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Why Phenology Matters

This post is a guest contribution by graduate student Brendan McGarry, who also serves as one of the Field Science Graduate Assistants.

Encouraging people to pay attention to the world around them is foundational to environmental education. There are myriad ways to achieve this – through solitary reflection, nature walks, hands-on stewardship, but there is no single way to engage people. One way to encourage awareness is to have participants collect information for large research projects, essentially crowd-sourcing data, by contributing to citizen science.

Citizen science projects recruit non-professionals to help scientific research. Ideally, in the realm of environmental science and education, this gives the public ownership of important studies in and around their homes, as well as provides context for their own stewardship of place. Over the past year of our Graduate M.Ed. Residency, our cohort has been engaged in a citizen science project at the Environmental Learning Center and the Blue House in Marblemount in partnership with North Cascades National Park.

The phenology of Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) between January and April of 2018

The USA National Phenology Network is a working group partnered with organizations all around the country to collect, analyze, and share phenology data. For the past three years, graduate students with the North Cascades Institute have recorded data on the phenologies of local native plants. Phenology is the timing of annual cycles in the natural world, like when plants flower or certain birds start singing. To track phenology, we go out once a week to our sites, take photos, record information about the plants we’re observing, as well as make general observations about the goings on at each site, both in terms of the organisms present and the environmental conditions. Read More from “Why Phenology Matters”