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Help scientists track plant and animal cycles

As if Californians need another reason to hit the outdoors.

The USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) -- a University of Arizona, Tucson-based group of scientists and citizens that monitors the seasonal cycles of plants and animals -- is calling for volunteers to help track the effect of climate change on the environment.

The group is launching a national program encouraging citizen volunteers to observe seasonal changes among plants and animals, like flowering, migration and egg-laying. They can then log in and record their observations online at the USA-NPN website.

"The program is designed for people interested in participating in climate change science, not just reading about it," said Jake Weltzin, executive director of the USA-NPN and a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Phenology is the study of the climate's influence on animal and plant life cycles. Climate change can affect these cyclical patterns and put certain species of plants and animals in danger.

Having a large volunteer base to help track these changes enables researchers to predict the effects of global climate change on plants, animals and ecosystems, said Mark D. Schwartz, chair of the USA-NPN board of directors. The data can be used to predict wildfires, droughts and pollen production.

Go here for a podcast on this effort to recruit volunteers.

-- Catherine Ho

Photo: The Arizona saguaro cactus will be one of the species examined by volunteers helping to track the effect of climate change on plant and animal cycles. Credit: Bob Szaro / U.S. Geological Survey

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I am very interested in joining this effort. I have many ideas about climate change and would like some hands on work tracking life cycle. Please let me know what I should do to oin the team and get out in the field as soon as possible


just found out about your list.
We live in the San Pedro valley due east over the Rincons from Tucson.

I am quite interested in this issue. We have lived and ranched here for 13 years.
My training was in Forest Ecology (NAU) and Biometry UBC.

Watching the bloom of annuals has been one of my interests.

My regret is that I have not dated the timing! It is clear that this year plants germintated and bloomed earlier than in the past.

I have a kind of mental image of sequence. First come the minute ground cover stick weed, tiny white flowers. Then yellow bladder wort ( Lesquerilla ), golden poppies, chicory next then lots of pincushion, desert dandelion, lupine, blue dicks, globe mallow. There are significant north slope/ south slope differences.

We live right in the ecotone between upper sonoran and the chihuahuan grasslands. The maps show sonoran north of Cascabel and Chihuahuan south of us. Characteristic plants of the USonoran ( Cereus ) gradually disappear from our landscape as one proceeds south, they are replaced by the Yucca almost entirely within 5 miles.

Hope that a time/location data base can be established for our watershed along the middle San P.



so great, thanks for sharing!

There is a great history of people monitoring nature and collecting the data for science from weather observation on the nightly news to water quality monitoring....

Bud burst

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