To Everything There Is a Season

Photo Credit: Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons

It can be hard to remember, as you get older: were September days always as hot as this? When did the winter winds start blowing when I was a kid? While projects like iSeeChange want you to create a living almanac to document the change of seasons in your area in a communal way, Season Spotter wants you to help review images of seasonal change taken from cameras mounted across North America.

The images show the timing of budding, leaf growth, flowering, seed creation, and leaf drops across hundreds of ecosystems around the continent. The study of such changes is called phenology, and the science is important in two ways. First, the data gathered can tell us how our ecosystem is being affected by climate change.

The timing of when plants leaf, flower, and fruit is very sensitive to changes in weather and climate. Plant phenology is a sentinel - it alerts us to changing climate patterns. ~ Season Spotter

Second, phenology can tell us more about the carbon-absorbing capacity of our planet. When leaves on plants are green, they take carbon dioxide out of the air (via a process called photosynthesis) to create plant food for themselves. They also release water vapor, which in turn affects humidity, cloud cover, and precipitation. Getting hard data on exactly what happens and when will be crucial to improving our understanding of our biosphere and how to protect it.

... until recently, human observers were limited to the places they could get to frequently and the times and days they could visit those places. Cameras can be put in many more places than human observers can visit, and they have the ability to take measurements much more frequently than human observers could. ~ Season Spotter

To participate, you can answer questions about the image you're seeing in the web interface, or you can also mark features of importance on the image. You can help the project whether you register or not. As a bonus, you'll get to see some interesting scenery.

Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.