Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Schoolyard Teachers Honored at Massachusetts State House for Excellence in Environmental Education

Teachers Anne McDonald and Melanie McCracken were recognized for Excellence by officials from the Executive Office of  Energy and Environmental Affairs at the Massachusetts State House earlier this month.

From left to right:  Toy Town Elementary Teacher, Anne McDonald,  
Harvard Forest Schoolyard ,Coordinator,Pamela Snow, 
and Groton-Dunstable Teacher, Melanie McCracken

What makes these teachers stand out?  

Toy Town Elementary School Fifth Grade Teacher, Anne McDonald, knows how to expand her students’ learning experiences beyond the classroom.  She carefully crafts learning experiences that bring her students outside into woods, forests, waterways, and schoolyard and then brings the learning back inside the classroom in fresh, engaging ways.  Anne puts the time and energy into networking with experts and environmental agencies that can show students aspects of the natural world that they could never access from traditional elementary education resources available to schools with a large demographic of students from lower income families. Winchendon is located far from the museums and institutions available to students near urban areas or University towns. 

 From left to right:  Secretary Matthew Beaton, Teacher Anne McDonald,
Senator, Anne Gobi, SAGEE Chair, Kris Scopinich
 Anne was able to find a wide array of agencies and institutions that exist in North Central Massachusetts, and provide direct experiences for her students that leverage those resources in a way that expands the perspectives of each and every child that it fortunate enough to find themselves in Mrs. McDonald’s fifth grade classroom.  Anne reaches between 85-129 students each year. In addition, Anne includes other fifth grade classes on her field trip visits.   In her 12 years in the classroom, she has impacted well over 1,284 students so far. Her work is well established as she has fine-tuned the learning materials over time. 

Woolly Bully and the Hemlock Tree Field Study (Harvard University):   Students in Anne’s classroom each participate in a field study in their schoolyard, monitoring the health of hemlock trees over time, in partnership with Harvard Forest Ecologist, David Orwig, and a network of other schools throughout New England.  Anne is one of the teachers who has contributed to this study the longest. She has engaged students in monitoring the impact of an invasive insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid for 7 years.  Scientists and citizens are concerned about the impact that this tiny insect could have on New England’s forests because it is capable of sucking the life out of a tree that currently makes up a fourth of Massachusetts forests.  Mrs. McDonald’s study shows promise for hemlocks at her school. So far, her students have not seen any of the invasive insect even though it has been seen elsewhere in the area.  Anne’s students are helping all Massachusetts residents to better understand the impact of this insect on the changing species dynamics and overall ecology over time.   In addition to getting students involved as “citizen scientists”, Anne has helped educate other teachers by presenting her work at teacher workshops and contributing teacher materials to the rest of this K-12 citizen science network.

Forest in Every Classroom (U.S. Forest Service, Project Learning Tree, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture: Anne took part in a graduate course for educators called “The Forest in Every Classroom”. This course was a joint undertaking of the NH Project Learning Tree and the White Mountain National Forest.  Another partner was the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station (part of the National Wildlife Federation). Mrs. McDonald uses the curriculum unit she created with PLT resources including the PRE K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. Anne has also participated in Project Wild and Project Wet training in Massachusetts.  She uses the resources from these workshops in her current environmental education teaching, as well.

Massachusetts State Parks (DCR):  Students in Mrs. McDonald’s classes also have an opportunity to visit 2 Massachusetts state parks as part of their fall forest trip to Otter River State Forest, where they hike the Wilder-McKenzie Nature Trail to Lake Dennison State Forest and back. Students partake in observational learning activities along the way.

Turners Falls Fish Ladder (Northfield Mtn. Env. Center, First Light Power) In the Spring, students visit the Turners Falls Fish Ladder.  The programming there is developed and arranged with  educator, Kim Noyes, from the Northfield Mountain Environmental & Recreation Center owned by FirstLight Power. Anne uses curriculum created by Northfield Mountain’s staff to teach the students about native fish and also anadromous fish.  They learn about the life cycle, adaptations, and migration of these fish.  Students are able to see them first hand at the fish ladder. Interpreters there from Northfield Mountain share with students about obstacles such as dams that impact their migration and helpful measures taken such as the establishment of the fish elevator in Holyoke and the fish ladder in Turners Falls to hopefully help fish succeed in migrating.

