University of Reading launches Fruitwatch.org with Oracle Cloud

University of Reading uses Oracle Cloud to help UK citizen scientists report early blooming fruit trees, a key indicator of climate change.

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Without insect pollination, we risk a severe reduction in the quality and quantity of fruit crops. Thanks to Oracle for Research, we can now engage UK citizen scientists to help us understand the relationships between fruit trees and pollinators to safeguard production in the future.

Chris WyverPhD student, University of Reading

Business challenges

A troubling environmental trend is emerging in the United Kingdom—plants are flowering earlier in the year because of climate change. This means many UK pollinators, including bees, hoverflies, wasps, and moths may emerge too late to pollinate these plants. This discrepancy could be devastating to pollinators and food supplies. With less pollen and nectar available, insects may go hungry, hurting their survival and reproduction. A lack of pollination also means flowers reproduce less. If this triggers an ecological “cascade effect,” other species in the ecosystem would also suffer, so the full impact could be enormous.

Researchers at the University of Reading wanted to track exactly when fruit trees were flowering across the UK to investigate these environmental effects further. For this, researchers decided to create a simple, browser-based tool for UK citizen scientists to report local fruit tree growth. The system needed to be able to accept thousands of images of flowering trees to enhance these reports. Lastly, it was important to Reading that the database would not collect personal information, just key data about tree types, flowering states, dates, and locations.

While the team was well equipped to run some location-based analysis on these reports, these researchers were looking for a trusted technology provider to advise ways to bolster analysis and visualizations in new, high-impact ways.

Researchers built the website application in only a few days using Oracle Autonomous Database on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and Oracle APEX.

Why University of Reading chose Oracle

The University of Reading team chose Oracle Autonomous Database on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) because the cloud-based service offers a secure, robust platform to store, manage, and use data. Patching, backups, scalability, and availability are all provided automatically, allowing the Reading team to focus on the data science rather than administration.

Oracle APEX, a low-code development tool that comes as part of Oracle Autonomous Database, provided a way to quickly build data-intensive applications. With APEX, the team was able to write the application in only a few days.

The University of Reading team was supported by Oracle for Research, which helps researchers by providing cloud credits, hands-on technology consultations, introductions to peers, and more. The Oracle for Research team provided hands-on tech support throughout the university’s project to help ensure its success.

FruitWatch.org has collected over 6,000 reports about fruit trees from citizen scientists in every county in the UK.

Results

The launch of the FruitWatch.org site corresponded with the start of the UK fruit tree blossoming season. This website allows people across the UK to enter their fruit tree type, its location, and its current flowering stage. These citizen scientists can also upload pictures of their trees and flowers. Once they submit a report, a map on the results page updates automatically, making it easy for visitors to compare their flowering dates to other areas in the UK. FruitWatch.org has collected over 6,000 reports about fruit trees from every county in the UK.

Although the project is still in its early stages, Reading researchers are already seeing spatial trends in fruit tree blossoming, with the south generally blooming earlier than the north. The team also discovered that fruit tree blossoms are more sensitive to climate change than pollinator flight dates, potentially highlighting asynchrony in this vital plant-pollinator interaction. With continued support from citizen scientists, the Reading team will be able to continue to monitor trends in plant-pollinator synchrony.

This project forms part of a University of Reading PhD project entitled “Mitigating the risks to pollination services caused by climate change.”

Published:January 17, 2023

About the customer

The University of Reading is a public university in Reading, Berkshire, England and has been at the forefront of UK higher education for nearly a century.