Sunday, October 11, 2009

Skeptics Spin, Scientists Study

While the skeptics spin, scientists survey and scrutinize how the natural world is already responding to climate change. From polar bears to plankton and fish, from birds to arctic shrubs, many animals and plants show the effects of recent and current climate change in their abundance, health, and phenology. Such ecological indicator species integrate the impacts of climate change across scales of time and space our measurement instruments cannot match.

Now citizen scientists everywhere can join professional scientists in helping us all better monitor and understand what our co-inhabitants on spaceship Earth are telling us about the pace and magnitude of climate change. The USA National Phenology Network recently began registering individuals interested in helping monitor the timing of recurring life cycle changes in plants in North America. Future plans call for similar efforts to include animals and physical phenomena such as when ice melts on ponds.

My environmental science students will be adding their observations from Raleigh this fall and spring. Consider joining up and adding information from your backyard or neighborhood.

This flowering dogwood, in a picture taken in Raleigh, NC on October 11, 2009, shows signs of the early fall season in reddening leaves and mature fruits.

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