Citizen Science Inspires Deeper Connections

Reflections from an Oregon Season Tracker and Master Gardener, Susan Hoffman.

This past November, I attended the CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative, Rain, Hail and Snow Network) Citizen Science Training for Linn/Benton Counties. My husband and I left with a new water gage and a plan for daily measurement. We were also trained and encouraged to be part of Nature’s Notebook, a native plant/tree monitoring program thru the USA National Phenology Network.  What we have come to understand, is that the data we collect, which takes very little time and effort, adds to the collective data on our changing climate. At first, we just collected the water, emptied the gage and recorded the amount.  Then we started to comment to each other about how we never really noticed what one inch of rain was before…how much it had to rain, how long it took, the quality of the rain…and it got us outside in the garden, rain or shine, winter to summer, and now on to autumn. We also began a closer look at some of the native plants on our property….from winter form, to breaking leaf buds, increasing leaf size, flowers, fruiting, to fruit and leaf drop.

This past week, we attended a researchers’ retreat in the HJ Andrews Research Forest that connected all of us water collectors and amateur phenologists, many science teachers from across the state and learned Research Staff.  It was professional, enlightening, creating relationship and knowledge connections. We hiked the forest, were stung by yellow jackets, were amazed by aquatic insects as indicators of stream health, considered the rigors of data collection, and contemplated the concept of observation thru art. We were kids, we were scientists.

The HJ Andrews Forest, an ecological research site, has a long term (since 1948) monitoring program producing important data on environmental changes and the necessity of old growth forests for wildlife. We were welcomed, encouraged, and respected for being a part of this data collection process. Our data links to national data with even small local variations making a difference in understanding climate and the life of trees and plants.

Much gratitude to Jody Einerson, Brad Withrow-Robinson, Maggie Livesay, Mark Shultze, Sherri Johnson, Peg Herring and the OSU Staff and Graduate Students for your fine presentations, planning and positive two days.

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