Rising Voices Blog Three: Phenology

Phenology: Community Storytelling in Action

(This is a continuation of my blog about Rising Voices. Click here to see the first blog entry in this series.)

"How healthy is our reef?"

The following day, after meeting Aunty Pua Case and hearing about the sacredness of Mauna Kea and touring the Mauna Loa Observatory, we went to the Ka’upulehu Interpretive Center to learn about place-based learning in Hawai’i. There, we met Aunty Lei - another powerful educator and leader who talked about the educational center that they created in their community and some of the ways the community has been observing and measuring the environment for centuries. She also shared ways the community lives in balance with nature, such as harvesting salt from the water that flows over the lava rock on the beach.

“How do we shift the conversation from data to humanity?”

After we heard from Aunty Lei, we split up into groups. We sat in circles on the grass and shared our experiences. Some people talked about the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea tours, others shared from their experience being from an indigenous community, and some talked about working with scientific communities. Over the past few years, one theme that has been important in Rising Voices is exploring ways that communities, scientists, and citizen scientists can share environmental changes in a way that is respectful to the community and that honors their goals and needs of engaging in science, and find ways to move forward together. For example, a phenology working group began last year to continue the momentum throughout the year. (GLOBE Partner Elena Sparrow is a member of the working group-- check out her work here!)

This year, the phenology group came back together with questions: How can we find a way to translate the story of data - collaboratively as a community? For example, in the context of Hawai’i, the indigenous people made observations throughout time to understand complex dynamics, such as life cycles, through applied systems theories. The GLOBE definition of phenology is “the study of organisms’ response to seasonal and climatic changes in their environment. Seasonal changes include variations in day length or duration of sunlight, precipitation, temperature, and other life-controlling factors.” Participants from Hawai’i shared an example of phenology in the community: the blooming of a certain plant is an indicator that tiger sharks will migrate to the island soon - and the people know not to swim in the waters!

But what happens if seasonal variance disrupts the typical cycle of plants and animals? (Remember what happened to the hummingbirds in the Elementary GLOBE storybook The Mystery of the Missing Hummingbirds?) Similar to the changes in hummingbird migration, plants and tiger shark patterns are also changing -- so how is a community supposed to know when it is safe for kids to swim in the water?



One thing we agreed on: it takes education and youth leadership to help us connect community data in meaningful ways! It reminded me of the ways GLOBE students use the data they collect and share to conduct meaningful research investigations.

Read more about my experience here -- Blog 1: Collaborative Science and Blog 2: Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa.

Additional resources for teaching and learning:

  • GLOBE’s Biosphere Investigation 
  • GLOBE’s “A First Look at Phenology”
  • Did you know that the GLOBE community has published lots of articles about phenology and citizen science for more than 20 years? Here is the GLOBE publications page (link), and here are a few to check out:
    • Rice, S., Ross, S., (2015) "Oklahoma Deciduous Trees Differ in Chilling Enhancements of Budburst." Oklahoma Native Plant Record. (link)
    • O'Connor, K., Sharp, Y., (2015) "Developing Environmental Responsibility Through Place-based Education." BIONATURE 2015: The Sixth International Conference on Bioenvironment, Biodiversity and Renewable Energies (link)
    • Sparrow, E., Verbyla, D., White, A., Gordon, L. (2004). "Students Engaged in Climate Change Research Through Vegetation Phenology Studies. EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v.85(47). (link)


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