Phenology: Tracking Minnesota’s ever-changing forests

Emerging bur oak leaves. Click for a larger version.

To everything there is a season. From deciding when to spray mosquitoes, trim trees, plant corn or apply fertilizer to deciding where to go to fish for trout, see spring wildflowers or fall colors – timing is everything. Phenology, the timing of seasonal biological events like leafing, blossom dates, migration, insect emergence or fish spawning, is critical to understanding interactions among species (e.g. plant-pollinator, predator-prey); determines growing season length for plants; and affects human health (e.g. pollen, tick, mosquito season). The timing of seasonal biological events is a critical ecological process that ensures the health, productivity and integrity of our natural resources.

Keeping your own phenology records can be not only informative and rewarding, but also helpful to researchers interested in tracking phenological patterns and changes in Minnesota.  And it can be a great way to engage family members, particularly kids, in observing nature in your woodland or other natural spaces.

2014 workshops:

We are offering a new workshop on how to observe and report seasonal changes in  Minnesota. The workshop will address the 7 focus species for observation in Minnesota with hands-on monitoring and online reporting. We’d love to have you join us!

Workshop dates and locations:

  • Friday, March 14: Phenology: Monitoring Seasonal Change. A day-long workshop at Bemidji State University, par KAXE t of the Minnesota Family Woodlands Conference
  • Friday, April 25. Phenology: Monitoring Seasonal Change. April 25, Rochester. A day-long workshop at the Heintz Center, Rochester Community and Technical College. Everybody is welcome. (Part of the Minnesota Family Woodlands Conference.)
  • Biweekly phenology walks in Bemidji, Brainerd, and Grand Rapids. For more info check the KAXE/KBXE Season Watch Facebook group.
  • Phenology workshop at the Minnesota Master Naturalist conference. May 16, Annandale. (May only be open to Master Naturalists.)  Conference details.
  • Minnesota Phenology Network conference. May 16-18, Sandstone. This will be a great event, and (among many other things) will include a refresher on field observation and reporting. Get the details here.
  • Webinar on Phenology: Monitoring Seasonal Change. This is basically a condensed version of the workshop that you attended, presented by Eli Sagor. You can watch online for a fee (hit reply to request a discount code) or for no charge at a local broadcast site. Details.
  • We’re trying to pull together additional day-long workshops in Brainerd, the Twin Cities, and other locations. If you can help us pull together an interested group of budding phenologists, drop me a line.

Photos from recent workshops:

Watch a webinar on this topic now:

(…or tune in for an updated version on May 28, 2014) Phenology: Tracking Minnesota’s ever changing forests

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Phenology is the  study of periodic biological phenomena, such as flowering, breeding, and migration, in relation to climatic conditions.  In other words, it’s all about noticing, and keeping track of, the changes in your woods.  (Many Minnesota woodland owners hear John Latimer or Larry Weber’s phenology radio shows every week.)  We’ll discuss the importance and value of good phenology data to not only sound woodland care and management, but also research. The speaker is Rebecca Montgomery, an Associate Professor with the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources.

More Minnesota phenology links:


The University of Minnesota Extension Forestry team.

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