Great Falls Discovery Center ( U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation)
The other half of this spring field trip is to go across the street to the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls, MA.  For this part of the field trip, the students are introduced to a model of the Ct River Watershed.  Then, they explore the plants and animals in different habitats in a watershed from the Estuary to the Great Northern Woods.  They also do a pollution activity with a model watershed to learn about point and non-point pollution sources and how to prevent them. 

Lake Monomonac ( Monomonac Lake Property Owners Association; State of NH Dept. of Env. Services):
Later in June, students visit Lake Monomonac which is half in Winchendon, MA and half in Rindge, MA.  The Monomonac Lake Property Owners Association provides pontoon boats. A N.H. State Limnologist comes with interns to take the students out on the boats and use their equipment to test the water.  In preparation for this trip, students participate in activities from a book entitled Interactive Lake Ecology from the NH Department of Environmental Services. 

From left to right:  EOEA Secretary  Matthew Beaton,
Teacher, Melanie McCracken, SAGEE Chairwoman, Kris Scopinich 

Groton-Dunstable High School teacher, Melanie McCracken  has served as a teacher leader in helping to pilot and implement a challenging new experiential outdoor learning project called Our Changing Forests led by Ecologists Joshua Rapp and Audrey Barker-Plotkin,  This involves studying changes in forest composition over time for her own high school students and then going on to mentor other teachers in leading similar projects in a network of schools throughout Massachusetts. Melanie had already proven herself a solid project leader for another long term field study, called Buds, Leaves and Global Warming led by Harvard Forest Ecologist, John O'Keefe, monitoring the length of the growing season for trees in her schoolyard. While she had already mastered that study, and was serving as a mentor for other teachers, she then went above and beyond to take on a brand new project and be one of only a select few chosen to pilot that study with her students.  Not only did Melanie succeed at adding this project on to an already ambitious Environmental Science curriculum, she went on to share her work with an audience of scientists and teachers at Harvard Forest. Ms. McCracken partners with Harvard University scientists who help to provide scientific expertise to enhance teacher and student learning.  Building off of the support of the Schoolyard Ecology program at Harvard Forest,

In addition to the 2 field projects mentioned above, Melanie also provides her students with another unique environmental project supported by more outside expertise from another nonprofit organization.  Students in Ms. McCracken’s environmental club and class were given a special opportunity to work with Bryan Windmiller of Grassroots Wildlife Conservation last spring and summer. They trapped, and tagged two female Blanding's turtles in the marsh beside the high school. The turtles were tagged with radio transmitters. Several community members who work with turtles joined in the project. The team followed the turtles with radio receivers over a period of a month and located two nests. The nests were protected and in the fall they checked the nests each day until hatchlings arrived. These babies are being raised in classrooms over the winter to gain weight and mature. They will be released on campus this spring and Melanie’s class will follow the females again and collect hatchlings to raise in the classrooms and release in the spring.  Ms. McCracken received a $2,000 grant from GDEF (a community based funding program) to purchase waders, radio receivers, and other equipment necessary for trapping and tagging turtles. Students help look after the turtles in the classrooms all winter and also help with trapping and tagging. Bryan Windmiller provides permits (Blanding's Turtles are on the threatened species list for Mass.) and ecologists to work with students. This is the third winter they have raised hatchlings in the classroom, but the first winter that they raised hatchlings that they caught and collected on the high school campus. Melanie plans to continue to engage her classes in protecting and supporting the Blanding's turtle population in Groton through this program which includes community members, students, teachers and Grassroots Wildlife Conservation Inc.

Melanie has involved  between 25 and 79 Groton-Dunstable High School students in field studies each year for the past 5 years, reaching about 260 students overall. Her work is easily replicable in the sense that project protocols and resources are available to any grade 4-12 classroom in Massachusetts through the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology program.  However, most teachers find that taking on one project is more than enough of a challenge.  Few are able to incorporate these 2 challenging projects at the same time.  It is the amount of time and energy that Melanie invests in her students and the depth of experience she provides to them through this work that makes Melanie stand out among her peers.  She is willing and able to take on new challenges and goes the extra mile to add many layers of depth into each of the learning experiences she presents to students. 

