Citizen Scientist Species Monitoring: Spring – Fall 2014

Homestead volunteers are now contributing to the largest ever compilation of climate research in our country’s history, right here in the Vaughan Woods! Nine volunteers, ranging in age from six to sixty-six, are serving as citizen scientists with UMaine Cooperative Extension’s “Signs of the Seasons” project this summer and fall, documenting observations of flora and fauna in the Woods. Part of a national network, the Signs of the Seasons project strives to document the phenology of specific plant and animal species in Maine to better understand how they are affected by climate change. Phenology refers to the key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year and their timing and relationship with weather and climate. The seasonal changes include flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds among others.

In May volunteers began working in pairs regularly visiting two sites in the Woods: Cascade Pond and Heiffer Field, spending 3 minutes observing each area. At the pond volunteers watch and listen for signs of robins and loons in the area. In the field they look again for robins and also for ruby-throated hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. The field is home to a large milkweed patch, which attracts monarch butterflies every year. Each team of volunteers has also designated four milkweed plants to observe and document over the course of the summer and fall.

Data recorded about animal behavior and plant growth is entered into an online database used by climatologists, land management groups and policy-makers interested in understanding climate patterns in different parts of the country. Pictured above are our youngest volunteers, who do the monitoring with their mother, as they head toward Cascade Pond.