WHAT IT MEANS: You don’t have to go to school to study phenology (that’s the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events) in order to participate. You just have to pay attention. “The most common observation is that spring events, such as leaf out, flowering, bird migrations, frog calling, and butterfly emergence are all occurring earlier now than they did in the past,” Miller-Rushing says. Changes in these patterns greatly affect our economies and health, so it’s in all of our best interest to wake up and smell the roses (and make a note of it).
Here’s what you need to know about volunteering in the program:
• Take your pick. Select a plant or two, and note when different stages of its growth occur throughout the season. Donating just a few minutes of your time every week can help scientists fill the gaps.
• Keep track. The USA-NPN website provides printable instructions and a place to enter your observations.
• Know you’re making a difference. Scientists already know that flowering and bird migrations are changing in response to climate change, Miller-Rushign says, but their understanding is extremely limited. Citizen scientists will provide thousands of pieces of the puzzle. “These data can then be used to predict the onset of allergy season, manage invasive species, assess species vulnerability to climate change, and as a part of many other applications in the fields of health, agriculture, recreation, and conservation,” Miller-Rushing says.
Sign up for this season’s monitoring at the USA-NPN website.