Related Links to see more of what these teachers have contributed to Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology:

McDonald. 2010. Coniferous forest journal questions. 
McDonald. 2013. Forest Ecology - HWA.
McDonald. 2015. Forest Ecology Unit

Click on the box next to Buds, Leaves and Global Warming choice on the Google Map to  Explore location and Buds, Leaves Data from Groton-Dunstable High School. Then choose the leaf symbol for Groton Dunstable school in the North central border of Mass./N.H. to access this data. 

Click on the box next to the Woolly Bully choice on Google Maps to Explore location and Hemlock Woolly Bully Data from Toy Town Elementary School.  Then choose the tree symbol for Toy Town Elementary School in the central border of Mass./N.H to access this data. 

Click on the box next to the Changing Forests choice on the Google Map to Explore Our Changing Forests Project Data from Groton-Dunstable High School. Then choose the bent tree symbol for Groton-Dunstable High school along the central Mass.-N.H. border.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's New with the Woolly Bully?

Schoolyard Ecology participants continue to contribute to the larger picture of how the tiny Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is impacting one of our most common trees.

 Harvard Forest Field Trip

Photos by Karen Anderson

Students from the MacDuffie School in Granby, Ma. visited Harvard Forest this spring to meet Schoolyard Ecology Project Ecologist, David Orwig in person.  David showed students what the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid looked like on trees at Harvard Forest and up close under the microscope to better understand the lifecycle of the invasive species that is causing significant change in New England Forests right now.

David Orwig provided the following update about his hemlock woolly adelgid research here at Harvard Forest:   

A field mortality survey was conducted during the summer of 2016 in 4 of the 35 hectares of forest in the megaplot on Prospect Hill,  around the hemlock eddy flux tower.  Findings suggests that areas of Harvard Forest are already experiencing a rapid loss of hemlocks as a result of the invasive insect. Since 2010, over 400 hemlock stems (20% of sampled stems) have died within this area.   In addition, recent work by Dave, Emery, and researchers from Umass Boston, Indiana University, and Harvard University, have shown that this decline and loss of hemlock has started to have an impact on water- in this case the amount of water has actually increased in local forest streams – a boost of about 15 percent. The dying hemlocks are producing less food, using less water, and therefore evaporating less water back to the atmosphere, leaving more water available in streams.  But like most environmental change, this effect is not likely to stay the same for long.  Hemlock trees, with their evergreen needles, are relatively efficient water users. As hemlocks die, birch trees often grow to replace them. Birches use far more water, especially during the height of the growing season.  Birch seedlings are already becoming established underneath the dying hemlocks, and if these hardwood trees replace the hemlocks, they may lead to drier conditions and less water in the streams, particularly in mid-summer.  Read the full scientific paper in Geophysical Research Letters:

 Schoolyard Ecology Student Projects

MacDuffie School Students constructed  mini-bioramas of particular biomes studied in Environmental Science class

Biorama by Shane Cauley
Temperate Forest by Taeyoung Ahn

Tropical Rainforest Biorama by Prin Jitroongruangchai

Polar Ice Biorama by Alexa Dermody and
Maddy Levesque
Desert Biome by Wei Zhang

Taiga Biorama by Evan Murdock
and Donovan Richardson
Schoolyard Ecology teacher, Karen Anderson led this project as a way of introducing biomes and ecosystems to students. This seems like a great way that teachers can integrate the experience of viewing the Harvard Forest dioramas into classroom work and learn about a wide variety of biomes including temperate forests that are home to the Eastern Hemlock. 

For this project, students used various animal figures and plant/soil material that was glued/painted in place to resemble the real life biome. Keystone plants and animals were shown/listed for each biome. Students were required to learn the various abiotic factors that were characteristic of their biome. 

Student Projects from Other Schools

 Invasive Species iMovie Trailer by Colrain Central School Students

Colrain Central School Art Teacher, Anne Larsen, took a page from her Schoolyard Ecology Mentor Teacher, Kate Bennett, in leading her students in creating this invasive species movie trailer.  It is worth taking a moment to view both Anne and Kate's students iMovie videos on the links below.

