Family health issues have compromised my ability to put a regular  blog post together.  I was going to write about  an amazing young organization USA National Phenological Network I have learned about while researching for a book.  So I’ll just urge you to check out their website.

Phenology is noting plant and animal life cycle stages, such as leafing and flowering, emergence of insects, and migration of birds.  This is an ancient human occupation.  Knowing these things allowed early man to make life and death decisions about when to plant, when to hunt and when to move.

USA National Phenology Network, established in 2007, has brought that elemental monitoring instinct into the computer age, and just in time.  Today we need phenology for:

  • Health (allergens and infectious diseases)
  • Recreation (wildflower displays and fall colors)
  • Agriculture (planting and harvest times, pest control)
  • Management of natural resources (water and timber)
  • Understanding hazards (monitoring and prediction of drought and fire risk)
  • Conservation (abundance and diversity of plants and animals)

As they say on their website,

Phenology records can help us understand plant and animal responses to climate change. Changes in phenological events like flowering and bird migrations 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. The phenology of some species is changing quickly, while for others it is changing slowly or not at all. These different shifts in timing are shaking up ecosystems and altering interactions and processes that took place in the past.


To gather this data, the USA NPN asks you to sign on, pick your favorite part of nature and start reporting what you see.  Their electronic Nature’s Notebook is a great way to get involved.  Are you paying attention to something out there that interests you? Then start reporting your findings!

You’ll contribute to a crucial data set that will inform scientists, resource managers and the public.  We need this information to make the best choices as we try to adapt to changing climates and environments.

Categories: Uncategorized

7 replies

  1. Thanks for this introduction to a fascinating subject. I like the historical context you have offered–there is much knowledge to be gained from observation. In Canada, people can get involved with information gathering by registering with NatureWatch at

    • Thanks ontheland.
      I will check out the site you recommend. I am discovering a vast range of venues in which citizens are contributing to the scientific data set, and it’s really exciting to me.

    • Thanks, Lorijo. Doug is doing very well, in keeping with the situation. Now we are dealing with his father who is in the ICU. Meanwhile I’m researching citizen science for both a local angle article and a book, and I am LOVING this topic.

  2. Gosh your not having it easy at the moment Denise. I pray you have enough energy to see you through. All the best with the article and book

  3. Thanks for your concern, Joanna. It’s not an easy time, but when I think of people facing true disasters (Japan comes to mind most immediately, Haiti, Africa …) I feel extremely fortunate. Doug and I have always been energetic and organized, and we haven’t been faced with anything yet that we can’t deal with.
    We had a big election in Wisconsin last night that was too close to call as yet to see whether a minion of our notorious Governor Walker will put the state Supreme Court in his pocket or not. Walker’s plan is to gut state services, and sell the state’s natural resources to the moneyed powers that control him. It will be a sad day for local environmental issues and global consequences if this election goes badly. The future of many ecosystems rests on the blade of a knife today, not to mention many systems that affect humans such as education and health care.
    That has me much more uneasy than my personal situation.

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