SIGNS OF SPRING
What does it mean when you brush your hair in the morning and it no longer flies up in the air, full of static electricity?
What does it mean when one of the first things you hear in the morning is the sound of birds singing?
What does it mean when you can go out without your mittens and hat?
SPRING has arrived.
For humans, the arrival of spring means it is time to plant crops, hike in the woods to see the beauty of wildflowers, and stock up on tissues if you have allergies.
For plants and animals, the changing of the seasons from winter to spring is an important signal that it is time to migrate, reproduce, come out of hibernation or emerge from dormancy, or grow leaves and flowers.
Phenology is the study of the timing of these events in plants and animals. It comes from the Greek words phaeno which means to show or appear, and logos which means to study. A person who studies phenology is called a phenologist.
Phenologists are interested in how aspects of the environment, such as day length, temperature, and precipitation (rain or snow), affect the plants and animals. Some questions a phenologist might ask are:
- How does daylength affect migration of birds?
- How does the seasonal change of temperature affect the hatching of insect populations?
- How does the amount of precipitation and when it falls affect the budding of trees?
If you are interested in phenology and would like to participate in citizen science data collection, go to http://www.usanpn.org which is the website for The USA National Phenology Network. Here, you can learn about phenology, and join their database, Nature’s Notebook, where you can enter your own observations about when trees bud, flowers emerge, and animals migrate from your local area.
On the USA National Phenology Network website, it talks about some of the many important contributors to the science of phenology.
Carolus Linnaeus and Robert Marsham recorded the times when plants flowered during the 1700’s. They are considered the “fathers” of modern phenology.
Henry David Thoreau contributed valuable data to phenology by keeping daily nature journals from 1851 to 1858. He recorded the date when flowers first emerged for over 500 species at Walden Pond. His powers of observation and dedication to nature study provided us with important information about when plants flowered during that time period. We can compare his data to our observations today to see what changes have occurred.
Our climate is changing. How the changing climate affects plants and animals is important to understand. Your observations can help scientists understand the impact of climate change on the living things of our natural world.
Visit www.usanpn.org to read more about phenology and get started in collecting your own data!
Photographs courtesy of Pixabay.