Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by changes in the environment - considering both biotic and abiotic factors.
Why do we track these changes? Historical phenology data can be important for simple as well as very complex reasons – as simple as helping you remember when to look for your favorite butterfly that you might want to catch with your camera or it can be as scientifically critical as mapping long term trends for climate change. Consider Robert Marsham (the founding father of phenology), Aldo Leopold (the author of Sand County Almanac), Rachel Carlson (the author of Silent Spring) – all three of these people were fascinated with environmental indicators, but for different reasons and to different ends. Whatever the reason, we all – professional and amateur naturalists alike - seem to be intrigued by these annual, inspiring displays that, without fail, bring us true joy in our lives.
Think about your favorite things in nature and how you look forward to them. As a nature lover, you note these events and each can be coupled with a time of year or favorite activity.
- the bright song of the Cardinal on a dreary February day and the anticipation of yet another maple sugaring season,
- fireflies and summer walks
- frogs calling and a dusk swim in the lake
- late night campfires and a chorus of barred owls hooting back and forth
- spectacular fall colors and jumping in a piles of leaves
- waking up to a blanket of snow and getting on your boots and jacket to go shovel and dig out your car – wait, no, scratch that – think the first snow fall and catching a thin, cool, snow flake on your tongue.
All of these annual events are tied to us in deep and meaningful ways and give us a framework to live and love life.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
Considering all of the lovely types of outdoor experiences mentioned above, the next logical step for many is to ask the questions of why and how. The true motivation and passion behind phenology is the concept of fascination! The Phenology Team is fascinated with the natural world and we want to inspire, to educate and to captivate.
Our Mission, Your Mission
Our mission is to highlight three things to look for per month and let you know where to find them. Your mission is to look for them and/or to submit some of your own. We know that because you love nature, you too are fascinated with the outside world and we hope to help keep you connected to natural areas in Milwaukee.
Who is the Phenology Team?
This new Phenology Team consists of Tim Vargo who will focus on the Washington Park branch, Lainet Garcia-Rivera from our Menomonee Valley branch and me, Matt Flower from our Riverside Park branch. The occurrences and observations we’re blogging about will be limited to the green spaces adjacent to the Urban Ecology Centers only, but remember that many of the observations can be extrapolated to predict occurrences in your nearest neighborhood park or in your very own backyard.
So, consider the Phenology ball rolling and stay tuned for the first of our monthly Phenology posts!