USA NPN National Phenology Network

Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

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Parter Successes

  • Two phenology efforts are ongoing at the Arnold, including the Native and Indicator Observation Program and the Tree Spotters program. 

    Partner's Impact Statement:
    Lizzie Wolkovich, Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, launched the Arnold Arboretum Tree Spotters program pilot in 2015. Her research explores how climate and community assembly may explain and forecast plant phenology, which is strongly linked to climate and can be easily observed. Lizzie is interested in engaging citizen scientists to collect phenology data to support her research. From 3/25/15 – 3/26/17: Trained 238 volunteers to make/record observations in Nature’s Notebook (68,651 observations to date); offered 33 training classes (28 for new Tree Spotters and 5 refresher classes for returning volunteers), 22 opportunities for volunteers to meet with researchers on the grounds, and 6 educational sessions (also open to the public); held 3 social events. Staff: research assistants/graduate students/interns and a volunteer. Forty-three volunteers have participated actively in the program (making multiple observations and/or collaborating on special projects). We have also engaged the general public via our educational sessions. We have an active social media presence (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter), a monthly eNewsletter, a website, and a volunteer database. As a result of the success of this pilot, the Arboretum is now looking for funding to ensure that the program will continue.
  • Pepperwood is an ecological institute dedicated to educating, engaging, and inspiring our community through habitat preservation, science-based conservation, leading-edge research, and interdisciplinary educational programs. As part of the California Phenology Project, citizen scientists at Pepperwood are collecting important phenological information that will be used to inform regional land management practices and conservation strategies under a changing climate.

    Partner's Impact Statement:
    Plant phenology is one of the most sensitive indicators of shifts in climate patterns. The importance of climate change has been highlighted by California's recent 4-year drought from 2012–2015. Climate models suggest that Northern California will become increasingly arid with an increased probability of extreme events such as drought and flooding (Flint and Flint 2012). Since 2013, citizen scientists at Pepperwood Preserve have been tracking the effects of climate on California native plant life cycles through the National Phenology Network and the California Phenology Project. Our volunteers monitor 11 species of woody shrubs and trees twice a week throughout the year. As of January 2017, we have collected over 65,000 plant phenology observations. This project provides an incredible opportunity for citizen scientist to build critical research skills, enhance their botanical knowledge and connection to plant life cycles, and gives them professional development experience analyzing data and sharing their findings at scientific conferences. Data collected by this project informs important research about how plant species are responding to climate and how these shifts may impact the local ecology.
  • Undergraduate class at UC Santa Barbara and volunteers are making observations at the Garden. Part of the California Phenology Project. 

    Partner's Impact Statement:
    It is important to promote education of the public concerning seasonal plant cycles, as well as plants’ sensitivities to climate, in order to demonstrate the critical importance of humans’ interconnection to our environment. Changes in plant phenomena affect abundance, diversity of species, interactions, ecological functions, effects on water, energy, and chemical elements. Recorded data can be used in research and management, informing decisions, as climate change affects earth’s ecosystems. The California Phenology Project was started in 2010 by Dr. Susan Mazer, by a grant from National Science Foundation, and in collaboration with National Park Service Climate Change Response Program, US Geological Survey, and USA-National Phenology Network. Utilizing National Phenology Network’s Nature’s Notebook, nineteen plant species and almost 1,300 individual plants on public and private lands have been monitored. Over sixty trainings with seven hundred participants, have been given, with more trainings occurring. As of March 15, 2017, 1,440,000 (1.44 million) phenological observations have been recorded. The group leader was trained as Citizen Scientist-Phenologist by Dr. Susan Mazer at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden two years ago. We currently study five plants, and have plans to add more. Four people have been trained to utilize Nature’s Notebook, and found it fulfilling to be able to share the process of plant phenophases with students. The significance of data collection and recording from plants, while enjoying the beauty of the plants themselves, makes phenology an extremely rewarding and worthwhile project.
  •  The North Carolina Arboretum engages school groups and visitors in making phenology observations using Nature's Notebook, through its Project EXPLORE program. 

    Partner's Impact Statement:
    Teachers have expressed a need for on-site field trips, eliminating travel time and costs, that address curriculum standards and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. As an organization we would like to reach audiences not typically served by field trips by engaging with Title One schools and offer place-based educational programs. We offered a Project EXPLORE mini grant to teachers in western North Carolina through The NC Arboretum in Asheville, NC. We modeled for teachers and students how to collect data for Natures Notebook in phenology plots we set up in their schoolyards and met with both students and teachers three times throughout the school year to focus on Natures Notebook. The teachers and students collected data weekly from September to April and presented their findings at our mountain science expo. Since beginning the Project EXPLROE program in 2013, we have had 35 teachers in 28 schools and 2000 students throughout western North Carolina participate in Nature’s Notebook. Students have submitted 33,863 observations. Based on pre and post surveys we have successfully provided a way for teachers to be able to meet their curriculum while taking students outside and connected students with local nature, while they’ve contributed to the scientific community through Nature’s Notebook, and ultimately gained interests in science and science careers.