Happy 2017! Thanks to your efforts, we accomplished a tremendous amount in 2016, and our staff here at the National Coordinating Office can't wait to dive into creating new training resources, visualization tools, and more for you in 2017. 

What interesting new things will you learn about your plants and animals this year? Will you finally capture that first leaf peeking out from your maple's buds? Find a dove creating a nest in your backyard? Or see that rare butterfly you've been searching for?

With this fresh start, think about what you can do to further improve your skills as a phenology observer. Consider a more consistent schedule for your observations this year. Or check out your Observation Deck calendar to see when you reported activity of your plants and animals last year, to make sure you capture those important phenophases. Each observation you make is valuable, and we are so grateful you are a part of the USA National Phenology Network!  

Happy observing,
What your data are telling us
Photo: Brian F Powell
We accomplished a lot together in 2016!

We are so amazed by your efforts in 2016, and all that we accomplished together! You submitted 2.4 million observation records to Nature's Notebook, increasing the average number of days observed per observer by 32% over 2015. You also submitted a whole lot of observations to six different Nature's Notebook campaigns, which revealed some interesting patterns. Plus, there were multiple research articles published that used your data. Thanks again for your efforts!
How does 2017's temperature accumulation stack up so far?

AGDD Difference from Average
Seattle 148 GDD behind
Los Angeles 103 GDD behind
Denver 34 GDD behind
Phoenix 2 GDD behind
Minneapolis 14 GDD ahead
Nashville 194 GDD ahead
New Orleans 174 GDD ahead
Miami 9 GDD ahead
Washington DC 82 GDD ahead
Albany 27 GDD ahead
The amount of heat generated in a year is commonly measured as Accumulated Growing Degree Days (AGDD). These accumulated heat units are used by gardeners for crop management, by managers to know when to treat pests, and more! 

Accumulated heat units are calculated by starting with a base temperature. For every day above that base temperature, we add the degree difference between the average temperature for that day and the base temperature, then add up all of those degrees across days for the period of interest. 

The USA-NPN Visualization Tool allows you to see the AGDDs across the country for the current year, and how this compares to a long-term average (1981-2010). 

Here, we've calculated how the accumulated heat for January 24th stacks up to the long-term average 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. We'll check back on these cities throughout the year to see if their AGDD difference changes!
The Zero Hero badge you can earn for reporting those "no"s!
The importance of zero in data collection

Did you ever wonder why we have the "no" option on the Nature's Notebook datasheets? If you didn't see anything happening on your plants and animals, and skipped reporting for that visit, a person looking at your data would have no idea that you actually made the visit! 

Your "no" observations provide a valuable piece of information - that you looked for that phenophase on that plant or animal species, and did not see it. A recent article by the National Park Service's Northeast Temperate Network spells out why zeros are so important in data collection. 
What's new at  Nature's Notebook  and USA-NPN
Springcasting predicts lilac leaf-out and bloom                  
Photo: Patricia Guertin

This year, we are sending out special messages to our lilac observers to let them know when we predict that their lilacs will leaf and bloom.  To do this, we use historical information about when lilacs have leafed-out and bloomed in the past and what the climate was like preceding these events. We then use this information to develop models that can tell us, based on local weather forecasts, when lilacs are likely to leaf out and bloom this year. 

We hope to offer these kind of predictions for other commonly monitored species in future years, so stay tuned!

New Nectar Connectors Campaign                  
Photo: Jason Hollinger via Wikimedia Commons

Starting this spring, we have a brand new campaign for you to join - Nectar ConnectorsAs a participant in this campaign, you can learn about important nectar sources for monarchs and other pollinators by observing flowering of nectar plants in your own backyard, a nearby park, or other location you frequent! 

Your reports will help resource managers like the US Fish and Wildlife Service to better understand where and when nectar sources are available for monarchs and other pollinators across the United States, 
so that they can take necessary steps to conserve and promote habitat 
for these pollinators.

Stay tuned for more about how to sign up for this and other campaigns in the next few weeks! 

Recent happenings in the field
Photo: Tom Grey
Are birds adapting to climate change?

As the climate warms, scientists are trying to figure out if birds are able to keep up with the changes happening to their food sources and habitats. A group of researchers studying phenology of birds in Pennsylvania found that some birds may be able to adapt by laying eggs a full month earlier, on average, than in the past. The study, published in Global Change Ecology, offers a glimmer of hope for these few species studied, though there may be a point where the birds can no longer catch up. 

Photo: Brian F Powell
A win for the citizen science community

This month, former President Obama signed the  American Innovation Competitiveness Act, which promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math goals in the Federal Government. Included in this act is the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act that was first drawn up in 2015 as part of the White House Forum on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. The Act promotes crowdsourcing and citizen science projects within the Federal Government, authorizing Federal Agencies to   
use citizen science approaches to  advance their missions.

Nature's Notebook Nuggets
What should I observe in winter?

This month, we revisit our Nugget on winter observations.  If your Nature's Notebook plants are dormant and fruitless during the winter months, you can take a rest from taking observations.  But don't forget to start checking your plants and watching for your animals several weeks before you suspect they will appear so that you can catch the first onset or sighting!  If your chosen plant is retaining ripe fruit or it is active during the winter months, keep making  Nature's Notebook  observations throughout  the winter. 

Stay tuned for a brand new Nugget in the next Newsletter!

More ways to get involved
Phenology informs changes in Michigan

At the Leelanau Conservancy in Northwest Lower Michigan, observations of phenology are increasing understanding of how climate change is affecting local plant communities. This short video explains how ecologists at the Conservancy are monitoring plants to see how native and invasive plants are responding, and inform 
management of their land. 

Photo: Brian F Powell
What does climate change mean for Parks? 

You might remember the highlight in our last newsletter of the recent research showing that spring is arriving earlier in National Parks. A new publication from the National Parks Service describes what climate change means for National Parks, the changes that are already happening, and how the Park Service is planning to respond to these changes. 

Erin Posthumus
Outreach Coordinator