"The Infestation" imovie Trailer by J.R. Briggs Elementary Students

"Invasive Species" Movie Trailer by J.R. Briggs Elementary Students

 iMovie Video Links:  

Student Project- Invasive Species Movie Trailer-Larsen-2017.mp4

Student Project- "The Infestation" iMovie Trailer-Bennett

Invasive Species iMovie Trailer-Bennett

New  Cross-site and Annual Summary Data Online Graphing Tools Available:

The graph above was created using the new online graphing tool that allows one to quickly and easily graph data across sites.  I have chosen to graph the amount of HWA eggs recorded at all sites over the duration of the HWA Schoolyard project.  As you can see, we are not yet showing any overall patterns across our schoolyard study sites. 

Please keep in mind that most schools did not continue this study over more than 2-3 years and thus were not able to capture the long term progression of the adelgid over time. Perhaps more than any other plea we can make to schools is that sticking with the project over time is important. Schools do indeed  have something to offer to the larger effort to see and track the regional changes in our forests over time. Any time students  can contribute new data each year over a series of 5 or more years,  we all benefit.   A number of sites have not ever seen presence of the adelgid and therefore we see most data points at zero along the bottom of the graph.   Zeros are just as important as other data to show us where adelgid has not changed the health of hemlock trees.   

By pulling out only those schools who have participated for four or more years in the Woolly Bully study, we can see the stories as they are playing out over time a bit more clearly.  In particular we can see that the pink line shows the MacDuffie School when it was located in Springfield, Ma. where both HWA and a tornado gave the Hemlocks a one two punch that led to dramatic decline in hemlock populations there. See more on this below.   The green line show the Helen E. James School in Williamsburg, Ma. (near Northampton) where Kindergarten students have been monitoring a single hemlock tree over 6 years to show a dramatic increase  in adelgid populations to the highest levels of any trees in our broader Schoolyard study.  This past year saw adelgid numbers drop.  I can't help but wonder what next year will show. Again the strongest lines are at zero level, showing that most of our sites are still not being impacted by the adelgid, which is somewhat surprising given the amount of mortality Harvard Forest researchers are seeing across New England.

In addition to the Helen E. James School, the J.R. Briggs site shows the expected trend.  

This new graphing tool can also help show summary data for individual sites in order to capture the trend for that site.  We can see here that the J.R. Briggs Schoolyard site along with Helen James school in the earlier graph shows a pattern in the graph above that we might expect to see.  No Adelgid was found between 2005 and 2012.  Suddenly, Adelgid was seen in 2014, and continued to be present in in 2015 and 2016, although not increasing in numbers on these particular study tree branches.  If we had more study sites tracking Adelgid over this many years, our overall data would be much more likely to show similar trends.  

Many sites in northern New England are not yet impacted by the Adelgid. Notice that no eggs have been observed at the Toy Town Elementary School in Winchendon, Ma. on the N.H. border, after 6 years of study.   As we collect more and more data over more years and across more sites, we can better put together a picture of how, when and where the Adelgid is changing the health of one of the most common foundation trees in our forest today.  Will future Schoolyard data show the  adelgid continuing to move north as weather presumably continues to warm?  

Notice that this graph above is showing a decrease in the amount of HWA eggs seen at the MacDuffie School field site in Springfield, MA.  This is the opposite pattern we might expect in New England as a whole, where researchers such as David Orwig have seen an increase in the presence of the Adelgid overtime.  What then can explain this downward trend in number of adelgids at this location?  Note that Springfield MA. was one of the first places where the Adelgid was found in Massachusetts, crossing along the Connecticut River Valley from Connecticut.  In 2009, there were already substantial numbers of Adelgid present there.  As the study trees at this site began to die from infestation, fewer eggs were found.  To make matters worse at this particular location, a tornado hit in 2011, bringing down all the trees at this site.  

The MacDuffie School itself up and moved to another town, Granby, Ma.  where they have not yet found evidence of the Adelgid.  Graphs of the data from their new site are all zeros so far, which is somewhat surprising given its southerly location, but it goes to show that not all hemlocks in southern Mass. have been infested yet.  It remains to be seen how many hemlocks will go unaffected by this invasive insect.  

