Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How do you know it is spring?

(In some places spring is coming!)

I hope you are doing well and getting out and enjoying the places around where you live. Even if you are still deep in winter, getting outside and exploring, even if it is for a short time, is a worthy pursuit. I have been busy getting ready for and going to few conferences so that is why I have not posted in the past few weeks. I was up at Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side, in the middle of the month for a conference of Residential Outdoor Environmental Educators. A small gathering of 45 or so folks from all over including 3 Canadians! It was a wonderful venue overlooking Lake Tahoe from the eastern side. One of my fun moments was joining the Tahoe Tessie club one morning. The Tahoe Tessie club involves jumping in lake early in the morning. WOW was it cold; 38.9 degrees to be exact. Yes I had a water thermometer with me. It was also good to drive up and over the Sierra Range and to see a bunch of snow.

Anyway, one of the workshops I went to was called "How do you know it is spring?". It was a great workshop in which I learned about a great civil science project called Project Bud Burst. It is a great project where you get to help collect data for your area and send it to the project. I wanted to let folks know about the project because it can be a wonderful long term environmental project for you and your kids. Even if you do not officially get involved with the project, they provide you with some great tools to help you expand your awareness of plants progressing into spring. They also provide a whole host of resources for studying plants all around the country.

The main focus of the project is to look at Phenology. Phenology is the study of the timing of recurring biological phases, the causes of their timing with regard to biotic and abiotic forces. It also explores the interrelation among phases of same or different species. Phenology is an interesting study because the timing of plant growth, up to including fruiting, determines Food Supply, can affect the survival of plants and animals in their environment, and can provide you with yearly data changes in the plants around where you live. Phenology is also being used to help determine possible climate changes.

If you get involved with the project officially, thanks for providing useful data. If you do not, I encourage you to get involved in a more personal manner. Here are some suggestions on how you could do a plant phenology project of your own. Simply start observing the plants in your own yard or nearby park. Maybe even in your Anchor Spot. Keep a watch on plants that interest you and watch for the first buds, leaves, flowers, and fruits as spring progresses. You can use the tools on the Project Budburst site.

If you have other families in your area that have kids, or if you work at an outdoor school, get a group together and make observations over time and compare them. At home you could even compare data from your house with data and observations from other house in areas that are either close by or maybe even a little farther away and see what differences emerge. Where I live the progression of spring growth varies greatly from one side of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the other, a distance of about 15 miles.  At an outdoor school, keep weekly data observations and then refer to them next year and create a timeline of plant growth on your site for this spring. 

Even if you do not keep notes on how plants are progressing in your area, keep some mental notes on what you are observing in the plants you see. You can also keep an eye out for spring animals as they arrive. There are bird migrations you can keep an eye on, and even a bird phenology program. I hope you enjoy looking at the upcoming changes that spring will provide us! Have fun , and get out there!

Nature Nugget:
A wonderful NPR piece on insect migrations! 



  1. Thanks for the great info! I am going to look into it to do with my school!