NOAA Summer Spotlight: Sign of The SeasonsBy: Beth Bisson and Esperanza Stancioff 09 August 2016
Signs of the Seasons is a New England citizen science program with two purposes: to train and support volunteer observers to collect robust phenology data for active research projects; and to increase climate literacy and connection to place among New Englanders. Signs of the Seasons (SOS) has trained nearly 600 volunteers, from retirees to students, and provides ongoing support with development and access to new observation and data-exploration tools through numerous partnerships.
SOS participants have collected an average of over 230,000 observations of the program’s 19 indicator species each year since 2011, and boasted 110 different observation sites in Maine and New Hampshire in 2015. Maine scientists used Signs of the Seasons data to re-evaluate a historical model of ocean temperature-mediated reproduction in Ascophyllum nodosum (rockweed), an economically and ecologically valuable seaweed. Data from 10 coastal sites in Maine and New Hampshire indicate that reproduction onset in 2014 and 2015 was more than 30 days earlier than historically recorded; these findings were presented at four conferences in 2015. SOS also expanded its partnership with Maine Audubon in 2015 to collect detailed phenology data on Common loon migration and reproduction to better understand climate-related factors in consistently low survival rates of loon chicks in Maine over the past two decades. Other national programs utilize data from SOS observations, such as the National Phenology Network’s Green Wave Campaign, focusing on sugar maple and red maple data.
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