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Watershed Explorers

Student Phenology Observations

Dixon students conduct their phenological observations of a coyotebush at Stormwater Pond C.Dixon students conduct their phenological observations of a coyotebush at Stormwater Pond C.

What is phenology?

Phenology (fee-nol-uh-gee) is the study of changes in plants and animals due to changes in weather, climate, and the seasons. Birds flying south for the winter and plants flowering in the spring are two examples of phenological events: they happen every year but the actual day they happen depends on things like recent weather patterns, temperature trends, and total daylight hours.  Keeping track of when these events happen each year tells us a lot about climate change and how nature is responding to earth’s changing temperatures and weather over time. 

What do the students do?

As part of a 2017 California State Parks Habitat Conservation Fund grant awarded to Greater Vallejo Recreation District and implemented by Solano RCD, Watershed Explorers participants collect valuable phenological data during their fall and/or spring field trips to a local park or open space. To collect this data, students observe and record the current phenophase of an individual plant or animal (a phenophase is the observable stage in the annual life cycle of a plant or animal that can be defined by a start and end point). This data is collected and organized by Solano RCD staff and submitted to the USA Phenology Network to support research being conducted by climate scientists across the United States.

As part of their observations, students describe existing phenophases by answering the following questions:

  • How many (leaf) buds are breaking?
  • What percent of full size are most leaves?
  • How many flowers and flower buds (individual or as inflorescences) are present?
  • What percent of fresh flowers are open?
  • How many fruits are present?
  • What percent of fruits are ripe?
  • How many active individual animals are there?
  • How many adults are there?
  • How many juveniles are there?
  • How many are eating?
  • How many are singing or calling? Birds only
  • How many are building nests, mating, or caring for offspring? Birds only
xlsClick here to see the most recent student data submitted to the USA Phenology Network.

What plants and animals are being studied?

Student Observation Quest 1Students seek out phenological clues during an observation quest at Rockville Hills Regional Park, Fairfield.

  • Blue elderberry
  • California buckeye
  • Coyotebush
  • Dr. Hurd's manzanita
  • Toyon
  • Western redbud
  • Acorn woodpecker
  • Anna's hummingbird
  • California ground squirrel
  • Western fence lizard
  • Raptors (general)
  • Insects (general)

How can I get involved?

Anyone can begin recording data on USA Phenology Network Nature's Notebook

This component of the Watershed Explorers Program is funded through a grant awarded by the California State Parks Habitat Conservation Fund.

Contact Us

Solano Resource Conservation District

1170 N Lincoln, Ste. 110
Dixon, CA 95620

Phone: (707) 678-1655 x 101

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