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How To Be a Citizen Scientist: Nature's Notebook

Posted Nov 26 2012 11:30am

Citizen Scientist Have you ever read a news story about scientists working to save the planet and wished that you could join them? Well, now you can, and you don't even need a Ph.D. Anyone can be a citizen scientist , helping researchers collect data for real studies all across the world. This week, we'll highlight four national citizen science projects. 

Project 1: Nature's Notebook

Phenology? What's that?

Phenology is the study of the timing of animal and plant life cycles. So for example, you expect geese to migrate in fall and cherry trees to bloom in spring. And today, when climate change is causing the cycles of many species to shift and change, phenology becomes important both as a sign of climate change and as a consequence.

Nature's Notebook is part of the National Phenology Network, a group that tracks the life cycles of many plants and animals throughout the country. Participants choose a site outdoors, mark plants, and look for animals and plants showing "phenophases," which are season-specific behaviors or developments (like laying eggs, dropping leaves, or flowering). The site provides a comprehensive list of plants and animals to observe, and printable and online data sheets.

So join up, if you have a spot you can observe in, and add to the store of knowledge that helps us figure out how climate change is affecting ecosystems.

To see which phenophases were happening this time last year, read the list below.

  • In northern Indiana, black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches were active and feeding.
  • In northern Florida, bald eagles were calling.
  • In Eugene, Oregon, Pacific treefrogs were calling.
  • In Seattle, Washington, red alder buds were breaking.
  • In northern California, Canada thistles were starting to sprout.
  • In southern California, creosote bush buds were breaking.

Project 2: The Great Sunflower Project

--by Rachael Monosson / Image by iStockphoto/guter

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