Stay Tuned for the rest of this story as students from more locations continue to provide us more and pieces of the larger picture over time as they contribute data to the Woolly Bully and the Hemlock Trees Schoolyard Ecology study.  

Learn More about the Woolly Bully Studies at Harvard Forest and Related Schoolyard Sites:

David Orwig Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Research Webpages

HF Schoolyard Ecology Woolly Bully and the Hemlocks Webpages

Hemlock Adelgid Cross-Site Online Graphing Tool

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Amazing Teachers Will Do! 17 Teachers Recognized for Long Term Leadership of Schoolyard Ecology Projects

Can you believe that 18 teachers have dedicated 5 or more years to leading HF LTER Schoolyard Ecology projects for children in grades K-12?

This on top of an ever changing and super challenging educational environment is truly something to celebrate.  I am so honored to work with such dedicated teachers who year after year go above and beyond what is required and do the work they believe will make a difference to both their students and our planet.   Please honor their work by taking a moment to see some highlights of the contributions they have made to the Schoolyard Ecology program and beyond.

Photos of Teachers who have dedicated 10 + years are shown here: 

The Post Retirement Team- Chuck Skillings has led  young children at the Davis Hill Elementary School  in collecting project data for the Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project for 10 years now. He and Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe are both participating in the project in their retirement.
J.R. Briggs Elementary Teacher Kate Bennett has contributed to our Schoolyard program for the longest of any teacher so far.  12 years of full on dedication, leading 2 projects, serving as a  HF mentor teachers: and as a  Research Experience for Teachers (RET) during summers; developing a series of lessons for using Phenocam in K-12 curriculum; presenting at National conferences in California, Colorado and Boston. Kate has been awarded numerous environmental education awards at the local, state and regional levels. Kate is pictuired here with Woolly Bully and the Hemlock Trees Project Ecologist David Orwig to the left.  

Austin Preparatory Teacher, Maria Blewitt has not only led students in contributing to the Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project for 10 years.  She has also served as mentor teacher and presented at our Spring Workshops on multiple occasions. Maria has contributed to HF Schoolyard Teacher surveys as well as surveys of  Undergraduates to learn what K-12 experiences were meaningful in leading them to pursue Science in college.  Maria has been honored for Excellence in  Environmental Education  at the Mass. State House

Please take the time to use the  link to slides to see Photos AND some of the contributions of all of the 11 teachers recognized the Spring Workshop.


 Schoolyard/Teacher Recognition Ceremony Presentation.pdf

Links to News Articles: 

Skillings-  The Landmark

Anderson, Levy,

Levy, Anderson-  The Sentinal

Farrow-Wicked Local Lincoln

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring=New Life; Schoolyard Ecology Spring Workshop Photos, etc.

Lightning Round 
 Local Land Use Maps 
 Teacher Recognition Ceremony

New Life for Schoolyard Program    

Teachers work with site specific land
Use Maps 

Harvard Forest Research Assistant (GIS) Joshua Plisinski from the  Landscape Scenarios team at Harvard Forest introduced map books (series of related automated maps)  of  specific areas and towns  around schools/field sites  participating in the Changing Forests project. This brand new effort, funded by Highstead Foundation, provides a conceptual bridge for students (and teachers) between what they experience and learn through their small plot study onto a broader scale- a 1 square mile area around their sites as well the entire town in which they live.  The goal here is for students to gain an understanding of  how the wider landscape is changing over time.  

Harvard Forest Site Manager and Senior Ecologist, Audrey Barker-Plotkin shows teachers how the  pastures and forests are revealing stories of past and present land use change.

Photo by Jenny Hobson
Teachers who Dedicated 5-12 Years of HF Schoolyard Ecology Project leadership at their sites were honored at a Teacher Recognition Ceremony during the Spring Workshop. 

Front row from left:  Maria Blewitt, Austin Preparatory School; JoAnn Mossman, Overlook Middle School; Robin Gurdak-Foley-Helen E. James Elementary School; Louise Levy, Belchertown High School; Jane Lucia, Williston Northampton School ; Sally Farrow, Drumlin Farm- Mass. Audubon 

Middle row:  Katherine Bennett, J.R. Briggs Elementary School; Melanie McCracken, Groton-Dunstable High School; John O'Keefe, H.F. Project Ecologist.

