When I lived in the midwest and worked for Woodland Agency, I would often send emails to my Mom with the subject line, "phenology brief." Luckily Mom is a bit of a geek, too, because the messages would be lists of plants I'd seen in various stages of development for the first time that season. Phenology is the the study of periodic biological phenomena, and how the timing of such events relate to climactic conditions. Mom would then write back and tell me what was blooming back home.
This is probably why I was so excited when I stumbled upon Project Budburst. In the tradition of great citizen science programs like FrogWatch USA and Christmas Bird Count, Project BudBurst relies upon the participation of the public. Observers from all around the country report back with data revealing the appearance of spring. Phenological events of interest include first flower, first leaf, full leaf, and seed dispersal.
I signed up at the Project Budburst website this weekend. Address is optional, but latitude and longitude are required fields, with links provided to help participants figure that out. There is a list of approximately 60 target plants that are common and easy to identify, although observations are accepted about other plants as well. I plan to submit phenological data on the red maple, paper birch, and lilac, all targeted plants, and garlic mustard as well.
These plants all grow in my yard, so I will be sure to notice events of interest, but you can submit data from anywhere you choose. Other common landscaping plants include forsythia and flowering dogwood, and even the lowly dandelion made the list. Native trees and wildflowers are also well represented.
Do you have kids? This would be a great activity to do as a family. There is a "for students" section on the website. Are you a teacher? There is a page for you, too.