What is Nature’s Notebook?
Nature’s Notebook is an online program that invites professional and volunteer scientists to record long-term observations of plant and animal life cycle events. Observers set up observation locations in their backyard or another place they frequent and track the phenology, or timing of life cycle events, of plants and animals of their choosing. Nature’s Notebook was established in 2009 by the USGS-funded USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) to collect, store, and share phenology data on a national scale. The USA-NPN is housed at the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment through a Cooperative Agreement between the University of Arizona and the US Geological Survey.
What happens to the data?
The data are uploaded to the National Phenology Database and are freely available for download and use at www.usanpn.org/data/observational. The USA-NPN also hosts a Phenology Visualization Tool to allow users to explore the available data through maps and graphs (www.usanpn.org/data/visualizations). As of 2018, USA-NPN data have been used in over 60 peer-reviewed publications in which researchers have increased our understanding of how the timing of spring is changing at National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, how flowering of important nectar plants for pollinators are shifting with climate change, which climate variables drive the emergence of leaves in the spring and changing of leaf color in the fall, and more. Learn more about these publications at www.usanpn.org/nn/vignettes.
How is Cooperative Extension involved?
The USA-NPN works with hundreds of partners across the country to help them meet their needs for phenology data and information. These partners include Cooperative Extension in multiple states including Arizona, Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, Idaho, California, Ohio and the national eXtension online platform. Groups in Oregon (Oregon Season Tracker), and Maine and New Hampshire (Signs of the Seasons, New England) have had extensive networks of volunteers recording observations in Nature’s Notebook for almost ten years. Nature’s Notebook is a great fit for Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and Master Watershed Stewards and can help volunteers and Agents with Integrated Pest Management, planting schedules, forestry plot management, and demonstration garden bloom-time schedules (Posthumus et al 2013, Journal of Extension).
In Arizona, USA-NPN has presented for and worked with groups managed by Gila County Cooperative Extension, Maricopa Cooperative Extension, Cochise County Cooperative Extension, Yuma County Cooperative Extension, Pima County Cooperative Extension and the Tucson Village Farm, Yavapai County Cooperative Extension, and the James 4-H Camp in Yavapai County.
How can I get involved?
If you are interested in learning more about how you can observe phenology with your local Cooperative Extension Office, check with your horticulture team for ways to add a Nature’s Notebook monitoring program to the demonstration gardens. Visit www.usanpn.org/nn/groups/local-phenology-programs to learn more about Local Phenology Programs.
Become trained as a Local Phenology Leader to learn more about how you, and other volunteers, can maintain a long-term Nature’s Notebook monitoring site at the garden. Visit www.usanpn.org/nn/LPLCertification to learn more about becoming a Certified Local Phenology Leader.
You can always register as a backyard observer with Nature’s Notebook and set up your own site for tracking phenology of plants and animals. Visit www.usanpn.org/nn/become-observer to get started.