are getting warmer earlier and there's a lot more climatic variability.”
One of Acevedo’s biggest challenges has been the management of large amounts of data. Throughout her research process, she has drawn strongly on tools she has learned as an Environmental Science concentrator.
“[Learning] biostats and GIS stuff has really helped when I'm getting into this kind of mapping and data analysis,” she says. “There's been a lot of data management, especially because I'm pulling from all these sources that are organized in vastly different ways.”
Through her research, Acevedo is helping to clarify human impacts on the environment. Her work has far-reaching implications—not only for understanding the ecological value of fruit tree species, but for understanding their impact on the financial sector as well.
“There's a lot of data on these trees because they're cultivated and because they're so economically valuable,” she says. “Changes in flowering timing actually helped a lot of economic bearings because they are made to be ornamental or to produce fruit.”
Acevedo is still in the process of pinpointing which specific climate variables the flowering times are responding to. She plans to compile her research in her senior thesis, but also hopes to publish her findings.