Back row:  Clarisse Hart, H.F. Director of Education and Outreach; David Orwig, H.F. Project Ecologist; Pamela Snow, H.F. Schoolyard Ecology Coordinator; Charles Skillings, Davis Hill Elementary School; Nora Murphy, Concord-Carlisle High School; Aaron Ellison, H.F. R.E.T. Mentor/Ecologist; Emery Boose, H.F. Information Manager; Karen Anderson, The MacDuffie School.  

Glen Urquart School Teacher, Emilie Cushing and Austin Prep. Teacher, Maria Blewitt Co-presented about incorporating citizen science in the K-12 setting.

 Overlook Middle School Teacher, JoAnn Mossman shared 8 Years of wisdom in leading an Schoolyard Ecology project at her school. 

Left: Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe, led Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Teachers on a field walk to help prepare for spring leaf out observations. 

Right:  Woolly Bully teachers led by Project Ecologist, David Orwig, witnessed the changes happening to Hemlock trees in the forest. Long Trail School teacher, Amy Newbold is pictured next to the Eddy Flux Tower which monitors exchanges between the hemlock dominated tree canopy and the atmosphere.

Explore More :

Coming Soon:

  • Teacher Recognition Ceremony Slides

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Communicating Harvard Forest Science Through Art; David Buckley Borden

How does one best communicate the complexity of the science being done at Harvard Forest?  

The reality is that scientists, educators, administrators and even artists at Harvard Forest are approaching the task of sharing the broader impacts of scientific research on many fronts.

Bullard Fellow and Artist,David Buckley Borden, has a very unique way of communicating the ecological concepts at the heart of Harvard Forest's research.  

Explore more of David's work through the following resources:

Harvard Gazette Article, Creative Path Through Harvard Forest

Davidbuckleyborden webpages on Harvard-forest

Come visit at David's Harvard Forest Open Studio:  

Where:   Harvard Forest (324 N. Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366). 
When:    Saturday, April 29, 2017 from 12 to 4pm. 
Who:      All are welcome 
What:     View and discuss ongoing work both in and outside the studio. Light refreshments.                   

Monday, March 13, 2017

Late Winter?

Out Like a Lion? 

Greater Lowell Technical School teachers, Tara Alcorn, Bryanna Hawkins, Kim Febres walked through light snow at Harvard Forest on March 10th.

The promise of an early spring seems to have evolved into a winter wonderland in mid March.
Frigid Temps have swept through New England, with a forecast of a major snowstorm for tomorrow.

Maple researcher Joshua Rapp has updated his observations of Maple sap timing to show that 2017 is following a similar pattern as the past 5 years, as of last week. 

Slower flows this week as the trees took their time thawing out from below zero temps last weekend. With the thermometer dropping again it looks like the sap will be locked up for the week to come as well.


Joshua M. Rapp, PhD

Harvard Forest, Harvard University


What next?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Early Spring? Yes and Maybe...

Skunk Cabbage by Sally Farrow, Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, MA

The awareness of early spring struck me almost literally in mid February as was skiing in Quebec through a thunder and lightning storm in pouring rain.   This was certainly not what I expected to find after months of preparing for skiing hut to hut through the "normal" below freezing  conditions northwest of Montreal in winter.  Rain in Quebec was not out of the question, as I had encountered rain in Quebec city in February years ago, but thunder and lightning, really???

Upon my return to New England on February 25th, I was greeted with 60 degree temps, and my Facebook feed and email inbox were reflecting a bunch of unusually early signs of spring.

Earliest snowdrops ever. Sighted in the hilly wilds of West Hawley, MA on 2/25/17!

Edite Cunha

Left:   Nature Log. Petersham, MA.  Thursday redwing blackbirds arrived. Satureday ice went out on the ponds. Fifteen min. later Canada Goose finds open water.  2-26-16
Tom also reported seeing 2 Eagles nesting by Quabbin Reservoir that week. 

Right:  Wood frog near the Swift River in Petersham on March 1!  Skunks also out tonight....
John Burk.

March 2, amherst ma

Audrey Barker Plotkin 

Aside from these casual observations,  here are some more scientific reports:

Definitely worth checking out an article and new set of scientifically backed maps produced by the USGS-led USA-National Phenology Network that shows just how unusually early spring is arriving in the United States.   

