Phenology changes are easy for volunteers of any age to observe and record. Maine citizens spend a lot of time outside — in our yards and gardens, in town or city parks, in the woods and meadows, and on the coast. We often take note of the first robin in spring, the first dandelion, the first loon chick, and the last maple leaf to fall. Signs of the Seasons provides training for citizens in how to identify and record observations of the seasonal changes (phenophases) of a small number of indicator species that are important for understanding Maine’s changing climate.
Each participating group will choose as many indicator species as they wish, and identify and mark a site (or several sites) where they will observe these species throughout the year. The group will register as Signs of the Seasons participants on the USA National Phenology Network web site’s Nature’s Notebook (www.usanpn.org), where they can record their observations as often as they make them.
Observations may include the timing of budburst, emerging leaves, and flowering of plants; first and last sightings (in spring and fall) of migrating birds, changing plumage, and observations of nesting activity in birds; and changing leaf color and withering foliage of plants in autumn. In the marine environment, volunteers will observe loons and look for the presence of reproductive organs on our indicator species of seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum).
The more observations we have on record, the easier it is to see the difference between short-term variability and long-term trends. It is impossible for phenology scientists alone to gather the vast amount of data needed to observe these trends as they are happening. There are just too few of them out there to keep their eyes on all the changing landscapes throughout Maine, across the country and around the world. Citizens are the ones who know their local plant and animal communities best, and citizen phenology monitors are likely to be the first to notice important changes as they happen.
How you can get involved
We are looking for volunteers who are interested in recording observations in their own community! No previous experience necessary and it doesn’t take a lot of time!
Current participants include Master Gardeners, 4-H Youth groups, and coastal groups affiliated with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, as well as other groups and individuals across the state in all 16 counties. We hope you will sign up to participate, and be a part of an early spring 2012 training. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved. We would love to hear from you!
Image Description: girl studies a flower with a magnifying lens