The days are getting longer and the temperatures warmer. Now that Memorial Day has passed, it is really starting to feel like summer down in the valley. But a gain in elevation is much like a passage back in time. Ok, so it’s not bringing you back to the days of cavemen- only a few weeks time. Yet the change in scenery is particularly evident in the mountains forest and alpine flowers. Cooler temperatures and greater winter snow depth delay the growing season for plants at higher elevations. The good news is that this delay gives nature enthusiasts a second chance to view spring flowers when those in the valley have already passed their peak.
Phenology is the study of climate’s affect on the reoccurring annual phenomena of plants and animals. Take our forest flowers, for example. One could study the bloom time of a variety of flower species in different mountain locations. If this data were compiled over many years and compared to the fluctuations weather patterns for the area, one would have a gold mine of data on climate change! In fact, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Research Department has headed this exact research project for the past several years under part of the AMC Mountain Watch Program. This monster project would however not be possible without the help of “citizen scientists”. Citizen scientists are people- anyone off for a hike in the Whites- willing to take some time to smell the flowers and (while they are up close and personal) ask a few questions about their age as well. So it doesn’t take a Ph D, a white lab coat, or bifocals to get involved in some important science research! Just pick up a free flower monitoring kit at any AMC Lodge or Hut and follow the instructions in the packet and call yourself “professor”.For more information, check out the AMC Mountain Watch web page