If you’ve ever noticed that the leaves are changing earlier than usual, or that migrating geese seem to have overslept, you may have information worth sharing.

Nature's Notebook photo

Through a project called “Nature’s Notebook,” the National Phenology Network invites people to record these types of observations. Then the network makes the information available to researchers.

When Sara Schaffer began working for the network as a web designer, she did not think of herself as a citizen scientist.

Sara Schaffer
Sara Schaffer

Schaffer: “I wasn’t used to studying animals or plants so I didn’t think I knew enough to be able to contribute.”

But she soon learned that Nature’s Notebook was asking about things she observed in her yard every day.

Schaffer: “When do leaves come out, or when do things flower … and I was like, I can tell them that.”

Schaffer enjoys paying attention to nature, and she is motivated by knowing that she is helping scientists understand how species respond to our warming climate.

Schaffer: “I also really do like the idea of being able to contribute to a larger effort.”

”Citizen Click To Tweet

So far, Nature’s Notebook data has been cited in more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles. So people like Schaffer are helping advance our understanding of climate change.

Reporting credit: Justyna Bicz/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo credit: Sara Schaffer.

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Jan O'Brien

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...