Citizen Science: Leaf Survey

Participate in this component of the Fossil Atmospheres project with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

In order to understand how well the features of ginkgo leaves reflect the climate they grow in, scientists need to study leaves from trees growing in many different climates.

Ginkgos are the perfect plant for this. While their natural range is restricted to China, ginkgo trees can now be found all over the world, transported to new places by humans. Ginkgos also have a rich fossil record dating back to the Jurassic Period, meaning scientists can apply what they learn about reconstructing climates from today’s ginkgos to the past hundred million years through beautifully preserved fossil leaves.

How can you help?

The Smithsonian is looking for citizen scientists to send them leaves from their communities!

What you will need


A Ginkgo tree that is at least 10 feet tall


A smartphone or computer + camera


A free account on iNaturalist


Materials to mail in your leaves: a large envelope, cardboard, newspaper and tape

Watch the video or follow the instructions below to join in with the research. A PDF of the complete instructions is also available for download here and a one page version is available here.

If you are sending a sample from outside of the United States please follow this additional protocol to ensure the sample reaches us.

Questions? Email

Read more from the Smithsonian Magazine

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