phenology [fəˈnäləjē]

NOUN

the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

According to the USA National Phenology Network website:

Phenology is a key component of life on earth.  

  • Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. 
  •  Insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants.
  • For people, earlier flowering means earlier allergies. 
  • Farmers and gardeners need to know the schedule of plant and insect development to decide when to apply fertilizers and pesticides and when to plant to avoid frosts.

Changes in phenological events like flowering and animal migration are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change.

Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier—and fall events are happening later—than they did in the past. However, not all species are changing at the same rate or direction, leading to mismatches. How plants and animals respond can help us predict whether their populations will grow or shrink – making phenology a leading indicator of climate change impacts.

USA National Phenology Network

The USA National Phenology Network (www.usanpn.org) collects and organizes phenology data from volunteers throughout the country to provide scientists with the means of producing maps and other tools used for land management and documenting the effects of climate change.

The USA-NPN invites volunteer scientists to track the phenology of plants and animals through Nature’s Notebook, an online plant and animal phenology monitoring program. By participating in phenology monitoring, you will develop a better understanding of nature, contribute to a national database used by scientists and resource managers, and have a lot of fun along the way! 

The USA-NPN provides a complete set of training resources for how to use Nature’s Notebook, tools to visualize data, and rewards for observers.

Who Can Help?

  • Teachers – Great Classroom Project!
  • Parents – Fun Family Activity!
  • People Who Go Outside – Go for a walk and observe!

Submitting phenology observations requires a minimum of time and effort and adds important data about the effects of climate change.  Sounds easy enough.  Let me know if you want to try it and we can do it together. 

For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace.

Edwin Way Teale

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