Earth Alive - Your link to the world of phenology and nature observations.

More About Phenology

Phenology!What kinds of things do you track to mark the changing of the seasons? Do you notice when the TV reruns are playing? Or do you notice when the first snowplow drives down your street? Do you notice the first robin in spring, the geese migrating, the lakes freezing and thawing, or the first tulips blooming? When you hear frogs in spring, do you wonder if they always start peeping on exactly April 17? If you haven’t noticed any of those things, how about your first mosquito bite this year?

These events are all examples of phenology (say it, “fee-now-ledge-ee”), the study of the response of living organisms to seasonal and climatic changes.

Why do people record when they see their first flashing firefly in the spring or their last oak leaf drop in the fall? In years past, farmers applied knowledge of phenology to their decision-making. Year after year, farmers noticed that unusually large crops of nuts and acorns usually came before long, cold winters. One farmer’s folk tale said:

When elm leaves are as big as a shilling,
Plant kidney beans, if to plant ‘em you’re willing.
When elm leaves are big as a penny,
You must plant kidney beans if you mean to have any.

Nowadays, most people keep track of nature’s cycle as a hobby.

Phenology!Phenologists (they’re folks just like you and me) track things like the dates of the first leaf on a tree in spring, the first geese flying north, and the date of the lake freezing over. If phenologists share their data, we can track things like geese migrating and plants blooming.

Nature Nuts are budding phenologists. They enter events on this web site and compare them. You can enter when your nearby lake freezes over, then see when Aldo Leopold observed the lake close in the 1930s.

Want to learn more? Here are links to cool phenology web sites:

Phenology Web Links
It's a great comprehensive list of phenology web sites around the world.

Plant Watch
This is a Canadian organization engaging students and the general public in the study of spring flowering times of 8 plant species.

The Globe Program
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is a hands-on international environmental science and education program. GLOBE links students, teachers, and the scientific research community in an effort to learn more about our environment through student data collection and observation.

Journey North
This is a global study of wildlife migration of a dozen migratory species tracked each spring. Students share their own field observations with classrooms across the Hemisphere.


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