Phenology Project: Week 1

I’m starting something a bit different, so bear with me. For one of my graduate classes this fall I have to do a project documenting the phenology of a particular spot somewhere on campus. The exact form the project takes is flexible, and I convinced the teacher to let me do mine as a series of blog posts. What I want to do is visit my spot at least once a week, do some journaling while I’m there (to later be transcribed into a blog post), and take a photo. The photo will be from the same vantage point and angle every week, and we’ll see how the view changes over the course of the next three or so months. Here goes…

Monday, September 5, 2011, 4:37PM
57ºF, sunny with a few cumulus clouds, Beaufort wind scale = 1

We have a class assignment to pick a spot on campus and return to it at least once a month this fall to study its phenology. I’ve been walking the trails at random, keeping my eyes open, sure I’d know my spot when I saw it.

Here it is.

Why here? Hard to say. Hemlocks for character and sugar maples for color, a carpet of ferns and clubmoss, a convenient rock to sit on, a meadow edge nearby. My North Woods microcosm.

The longer I sit here the more the chill seeps through my sweatshirt, but you see more sitting still than you do walking. A moment ago a red squirrel hurried past on some errand, pausing at the base of every tree to check for danger, which I apparently wasn’t. I didn’t see where it came from or where it was going. We are under a frost advisory for tonight, which, if it comes to pas, will be the first of the season. The squirrels know that winter’s coming. Most of the sugar maples are still stubbornly green, but they won’t be for long.

As the sun gets lower the light starts to glint off all the spiderwebs among the ferns and sapling and woody debris of the forest floor. You never realize how many there are until you really look.

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10 thoughts on “Phenology Project: Week 1”

  1. I look forward to watching the sugar maples change color. I grew up in a syrup-making area, and remain emotionally attached to sugar maples!

    So, how about a definition for phenology? I’m gonna google it, but it seems like a good place for your project to start.

    1. Phenology means “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, esp. in relation to climate and plant and animal life.” I shall indeed include this definition prominently the next time I post a phenology project update. Thanks for reminding me that not everyone reading this necessarily has a background in ecology!

  2. Watch the understory as well as the change in the overstory. What plants are specifically there; trees, shrubs, vines, forbs. And how do they relate to wildlife: forage, nesting, cover, breeding, etc. It will also be wonderful to document changes in the soil; saturation, temperature, frost.

    This will be great fun to watch!

    1. Like I mentioned, the most notable understory plants at this spot are bracken fern and clubmoss, but there are some forbs as well. There’s a prominent monocot that, if I recall correctly, is Canada mayflower.

      I hadn’t even thought of soil… I need to post ALL my class projects to my blog to get feedback like this!

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