Many groups seek to integrate life sciences and research with outdoor activities and technology. Phenology observation through USA National Phenology Network’s (USA-NPN) Nature’s Notebook professional and citizen science program is the answer! Nature’s Notebook promotes repeated, detailed observations at the same location and participants are inspired to learn more about species and document seasonal change. Site-based education, science, or management leaders (Local Phenology Leaders; LPLs) can utilize place-based phenology monitoring to supplement organizational outcomes.
An LPL model ensures adequate data are being collected at pre-identified long-term monitoring locations, thus increasing data quality and usability. However, creating a site or community-based Nature’s Notebook monitoring program requires an understanding of experimental design and program planning to make it sustainable. LPLs often struggle with developing a relevant research question or finding volunteers to collect enough meaningful site-based data. The USA-NPN’s National Coordinating Office (NCO)’s Education Program has developed many independent web-based training resources and a facilitator-led LPL Certification Course to assist with program planning and management. Through user surveys and analysis of amount of data being contributed, the NCO seeks to evaluate the efficacy of each of these training methodologies, and the quality of the data, based upon successful phenology monitoring program implementation.
The NCO finds more consistent data contributed to the National Phenology Database (NPDb) via long-term sites, with volunteer or staff leaders regularly engaging groups of people. Providing extra training to LPLs ensures these sites continue to submit observations on species for 2 or more years. Guidance such as program planning materials, training on how to set up and use Nature’s Notebook, resources on how to download and present data, and access to NCO Staff all increase both the quality of the experience for the LPL as well as, potentially, the quality of the data being submitted.
We evaluated active and inactive LPL groups. Survey questions included the purpose and goals for utilizing Nature’s Notebook, whether it changed after beginning, what type of participants how often they engage them, what they seek to do with the data and we asked them to share programmatic impacts. For inactive groups we sought to determine why the project was unsuccessful and if there was anything we might provide to move them forward. The same surveys will be delivered to those participating in the facilitated LPL Certification Course after they are established. This information will help create valuable resources for any LPL interested contributing.