Mountainside view
(Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr)

Diane White Husic is a biology professor at Moravian College in Pennsylvania. She studies how climate change affects forest habitats in the mountains of Appalachia.

“And I’d been thinking a long time about how to engage people in conversation about climate change in a state that has a long history of fossil fuel use,” she says, “especially in rural areas where it’s kind of controversial.”

So in 2010, Husic started the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project. She asked local residents to submit data about when they saw certain flowers blooming, trees leafing out, and birds returning in the spring.

“I thought it might be interesting to think about what are people noticing in their backyards,” she says, “and perhaps a way to start a conversation that wasn’t politicized right from the beginning.”

She says the project helped her build relationships with local residents and organizations who now trust her expertise. She’s been invited to speak to fishing and hunting groups. And she says people call her up to talk about what they’re observing in the region.

“They contact me to say, ‘Hey, I noticed this change. Do you think it’s due to that stuff you work on?’ You know, it’s almost like they still won’t say ‘climate change,’” she says. “But they’re talking about it and asking about it, which I think is a huge change from just a few years ago.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.