To see some specific examples of phenological changes occuring in Spring in the Northeast, check out: 

Back at Harvard Forest, researcher Joshua Rapp is busy collecting and measuring Maple syrup.  

This is what he's been finding since Feb. 18th about early spring harvest: 

This year I tapped the maples at Harvard Forest on February 18th and collected the first sap on the 19th, near the median day for the season start day around here. While the season started at the 'normal' time, the start of the season was anything but normal - 60 and 70 degree temps in the first week started the sap gushing and in less than 2 weeks have collected about half as much sap as we typically do in full season, and about the same amount as we did last year by this date even though last year's season started more than 2 weeks earlier. 

The colder temps predicted for the next few days will push the pause button for sap flow, but next week looks to be excellent sap flow weather again. The big question is whether the early season warmth foretells an early end of the season. If the season goes to the end of March as is typical, sap volumes may rival the high mark of 2013. If it ends early sap and syrup production may be more typical.

Stay tuned,
Joshua M. Rapp, PhD
Harvard Forest, Harvard University /

And from  Drumlin Farm's  field sites....

Silver Maple by Sally Farrow
Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, Ma. 

The skunk cabbage is blooming by preschool pond , the silver maples and pussy willows are blooming in Boyce field.

2/25 I heard peepers calling and 3/1 I heard and saw wood frogs in preschool and Ice pond.
The ponds have refrozen but there is a gentle rain and I hope for some movement tonight
Happy Spring!

Sally Farrow

Excerpt from Early Spring; An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World by Amy Seidl: 

While I have spent time in regions of the world where global warming is more rapidly affecting ecosystems, I want to emphasize the changes I see in my landscape close to home-in my garden, in local woods, and ponds. It is in this everyday context that I notice the world entering flux.  The timing of seasonal events, for instance, is shifting:  lilacs are blooming earlier; gardens remain prolific well into fall, and butterflies appear weeks earlier than previously recorded....and the the start of maple sugaring rarely begins in early March as it historically did.... 

   With each year I am compelled to ask: How are natural communities and ecosystems where I live responding to climate change?  What does a thunderstorm in January signal?  ...As these events collect, I a realize how more and more of my observations reflect the predictions that climate scientists are making for New England-greater single precipitation events, warmer nights, shorter winters, and overall more variable weather.  While it remains difficult to draw casual relationships between global climate change and local weather, we are able to see how our local conditions increasingly resemble the forecasted predictions.*

* pages XII and XIII in Preface, Early Spring; An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World.

So Are We Having an Early Spring This Year or Not? 

Certainly we are seeing signs of an early spring on most fronts this year, but much of our phenological observations are not complete yet. We hope that over a thousand students will begin observing study trees and recording the state of the buds to report to Harvard Forest soon.  Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe, has indicated to us that spring phenology is highly variable based on his 27 years of observing timing of the emergence of leaves. He has seen that local weather in the key months of March and April seem to be the largest drivers of timing of leaf out.  So while the mild spell in February has helped swell the buds on many species, we won't know about the timing of leaf out until we actually see the leaves emerge...and then there is always the chance that a late frost could kill those early emerging leaves, so the jury is still out on early spring for our local trees.  Please get out and start recording some data to track it for us, and we will look forward to hearing back from you soon.  

Explore More about Spring Phenology:

Early Spring by Amy Seidl, Goodreads review and links 

 I recommend this book highly to those who want to explore this topic further.
 While the author is an ecologist, she writes in a highly accessible way that
 is engaging and ultimately relatable.  Very relevant to our Buds, Leaves and
 Global Warming Schoolyard project.  


Find current images of tree canopies that are updated daily
from sites all over the world, including this one from the 
Boston Common, along with several sites at Harvard Forest
and some Schoolyard Ecology sites. 

Protocols, Photos of Buds, Related Teacher

Step By Step Phenology Activity.pdf

Lesson Plan for integrating timing of tree phenology with
other organisms in food web such as caterpillars and birds.

Sneak Preview of Budburst Activity

GLOBE program Lesson Plan for bringing branches inside to observe budburst in classroom prior to timing of buds opening outdoors in field site.
Involves sketching, observing, predicting...