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Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program

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Free Press Advances Training Sessions to Help with Climate Research

The Free Press reported the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant will offer free training sessions for Signs of the Seasons, a program for volunteers to contribute local plant and animal life-cycle data for climate change research. Sessions are open to all interested volunteers, and registration is required. Sessions in the midcoast area will be held March 22 in Newcastle, March 25 in Belfast and April 5 in Boothbay.

Pen Bay Pilot Previews Citizen Science Training

Penobscot Bay Pilot reported that University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine will a conduct a free citizen science training session 1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. March 25, 2014 at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast. The program, “Signs of the Seasons,” focuses on the history and science of phenology (study of seasonal changes in plants and animals).

Free Press Advances Stancioff’s Talk on Coastal Maine’s Changes

The Free Press reported the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association of Newcastle, Maine, will host a talk by Esperanza Stancioff, an educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, as part of its winter talk series “Citizen Science in the Sheepscot Watershed.” Stancioff will speak on February 5, 2014 about the current research on how coastal Maine’s climate is changing, how it might change in the future and the current adaptations that are under way.

Fall Tips for Bird Observation: Seth Benz

Seth Benz, director of the Bird Ecology Lab at the Schoodic Education and Research Center of Acadia National Park, discusses the importance of bird observation as the seasons turn. He says detailed information on fall behaviors can help scientists puzzle out the effects of climate change on different species. Benz notes that while animal numbers and locations are crucial, bird diet is also of great interest. See his tips here.

Image Description: Seth Benz is Director of the Bird Ecology Lab at the Schoodic Education and Research Center of Acadia National Park.

Tips for Fall Plant Observation: Professor Lois Stack

Tips for fall observation! Professor Lois Stack of UMaine offers Signs of the Seasons volunteers helpful pointers as we move into fall, a season of dramatic change that offers many opportunities to see phenology in action. In fact, detailing changes to plant life is every bit as crucial now as in the spring.  See her tips here.

Image Description: red maple leaves

Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program

Signs of the Seasons is expanding its reach beyond the state of Maine. The program has begun training volunteers in New Hampshire and changing its focus to New England as a whole. “The program has attracted interest outside the state of Maine and we want to invite interested volunteers to join us in observing the detailed turns of phenology,” said program director Ezperanza Stancioff, a Climate Change Educator at University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant. She said the program is open to further expansion in the New England region. Please contact us for additional information.

Image Description: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Cardinal Flower

Volunteer in the Spotlight

Dr. Orrin Shane’s lifelong interest in milkweed began when he was a boy in the 1940s. He and his childhood friends picked bushels of the plants for the war effort. The fluffy insides of pods were used to fill life preservers for soldiers overseas. “That was my introduction to milkweed,” Shane said. “It is a plant of many faces.” Today, as a volunteer of the Signs of the Seasons phenology program, Shane regularly observes milkweed for signs of Monarch butterflies and caterpillars. He found his current stand accidentally after a futile search of his Portland neighborhood. Read more.

Image Description: Orrin Shane

The Story of Milkweed

Maine’s hearty pod-bearing milkweed is an essential part of seasonal change. The stalky perennial provides annual food and shelter to butterflies in all stages of metamorphosis. The insects depend on the safe haven provided by Maine’s three types of milkweed plants: the sun-loving butterfly and common types and the purple-flowered swamp variety. Maine gardeners also plant non-native species as ornamentals or to attract butterflies. Found primarily in North America, the plant provides butterflies and caterpillars shelter, food and defense against predators. Monarchs, for example, lay their eggs almost exclusively on milkweed. After hatching, monarch larvae feed on the leaves, ingesting the plant’s toxins. This brilliant trick of nature makes both caterpillars and butterflies unpalatable to predators such as birds and small rodents. Read more

Image Description: Rogan milkweed plate

Landings, July Issue (Newsletter of Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance)

Signs of the Seasons is a citizen science program that engages children and adults in science through observation of plant and animal phenology. What is phenology? It is the study of the seasonal timing of recurring life events, such as animal migrations, insect metamorphoses and foliage changes. Many of these “signs of the seasons” have shifted as a result of a changing climate. Observation of what is happening and when in one’s backyard or local park helps scientists and managers answer questions that affect Maine’s forests, crops, and day-to-day lives. “Fishermen and farmers understand the timing of life cycles of plants and animals,” said Esperanza Stancioff, climate change educator for University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Maine Sea Grant program and co-coordinator of the program with Beth Bisson of Maine Sea Grant. “It is a part of their daily lives to observe and note changes. For example, lobstermen know when the lobsters generally shed.” Maine lobstermen were shocked last year to find lobsters shedding their shells in late spring, earlier than had been seen in recent history. Read the rest of the article.

Image Description: Maine Lobstermen Alliance Community Alliance logo

Drummond Quoted in TakePart Article on Climate Change Threatening Foods

Frank Drummond, entomologist at the University of Maine, was quoted in a TakePart article titled “Is climate change threatening Maine’s staple foods?” Drummond spoke about the spotted wing drosophila, a new fruit fly that is targeting the state’s blueberries. Drummond said the pests need to be monitored and managed, but harvesting berries earlier and using an experimental mesh trap could help keep the flies off the berries.


USA National Phenology Network: Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Maine Sea Grant

Contact Information

Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program
377 Manktown Road
Waldoboro, Maine 04572
Phone: 207.832.0343 or 1.800.244.2104 (in Maine)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System