Help track climate change in your back yard

Wildflowers in Grant Point, Alaska. Courtesy USFWS.

Here in the mid-Atlantic where I live, both the calendar and the things I see from my kitchen window confirm that spring has officially sprung. The cherry tree outside my house is decked in pale pink blossoms. The goldfinches at my feeders are changing their drab winter plumage to the bright yellow of breeding season. Daffodils are blooming in my front yard. Every morning, my blue car is coated with a fine pale-green dusting of tree pollen — the same stuff that tells my smarting eyes that spring is here. Soon the lilacs will bud and bloom. Butterflies will emerge from their cocoons. And the wrens that are busily setting up housekeeping in the birdhouse will have a new brood to feed.

Help track climate change by signing up to become a “citizen scientist.”

Have you observed the pulse of the seasons where you live? Would you like to do something important to help better understand the seasonal impacts of climate change?

Help track climate change by signing up to become a “citizen scientist.”

We’re looking for volunteers to record their observations on a list of more than 200 different plants selected for national study. Take a look at the list, and then check out the plants and trees that you see regularly in your backyard, or alongside the trail where you hike on a regular basis, or in the park you visit frequently. If you’re willing to record what you see — and when — you can be part of this important new network of citizen scientists helping us better understand the role of climate change on our lands.

Thanks to a new collaboration between The Wilderness Society and the National Phenology Network, you can be part of a brand-new nationwide network of Wilderness Society members and other folks participating in this innovative project. Whether you’re an amateur or professional naturalist or botanist, a gardener, or an outdoor enthusiast, the observations you gather about the plants you see around you will help build understanding of how climate change is affecting the land. Signing up is simple.

All around us, plants and animals live their lives in rhythm with the rise and fall of the seasons. Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of these cyclical life events — events that are sensitive to weather and climate. This makes them important living indicators of their environment.

Sometimes — as is the case with global warming — human activity causes the environment to change. That’s when phenology becomes extremely important. By studying the seasonal changes in plants and animals over time, scientists can gain important information about how our natural world is adapting to the effects of climate change.

Just as national networks of weather stations and stream gauges are critical to understanding weather and water trends, a coast-to-coast phenology network will be critical to understanding and forecasting how plants and animals respond to global climate change. Ultimately, this understanding will help land managers make informed decisions that help the lands we love adapt to ongoing and future climate change. The network also will help monitor and predict drought, and the risks of wildfire, biological invasions, and the spread of disease.

Learn more and sign up here.

photos: Wildflowers in Grant Point, Alaska. Courtesy USFWS.