This year is turning out to be an unusual one for weather, to say the least! Spring came weeks early in much of the east, while heavy rain and snow pelted the west coast. In the past weeks, fires have been raging across the Southwest, driven by recent heat waves that are now affecting much of the east as well. How are the plants and animals that you track in Nature's Notebook responding to these weather patterns? 

If you have been tracking your plants and animals for multiple years, you can compare your observations from this year to previous years. You can also compare your observations to those collected by other observers across the country. Check out the Phenology Calendar on your Observation Deck to see the observations you have reported, or use the USA-NPN Visualization Tool to see your data plotted along with those of other observers. If you discover anything that surprises or intrigues you, I'd love to hear about it

Happy observing,
What your data are telling us
Oak phenology tells a unique story 
Photo: John Morgan via Wikimedia Commons

While many studies have investigated the relationship between climatic drivers and phenology of plants in temperate areas, few studies have explored these drivers in water-limited ecosystems. Authors from the USA National Phenology Network and the University of California Santa Barbara used observations from  Nature's Notebook to examine how the phenology of two western North American oak species and two eastern and central North American oak species respond to variation in temperature, precipitation, latitude, longitude and elevation.  The way that species respond to certain climatic drivers, such as winter 
precipitation or spring minimum temperatures, can be used to   predict 
how   these species will be impacted by climate change.
Let's check back in on 2017's temperature accumulation

AGDD Diff. from Ave on Mar 19th
AGDD Diff. from Ave on July 21st
161 GDD behind 45 GDD behind
Los Angeles 13 GDD ahead 198 GDD behind
Denver 343 GDD ahead 381 GDD ahead
Phoenix 242 GDD ahead 589 GDD ahead
Minneapolis 72 GDD ahead 115 GDD ahead
Nashville 442 GDD ahead 815 GDD ahead
New Orleans 201 GDD ahead 364 GDD ahead
Miami 82 GDD ahead 195 GDD ahead
Washington DC 288 GDD ahead 435 GDD ahead
Albany 111 GDD ahead 258 GDD ahead
In previous newsletters, we explained that the amount of heat generated in a year is commonly measured as Accumulated Growing Degree Days (AGDD). These accumulated heat units are used by farmers for crop management, by managers to know when to treat pests, and more! 

Here, we've calculated how the accumulated heat for July 21st stacks up to the long-term average (1981-2010) for that day for selected cities across the country (using a 32 degree F base). See if a city near you is behind or ahead of the long-term average this year, and how this has changed since March. 

What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
New activity graphs in Visualization Tool

We've just released a new graphing option to our Phenology Visualization Tool that makes it easier to view information about animal activity and the synchrony of animal and plant phenology. The new Activity Curves display annual patterns of the timing and magnitude of phenological activity. These are based on the   proportion of "yes" records, animal abundances per hour and other metrics, summarized over a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly period.  
Find phenology at a Park near you                   

Many National Parks across the country are studying the seasonal cycles and plants and animals. Our new National Park Service website showcases the Parks that are using Nature's Notebook for phenology monitoring. Find out if your local Park is observing phenology. 
Recent happenings in the field
A firsthand look at pollinator mismatch

Dr. Amy Boyd, Professor of Biology at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, was faced with a new challenge while prepping her Plant Taxonomy course this year. The plants she set out to collect flowered 3-4 weeks earlier than in the past, causing her to scrap her plan for her labs. Dr. Boyd has also noticed mismatch in the plants and pollinators she studies. When certain plants flower early, their insect pollinators are not always able to keep up. 

What does phenology have to do with wine?

Harvard community ecologist Dr. Elizabeth Wolkovich studies the relationship between climate change and the phenology of wine grapes. A new five-minute video produced by the  Climate Cinema explains how Dr. Wolkovich's lab uses historical data on harvest dates to see change in the timing of first harvests. If climate change continues at the current rate, traditional wine growers will have to shift to varieties more tolerant of heat, or find new regions to 
grow their grapes. 

Nature's Notebook Nuggets
How often should I observe in the summer?

As we move into the dog days of summer, you may be wondering, how often do I need to observe my plants right now? That depends a lot on what you are observing! If you are observing deciduous trees that have leafed out and are many weeks away from fall leaf color, you can reduce your observation frequency to one a week or so. If you are observing plants that fruit in the summer, check your plants more frequently and keep your eyes open for the first sign of unripe fruits. 

More ways to get involved
Volunteers count loons across Maine this month
Common Loon,
Photo: Tom Grey

This month, hundreds of volunteers will survey lakes and ponds across Maine for the 34th annual Loon Count, part of University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant's  Signs of the Seasons. Loons are a great indicator of lake health, as they require clean water with lots of fish. Volunteers will count loons and their chicks, entering these data into the National Phenology Database with Nature's Notebook's new expanded bird protocols. 
Track mayflies on the Upper Mississippi River 

Mayflies are an important food source for a variety of animals and a good indicator of water quality. You can help the US Fish & Wildlife Service track the emergence of  mayflies  along the Upper Mississippi River and its tributaries this summer! Mayflies have already been spotted at multiple locations along the Upper Mississippi River.   

Erin Posthumus
Outreach Coordinator