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Plants Can´t Be Fooled
Meet a Scientist: Lenka Hájková is a climatologist, agro-meteorologist and phenologist who works for the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute in Prague and collaborates with the GLOBE Program. She regularly contributes to the Phenology Campaign Discussion Forum.
What attracts you the most to phenology?
You can get outside, you watch the vegetation how it changes over time. Every year is a bit different. At the same time, the community who make the observations are usually “laid-back” people so you feel comfortable with them personally. And then, it offers an opportunity to develop international cooperation. Phenology is a good tool for understanding the effects of climate change on biosphere. The plants simply respond to the reality and they show it. They are not instruments and they can´t be fooled either.
How did you get to know the GLOBE Program?
The initial incentive came from Dana Votápková of the TEREZA Educational Centre, who works for The GLOBE Program Europe and Eurasia Regional Office. She connected me to Vsetín Rokytnice Elementary School in Czech Republic some time ago. I was requested to give a lecture on phenology to the students. What was initially planned as one lecture turned out to be four lectures for different age groups! I must say I was surprised by high interest levels of even younger students towards phenology! It was certainly the involvement of the school in the GLOBE Program that created the necessary awareness as well as delivered the right information about phenology and its usefulness to the kids.
Did this give you the idea to cooperate with the GLOBE Program even more?
Phenology in the Czech Republic is not exactly a bed of roses and considering that we, phenologists, are looking for a way to broaden the network of observations and to link them with meteorology or climatology. At the same time we were wondering about how to create general awareness and connect to students at elementary and high schools. And there we realized that the GLOBE Program was already running in various schools.
FASCINATING WORLD OF PHENOLOGY
Can you tell us about any important discovery in phenology that has been made recently? Is it possible to trace a general trend from the phenological observations?
All European and American phenologists agree that spring pheno-phases occur sooner and growing season is longer. Also there is a shift in autumn so that for some plants there is an opportunity for double harvest. On the down side, there is a danger of spring frosts. For example wine plantlets awaken during early spring and would not last if there is a sudden mass of cold air coming during this time as just one freezing night is bad enough to destroy the entire harvest.
Do phenologists cooperate with farmers?
I graduated in agriculture so this is my field. In the past, we had a network of field stations and according to the onset of a certain phenological phase we predicted the occurrence of pests or the yield (for example for corn). Also our results and predictions become extremely important to farmers and foresters in connection with shifting vegetation zones due to climatic variations. They can easily determine what area is suitable for what crop.
How could schools in the GLOBE Program help you in your work?
We would certainly use their help to monitor the beginning of vegetation growth. Among other things, we issue warnings against the danger of fire, which very much depends on the presence of vegetation in the particular area. We also collect the information on flowering which is of a great help to people who suffer from allergy. As far as I know, the GLOBE Europe Phenology Campaign includes species that are significant allergens (eg. beech, oak and hazel). If we have the data about the beginning of blossoming available, we can create a map with information on the presence of a specific pollen in the air. We also cooperate with Global Change Research Institute CAS - we collect phenological data from citizen scientists in Czech Republic through the website www.fenofaze.cz.
Can we say that the data collected by GLOBE students are valuable for you, scientists, as well?