In celebration of Earth Week, April 16-24, the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project is encouraging residents to get outside and take part in citizen science work simply by observing the natural world around them.

Phenology is the observation of seasonal changes including the blooming of flowers, appearance of migratory birds, the hatching of insects, and the emergence of animals from winter hibernation. Scientists have come to realize that phenological events are very sensitive to changes in climate, yet are easy and fun to observe and record.

The biggest challenge in this type of research is collecting sufficient data consistently each year across large geographical regions. By having the public report what they are observing outdoors, much more data can be collected than would be possible with a limited number of ecologists and naturalists.

Observations can be made in parks, nature centers, or in participants' own backyards. "Not many people realize this, but each and every person has the ability to make a contribution to science," said project leader Diane W. Husic, a TogetherGreen Fellow, which is an Audubon-Toyota sponsored program. "We need people to tell us which plants are getting leaves or coming into bloom, which animals they are seeing and what they are doing, and when this is all happening. The more people that participate, the more 'signs of spring' data we can collect during this important week."

By recording and reporting various observations of the species of special interest, participants will be helping to advance Pennsylvania's efforts in monitoring how its habitats, wildlife, and natural resources might be responding to alterations in the environment including those caused by climate change. Such efforts will help the state determine the best way to develop adaptation strategies and conservation priorities for years to come.

For more details on how to participate please visit www.lgnc.org/research/phenology.

Residents unable to participate but still interested in learning more about their changing seasons will able read project updates at WatchingTheSeasons.blogspot.com.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project is a result of a partnership between the Conservation Districts of Lehigh and Northampton counties, the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, Moravian College, Wildlands Conservancy, the state parks in Eastern Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, and the Master Gardeners of Monroe, Carbon, Northampton and Lehigh counties.

To date, 120 environmental leaders – half from within Audubon and half from outside organizations – have received TogetherGreen Fellowships to protect land, water, and energy resources nationwide. For more information visit www.togethergreen.org.