The Land Trust is excited to invite you to join us as we embark on a journey of observation, contemplation, and citizen science. We will be embracing the study of phenology on the Olympic Peninsula.
What is Phenology?
Phenology can be described as the study of “nature’s calendar.” It involves observing the cyclical rhythms of events, such as plant flowering, crop ripening, leaf shedding, and animal migration. These events, in turn, are directly affected by weather and climate factors such as temperature and precipitation.
Phenological observations have taken place over the course of human history, as hunters, gatherers, farmers, and fishermen based their livelihoods on their ability to respond to the cycles of the natural world. In modern times, we know that the plants and animals around us are responding in very sensitive ways to changing climate conditions. In fact, phenological shifts are one of the most easily observable manifestations of climate change. Imagine, for example, that the apple tree in your front yard seems to be blooming earlier and earlier, perhaps in response to warming spring temperatures. If you were to track this change over the length of your 30-year mortgage, you would have created a phenological data set that might yield meaningful climate-related information.
It is our hope that by observing phenology on a local level, we will make timely contributions to our intimate knowledge of the place we call home, and begin to understand the changes that are occurring in our own backyards.
As we take our first steps into a deeper awareness of phenology, we encourage you to take a moment to consider which seasonal events YOU look forward to every year. At a recent Land Trust staff meeting, we went around the group and took turns answering that exact question. Highlights included aromatic fields of lupine, the sounds of chorusing frogs, elk mating rituals, early spring blooms, salmon runs, harvest-time abundance, and the migratory habits of hawks.
Journaling, sketching, and photography are easy ways to record and share phenological observations. There are also some higher-tech options, including a variety of smartphone apps that allow citizen scientists to share their contributions with the world. Land Trust staff frequently use free apps such as iNaturalist and eBird to record observations made in the field.
The Land Trust will begin by sharing phenological observations on our website, through social media channels, and in our newsletters. We’ll be sharing resources and (eventually) hosting events based on feedback from our community – that’s you! – about phenomena that are important to us here on the Olympic Peninsula. Our local landowners, birders, farmers, hikers, fisherfolk, surfers, and photographers are an invaluable source of phenological experience and observation. We encourage all of you to contribute your considerable knowledge, your wonderful photos, and your sense of wonder. Please tag us in your social media posts or email your observations to our Outreach staff.
Learn more about phenology from these sources:
- USA National Phenology Network
- Phenology at Budburst
- Goodplanet.org Intro to Phenology
- Phenology at University of Maine