I hope this message finds you and your family safe and well. I realize many of your lives have been upended during the pandemic and phenology may be the last thing on your mind! But outside our windows, spring activity continues to unfold.

Many of you may be able to safely continue to track plants and animals in your backyard. The few minutes you spend observing may be a welcome respite from the onslaught of news and information coming from so many directions. Others may be unable to access sites that are now closed to the public, or simply juggling too much. We here at USA-NPN understand these difficulties and will welcome you back to the program whenever life permits you!

While we are grateful for any observations you contribute to document plant and animal activity during this time, please only participate if you can maintain safe social distancing and adhere to guidelines for your area.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day as well as the penultimate week of Citizen Science Month . I hope you will take a few moments to appreciate your own efforts in recording important information about plant and animal phenology. We certainly do!

Be well,
What your data are telling us
Early spring is in the news
We are seeing record breaking early spring leaf out across the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Northwest. The USA-NPN data are showing that leafing and blooming is  up to three weeks earlier than average in many locations, allergies are getting  a head start , and cherry blossoms are  blooming early in Washington DC. Finally, don't miss USA-NPN Director Theresa Crimmins' thought provoking piece in   The Conversation highlighting the consequences of early spring.

Spring indices and native trees and shrubs
In a recent study published in  International Journal of Biometeorologyauthors evaluated how the USA-NPN's Spring Indices could be used to predict the phenology activity you reported in Nature's Notebook for 19 deciduous trees and shrubs. The relationships revealed by this study can serve as a yardstick to assess how future changes in the timing of spring will impact a broad array of trees and shrubs.

What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
Sharing stories from 2019
Our 2019 Annual Report describes stories from several of our partnerships over the last year. Learn how managers in Arizona are using Pheno Forecast maps to time their treatment of invasive buffelgrass, how your data helped researchers learn about the impact of urban areas on changes in phenology of plants, and how the Indigenous Phenology Network is supporting efforts like the Tribal Adaptation Menu to help tribes cope with climate change.

Join a Nature's Notebook campaign
We have two new campaigns for you to join this year. Midwest and Northeast observers can take part in Pesky Plant Trackers , a new effort to document phenology of invasive plants including Japanese knotweed ( Reynoutria japonica ) and wild parsnip ( Pastinaca sativa ) .

Pollen Trackers launched last December focused on documenting pollen release in mountain cedar ( Juniperus ashei ) in central Texas. We are also interested in your observations of eastern red ceda r ( Juniperus virginiana ) as part of this campaign this spring.

A flattening of our curve
We know the many challenges preventing our observers from making observations since the coronavirus panedmic began. We've seen this reflected in the amount of data submitted by our observers (black line at right is 2020). We want you to know that we understand the difficulties and look forward to when you can join us again!

We also wanted to give a shout out to a few amazing observers who have gone above and beyond with their phenology tracking - manistique, iam2hawl@TN, HuyckPreserveSC, prtreetrail, and Christine Roane have all submitted over 300 records just this month! Thanks to all for your efforts, large and small!

Recent happenings in the field
Your data contribute to a rich database
A recent blog post from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) describes how your observations submitted through Nature's Notebook are combined with observations from NEON to create a rich source of information about key biological events. The data you collect help NEON to create better models with a higher degree of accuracy.

Nature's Notebook Nuggets
The challenge of teeny tiny flowers
Teeny, tiny flowers are often described as inconspicuous flowers, and they can be hard to see and interpret. In some plant species having tiny flowers, they are clustered into a group called an inflorescence. A closer look at these teeny flowers will reveal that they have a similar floral structure as any bigger, showier flower. Knowing whether these flowers are "open" becomes easier after you get to know and understand the structure of the flowers for your plant species. 

And when it comes to counting them, pay attention to the special instructions in the Nature’s Notebook phenophase definition—it will tell you whether to count the flowers individually or in groups, and how to estimate the percent of flowers that are open.

More ways to get involved
Pollinator-themed activities for kids
Looking for some fun activities to do with your kids while stuck at home? The Pollinator Partnership has 10 ideas for things you can do right at home.

Backyard scientists track spring in AZ
Several members of the Tucson Nature's Notebook community joined Arizona Public Media's Mark McLemore for Arizona Spotlight to talk phenology last week. The guests included Master Naturalist and long-time observer Hank Verbais, Ironwood Tree Experience intern Madison (pictured at right), an aspiring birder, and USA-NPN Outreach Coordinator Erin Posthumus.

Erin Posthumus