From Dr. John…Looking for a fun way to translate your love of pignut hickory (Carya glabra) into scientific data that can help the planet? Look no further than the National Phenology Network (NPN), an organization that calls on citizen scientists to monitor the influence of climate change on plants and animals in the US.
NPN defines phenology as the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events, such as the first flower on a plant, the appearance of a songbird species in spring, or the changing leaves in fall. Phenological events are particularly sensitive to climate variations (e.g., temperature), and shifts in timing can dramatically affect the planet’s ecological systems. That, in turn, can affect the way we live – allergies, recreation, farming, and our ability to respond to natural disasters are all impacted by phenology.
NPN harnesses the power of citizen scientists and the Internet to collect, share, and store information on patterns of phenology for 200 critical plant species across the nation. NPN will use your contributions to help scientists identify which species are changing, and ultimately, better predict the impact of changing phenologies on natural systems and people. Do this immediately:
1. Select your favorite plant.
2. Learn about site selection, plant marking, and phenological observations.
3. Join the network and become an official participant.
4. Start observing, collecting, and reporting.
5. Feel a sense of personal satisfaction and enrichment.
At this time, citizen scientists can only monitor plant species. However, in 2010, NPN will welcome observations for many species of animals, including yellow-bellied marmots, hummingbirds, wood frogs, bumblebees, and all of your favorite Disney characters.


  • Topics: Biology, Computers and Technology
  • Location: at home, close to home
  • Duration: any
  • Cost: free
  • Gear: no
  • Level of Difficulty: easy

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