You might have noticed that last year was a wild one for weather. The New York Times recently looked at the extremes in a series of maps. Only time (and your Nature's Notebook data) will tell what this year's weather will bring and how plants and animals will respond. Our Spring Leaf Index is already showing very different patterns in different parts of the country.

The good news is a new study from Australia found that citizen science is great for your health! So as you get outside to make your observations in the coming weeks, know that your data collection benefits not only our understanding of phenology but your personal wellness!

What your data are telling us
How were your data used in 2021?
How were your data used last year? To find out, join our webinar on Feb 22 at 9am PT / 12pm ET. USA-NPN Director Theresa Crimmins will describe the findings from phenology research studies in 2021 that used Nature's Notebook data.

Urbanization causes later leaf fall in plants in cold regions, but not warm ones
The authors of a new study combined plant phenology observations contributed to Nature’s Notebook with other datasets to estimate the timing of brown down of leaves (senescence) for 93 plant species across the United States and Europe. They then looked at the effects of human population density and temperature on the timing of leaf senescence and growing season length. In cold regions, urbanization was associated with later leaf senescence and a longer growing season while in warm regions, urbanization was associated with earlier leaf senescence and a shorter growing season. As urbanization increases and temperatures warm further with climate change, we may see more areas that experience shorter growing season length, which has implications for global carbon cycles.

How does the groundhog's prediction match your data?
Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter again this year! Our maps of heat accumulation provide a more scientific look at how much heat has accumulated so far this year, and what's next. Explore this map as well as a map of your Nature's Notebook observations of initial growth, breaking leaf buds, and open flowers on our website

What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
Quercus Quest! A new oak campaign
Oak trees have a complex relationship with their ecosystems - different species can hybridize with each other which can affect the insects and fungi that depend on them. Information about when oak trees leaf and flower can shed light on these complexities. We are seeking observers to join our new Quercus Quest campaign and track the flowering and leafing timing of oak trees across the eastern US this year.

Bur oak breaking leaf buds, Photo: Andrew Hipp
Guide to observing in the field
We're created a quick guide to help you set up your Nature's Notebook site outside! This guide includes everything from the How to Observe Handbook that you might want to print and take outside with you. See tips on how to select a site and select individual plants, how to mark your site and plants, how often to make observations, and more.

Recent happenings in the field of phenology
Flowering begins one month earlier in UK
Phenology records collected over the last 200 years in the United Kingdom through the Woodland Trust have revealed large shifts in the timing of flowering for hundreds of species. A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B revealed since the 1980s, first flowering date has shifted by an average of one month.

Nature's Notebook Nuggets
When do winter buds become "flowers or flower buds" or "breaking leaf buds"?
The cues for a plant’s transition from dormancy to renewed activity can be subtle, yet can be quite visible if you are watching closely. It may take careful sleuthing—and sometimes previous experience—to detect the early stages. The tightly clasping bud scales of the dormant buds—or tightly packed leaves of naked buds—begin to shift or ever-so-slightly "swell" and may also shift color. These signals suggest that reporting on "Breaking leaf buds" and "Flowers and flower buds" is not long off.

More ways to get involved
Good news for Western monarchs!
This past Thanksgiving count of Western monarchs documented nearly 250,000 butterflies in overwintering sites in California. Though the population is still a small fraction of the numbers seen in the 1980s, this year's count was a 100-fold increase from last year! The cause for the increase is still unknown, though you can read about some ideas in a recent blog post from the Xerces Society.

Bud Buds phenology of invasives podcast
We love this new podcast, Bud Buds, by Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation! Hosts Elizabeth Spinney and Lina Swislocki dive into how phenology informs invasive species management. We are excited to hear results about their new project with Nature's Notebook starting this year.

Erin Posthumus
Outreach Coordinator