“The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when and how!’ They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.” – Sylvia Earle

What is Phenology?

Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.

Phenology is a key component of life on earth. Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. Likewise, insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants. For people, earlier flowering means earlier allergies. Farmers and gardeners need to know the schedule of plant and insect development to decide when to apply fertilizers and pesticides and when to plant to avoid frosts. Phenology influences the abundance and distribution of organisms, ecosystem services, food webs, and global cycles of water and carbon. In turn, phenology may be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation.

Changes in phenological events like flowering and animal migration are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier—and fall events are happening later—than they did in the past. However, not all species are changing at the same rate or direction, leading to mismatches. How plants and animals respond can help us predict whether their populations will grow or shrink – making phenology a “leading indicator” of climate change impacts.

More FAQ

Backyard Observer Questions

How do I become a Backyard Observer?

Becoming a Backyard Observer is as easy as creating an account, choosing a site, and monitoring two or three selected plants or animal species! It can take as little as 5 minutes to setup your account.

Check out our Quick Start Guide to get started today.

Do I need any fancy equipment to get started?

No! As long as you have a mobile phone or access to a computer, you can be a Backyard Observer.

Even if you don't have a computer at home, you can record your observations on paper and enter them in a public computer at your local library or computer café!

Can I record observations on my phone?

Yes! You don't need a computer to create an account or join Indiana Phenology!

Nature's Notebook is a free mobile app available for Apple and in the Google Play Store.

Schoolyard Phenology

How much does the Schoolyard program cost?

Public and private schools in Indiana can partner with Indiana Phenology at no cost. We can even help you find and apply for grants and other funding to cover the cost of materials and field trips.

How old do students have to be to participate?

Phenology can be enjoyed by Hoosiers of any age. Children as young as 4 can benefit from and enjoy phenological curriculum.

Programs are tailor made to your classroom, so you don't have to worry about materials being too advance - or too elementary - for your students.

Phenology Trails

How do I become a Trail Leader?

We are looking for Trailblazers in all 92 counties! If you're interested in becoming a Trailblazer, contact us today.

We will facilitate a partnership with your favorite trail. If you don't have one or aren't sure what's available, we can help find one for you!

What if my property is private?

If you own a parcel of land you would like to monitor but don't want the public accessing it, we recommend joining Indiana Phenology as a Backyard Observer.

How much does a Phenology Trail cost to implement?

Indiana Phenology does not charge for its services and can help you find grants and develop a fundraising program to cover any costs that may be associated with a Phenology Trail.

Every Trail is tailored to the needs and desires of the people who manage or own the property, so costs may vary. It's possible to start a Trail at no cost with an existing volunteer base that is knowledgeable of the area.