New tool visualizes phenological changes occurring at Acadia National Park (and beyond)

Monday, July 13, 2015

NE CSC PI Curt Griffin is involved in a project that is releasing a website called “Whenology”.  The website is the only one of its kind to combine the multiple datasets needed to understand the effects of climate change on fall migration of birds. Users accessing the site will see recent trends in temperature, “brown-down” (i.e. when plant productivity starts declining as summer transitions to winter), and the timing of fall migration. In it is first iteration, the website is focused on the timing of raptor (hawks, falcons) migration at Acadia National Park in Maine but it will soon expand to other locations and bird species.

The website serves as both a data integration and visualization tool. The site is a one-stop-shop for users to find and combine bird observation data from across different agencies and organizations including eBird, Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), iNaturalist, and Nature’s Notebook (USA National Phenology Network). As a visualization tool, users can go to the website now and see how the average temperature, the timing of peak brown-down, and the timing of raptor migration at Acadia National Park have changed over the past 20 years.  

The website’s goal is to bring the concept of phenology – the timing of life history events - to the fore of climate change thinking and research. We believe climate change will affect biodiversity by creating mismatches in the phenology among different species or groups of species. With the website we have a tool that will tell us whether phenological mismatches are taking place or are starting to develop. The website is aimed at a wide spectrum of users: for the public that wants to understand how biodiversity is changing in their backyard to researchers looking to test the underlying causes of phenological mismatch to the citizen scientists curious as to how their data contributes to conservation. To this end, the website presents some user-friendly visualizations but also allows users to delve deeper into the data.

Whenology is the result of a unique collaboration between government, non-government, academic, and private sectors. Specifically, individuals from Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Institute, the Earthwatch Institute, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and EMC Corporation have come together to build a tool promoting citizen science data as a way to address some of our most pressing conservation and sustainability issues. The website is further supported by the agencies that oversee citizen science data collection programs including the National Park Service, eBird/Cornell Institute for Ornithology, Hawk Migration Association of North America, iNaturalist, and the USA National Phenology Network/USGS.

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