Using nature journals to study phenology

Over time, many amateur and professional naturalists have kept journals to record their observations in nature. As observations are made at the same location over time, patterns of change begin to emerge. Records of these changes can provide evidence of how a changing climate might be impacting patterns we typically see in nature. You may find it surprising, but scientists have few long-term datasets available to examine phenological change across decades. For this reason, researchers have begun examining the records kept in the journals of past naturalists.

The two most well-known include Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. By comparing past and present bloom dates, this research has revealed some significant findings. Where Thoreau made his observations (Concord, Massachusetts), for every degree Celsius rise in temperature, plants are now blooming 3.2 days earlier on average. Where Leopold made his observations (Wisconsin), for every degree rise, plants are blooming 4.1 days earlier on average. Aldo Leopold’s daughter, Nina Leopold Bradley, discusses the changes they’ve seen examining past records in this video:

Do you currently keep a nature journal? If you enjoy being outside, it is a great way to record your observations and to note any anomalies you discover. There are many resources out there to help you get started, including books and blogs. Journaling is a great way to broaden your appreciation of nature and the impacts of a changing climate, and it can also give you a stronger appreciation for your efforts to support Season Spotter’s research.


About acrall

I am an interdisciplinary researcher focusing on the development and evaluation of citizen science projects that support natural resource conservation.
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