Phenology: monitoring climate change out your back door

by MaryAnn McGarry

Ideas, exchanges, resources on phenology for educators

The State flower of New Hampshire (
The State flower of New Hampshire (

I am a professor of environmental science and policy who also happens to work with prospective science educators.  Although climate change is a complex subject I believe it is essential that young people engage in learning experiences and critical thinking about this topic.  Climate change literacy is an important qualification for educated citizens. 

I created this site to encourage educators to explore the topic of phenology with their students. 

I chose to include an image of pink lady slippers for a couple of reasons. The plant is the state flower of New Hamsphire where I currently resided. Also, at our camp in Maine, in May I enjoy noticing when the lady slippers bloom.  Pink lady slippers remind me of how easy it is to engage in phenological studies out our back door.

1.  Ice out in lakes;

2.  Leaf out on trees;

3.  Monarch fall migration:

Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycle events, which are triggered by environmental changes, especially temperature. Wide ranges of phenomena are included, from first openings of leaf and flower buds, to insect hatchings and return of birds.

The word is derived from the Greek phainomai (φαινομαι - to appear, come into view) and indicates that phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of biological events in their annual cycle.

Phenological events are ideal indicators of the impact of local and global changes in weather and climate on the earth's biosphere.

Assessing our changing world is a complex task that requires close cooperation from experts in biology, climatology, ecology, geography, oceanography, remote sensing and other areas.  Phenology is considered an integrative science.

Participating in some kind of phenological research or data gathering is one of the most cost effective ways to introduce students firsthand to questions about climate change.

2.A. Phenology Learning Objectives

PHENOLOGY learning objectives.2.docx

14.6KB | Tuesday, 13 September 2011 | Details
Source of image:
Source of image:

1.  Introduction to the site.  Why climate change literacy?

2.  What is phenology and why focus on phenology?

3.  Blog posts related to climate change

4.  Vermont Phenology Resources.

5.  New Hampshire Phenology Resources.

6.  New England Phenology Resources

7.  National Phenology Resources.

8.  Global Phenology Resources.

9.  Useful protocols.

10.  Educational Standards aligned with phenology

11.  Discussions about phenology efforts in the classroom, schoolyard, home, or nearby park.

Learning to use the phenology protocol in the woods

New Hampshire has both a designated state flower- the purple lilac- and a state wildflower- the pink lady slipper, both of which are used in phenology studies (

Purple lilacs:  (


1. New Hampshire Audubon runs a phenological monitoring pilot project on the Deering Wildlife Sanctuary, in Deering, N.H.:

A. Introduction to Hubbard Brook phenology protocols: interview with Amey Bailey

Katie McGoff (Plymouth State University student and prospective science teacher); Melissa Peplinski (PSU graduate student and science teacher at White Mountains Regional High School); Amey Bailey (Hubbard Brook); and Mary Ann McGarry (PSU professor)
Katie McGoff (Plymouth State University student and prospective science teacher); Melissa Peplinski (PSU graduate student and science teacher at White Mountains Regional High School); Amey Bailey (Hubbard Brook); and Mary Ann McGarry (PSU professor)
Source of image: (
Source of image: (

Creative Commons license

Creative Commons license

Phenology: monitoring climate change out your back door by MaryAnn McGarry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from MaryAnn McGarry.

1. Indicators of Climate Change in the Northeast over the Past 100 Years  (

2. Bud, Leaves, and Global Warming is a phenology program for K-12 Educators offered by the Harvard Forest:  (

A. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has a Climate Change Activity Guide for Educators of grades 7-12:

1.  Alberta Plant Watch: Join in tracking spring timing (

2.  Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change (

Fall Phenology data sheet identifying plant classification information, site conditions, and plant chracteristics or data:

11. Discussions about phenology


Fouzia Nawaz - 14 September 2011, 4:08 AM

The idea shared about the climate change literacy sounds intriguing and inspiring . I live in a city where observing flowers blooming is little difficult ... I guess I can modify a bit and plant some flowers in a pot on my roof at my college and make observations and collect data from the text / literature review what is teh apttern of its blooming and cmpare what we are observing in real..... does this also come in the category of phenology study of climate change in my city / area........  

If I have understood clearly does phenology principles ----apply to the changing pattern of rainfall etc as well in a particular area?

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