It always seems that the more extreme the seasons, the more extreme the opinions about them tend to be. Here in Minnesota, as spring arrives and the cold snowy winter says goodbye, we hear a multitude of opinions, ranging from “I love winter!” to “Finally!” to “I wish it were summer all year long.”
Then we see changes occurring around us, such as the beginning of mosquito season, flowers blooming, the return of the geese, the end of cold and flu season.
These events and ones like them are part of phenology, or the timing of biological events. People can do more than casually observe phenology when it affects us. Observing phenology in a scientific way is important, because phenology is driven by climate and our climate is changing.
IonE resident fellow Rebecca Montgomery is working to make tracking phenology more accessible to the public through the Minnesota Phenology Network (MnPN). With support from the Institute on the Environment, she and her colleagues are developing a statewide observing program for scientists, educators and citizens alike. Using observation protocols from the USA National Phenology Network, network participants record observations in phenology of key Minnesota species, such as the common loon and red maple. Those observations then go to scientists who explore how phenology changes in response to climate change.
The MnPN holds a conference in southeastern Minnesota each spring. Anyone interested in phenology (or spending quality time outside in the warmer weather) is invited to come and share in events, such as speakers, discussions, guided nature walks and demonstrations. This year’s conference is April 5-7 at the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro.
Lauren Werner-Foley is an editorial intern at the Institute on the Environment. Photo courtesy of stpaulgirl via Flickr | Creative Commons