One of the great things about phenology is that anyone can participate! In an effort to capture data, we have partnered with the National Park Service, the USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN), the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) to develop a volunteer-based project called “A.T. Seasons: Tracking Phenology from Georgia to Maine.” Phenology sites are continually being established in key areas along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) where citizen-scientists can go monitor. Monitors can utilize the Nature’s Notebook web-tool developed by the USA-NPNto watch training videos, print datasheets, enter data and compare results.
Program mission and goals
The mission of the A.T. Seasons project is twofold. The project is intended to provide education and outreach to the hiking community and its neighbors by bridging the gap between humans and nature. The program aims to expand understanding and appreciation for the natural world by providing hands-on, outdoor experiences to students, teachers, volunteers, and members and neighbors of the A.T. Second, the A.T. Seasons project has been designed to harness the support of volunteers and citizen scientists. Data collect by volunteers will contribute to a national pool of data and can be used for making natural resource management decisions along the A.T.
The program goals:
- Engage club members, volunteers, community members, educators and students.
- Promote a broad understanding of plant phenology and the relationship among phenological patterns and environmental change.
- Use in-situ observations to detect patterns of phenology not observable using other platforms.
- Use data to empower scientists, resource managers, and the public in their decision making and adaptation to variable climates and systems along the A.T.
What is phenology and why do we monitor it?
The term phenology is derived from the Greek work “phaino,” meaning to show or appear.
Phenology is the study of the reoccurring life cycle stages of plants and animals, such as bud break, leaf-out, hibernation, bird migrations and insect emergence. Phenology also includes the study of how the timing of these events relate to biotic and abiotic forces, such as weather and climate.
It is important that we understand how plants and animals are responding to their environments under changing climatic regimes. Tracking trends in seasonal changes may help resource managers identify vulnerable species, predict shifts in species ranges and identify potential areas of species refugia.
Studying these responses and timing may also give insight as to how our climate and ecological systems may be changing in both the long term and the short term. Because phenology is so sensitive to environmental variation and change, and because it is linked to most aspects of ecosystem processes, it is considered the leading indicator of climate change impacts on people and ecosystems by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Become a monitor in 6 easy steps
- Visit the A.T. Seasons website at www.usanpn.org/appalachian/.
- Register with the program by choosing to “create a new account.”
- Join the A.T. Seasons group and select the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) as your subgroup.
- Choose an A.T. phenology monitoring site nearest you or contact ATC staff to set up a new site.
- Download and print data entry forms from the Nature’s Notebook tool.
- Enter your observations online in Nature’s Notebook.
USA-NPN network (www.usanpn.org)
USA-NPN Nature’s Notebook web tool (www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook)
USA-NPN Training Videos (https://usanpn.org/nn/webinars)
USA-NPN Data exploration and visualizations (https://www.usanpn.org/nn/connect/visualizations)