When I started a conscious effort to wildlife garden, I became aware of how what I do affects the world at large. So every year I resolve to add more natives to feed the critters and replace any invasives unknowingly planted. I also strive yearly to observe what is going on in my garden. I have every good intention of completing the observations, but most times I get lost in the moments and life. So when I read sister blog team member Debbie Roberts’s post about being a Citizen Scientist, I was intrigued. Debbie gives us a flavor for the many ways to become involved in the environment as a citizen and/or a gardener.
I have one more, becoming an observer for the USA-NPN or the USA National Phenology Network.
What is USA-NPN?
The USA National Phenology Network brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. The network harnesses the power of people and the Internet to collect and share information, providing researchers with far more data than they could collect alone.
What Is Phenology?
The word Phenology refers to recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, particularly how they relate to climate. According to the USA-NPN, phenological data are rare in the US and there is still a lot to learn and questions to answer. Today so many of us are concerned about climate change and this data is important in seeking answers. As scientist and naturalists have shared, wildlife migration and life cycles along with plant cycles are sensitive to climate change and a perfect vehicle to observe in hopes of monitoring changes in our climate.
In fact, phenology affects nearly all aspects of the environment, including the abundance and diversity of organisms, their interactions with one another, their functions in food webs and their seasonal behavior. I like to think of it as a calendar or schedule for nature; when plants bloom, birds and butterflies return, when maple leaves change and how brilliant they are in color.
With our early springs and intense storms of late, wildlife is emerging early or leaving later for migration in some areas. Is there food upon their arrival? Or will they encounter barriers and problems. I worry now about the early hummers and not having nectar plants blooming yet. Will they be fooled with a freak storm and freezing temps.
And these observations also help humans who are dealing with seasonal allergies, farming and risk of fire due to drought.
What Can You Do?
The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) monitors the climate influences on the plants and animals by encouraging people to observe and share phenological events/observations. It is is comprised of many partner agencies (federal, state and local), universities, schools, citizen volunteers, etc. These observers are gardeners, school children, farmers, clubs, and scientists to name a few.
You have to hunt through the plants identified in your area to find the natives since some listed are not native such as forsythia. But remember they are monitoring how these plants are affected by climate change so they aren’t necessarily focusing on natives although I wish they would. Lots of birds and other critters to choose to observe.
This year, I have decided to follow native columbines, Northern Leopard frog (hear his call), American toad, robin and bumble bee (all pictured here) which are all readily found in my garden. I will be observing and recording events such as when growth or flowers appear and wither, active adults, mating, vocalization, nesting and on and on through the seasons. As I follow these critters and plants this year, I will post here periodically perhaps once every month or 2 months. It certainly changes your perspective of your garden from it being just your backyard to something bigger.
I encourage you to join and pick one thing and follow it…it is fun and informative especially if you like to see patterns and cycles. I learn a lot and feel more connected with my garden when making natural observations. And I feel like I am giving back with just a bit of my time.
“This we know… the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to earth. All things are connected, like the blood which connects one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” ~
Chief Seattle, 1854Ted Perry (1970)
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