Calling all amateur scientists and nature buffs! The United States National Phenology Network (USANPN) needs to you to help record and catalog natural events across the country. The USANPN hopes to gather as much data on plants and animals as possible in order to study and monitor the effects of climate change on the ecosystem. By bringing together academic researchers, schools, non-profit organizations, and individual citizens, the Network has created an ever-expanding database of information that can be used to aid in conservation, environmental policy, and land management. The effort combines modern Internet technology with good, old-fashioned methods of analysis. As of 2012, participants have contributed over 1 million observations of North American flora and fauna.
There are several ways to get involved in the USANPN. Through their popular Nature’s Notebook program, would-be naturalists can search their list of species that are under investigation, learn some basic observation skills, register as a participant, and begin to log their recordings online. After submitting, contributors can explore the site to see where their numbers fit into the whole picture, see who is leading the pack on number of observations entered, and access maps and visual representations of the project. Bird-lovers can get involved with the Bird Phenology Program which is undertaking the enormous effort of digitizing a collection of over 6 million Migration Observer Cards. These handwritten notes are valuable pieces of history that shed light on behavior patterns and distribution of a host of avian species across the continent. Once in the computer, the cards will be cross-referenced with climate data and evaluated. Collaborating organizations can partner with the USANPN or join already existing efforts and ongoing studies. Long-time backyard biologists can even contribute old statistics to become a part of the data set.
The USANPN is an excellent resource for professional researchers and inquiring minds who have access to a plethora of information that is available for download. Their search engine scours a number of record collections from around the globe, literature on climate and biocomplexity, and publications by their staff and affiliated journals. In an era of shrinking budgets for research and a time where smart energy policy has never been more crucial, the USANPN is utilizing the power of those affected by the problems of climate change to become a part of the solution. So, grab some binoculars, a pencil, and a piece of paper! It’s time to get phenomenal!