Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Leaf Peepers and the Study of Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Phenology, Global Change, Climate Change, Sustainability, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Stephanie Spera, assistant professor of physical geography, University of Richmond directs a citizen science project with the aim of understanding the reasons why "over the past 20 years, September and October have had the greatest increases in visitors to Acadia National Park." Are visitors coming for "foliage or weather?  Are the leaves turning later in the year? Is the foliage season shorter or longer, and why?" 

Her first step is studying the season. To do this, Dr. Spera and her colleagues are asking for tourist snapshots of Acadia National Park that show the colors of fall. While they'll accept...cellphone selfies, they're especially interested in predigital images--the sort of vacation pictures that might be albums...shoe boxes in an elderly relative's attic." They want "to extend he boundaries of their data set outwards."

You may learn more about this project featured in The State of Science, "a series of science stories from public radio stations across the United States." Links about the project are included. Additionally, Dr.Spera's homepage includes a link to the Acadia National Park Fall Foliage Project. Second Century Stewardship: Science for America's National Parks has a page about the project which includes a short video in which Spera describes the project. Under "Read More" on the same page you can learn still more from links to reading and media coverage.

I know we are a long way from Acadia National Park but I highlight the research for several reasons: the value of citizen science, as an example of the nature of science, the use of GIS in data collecting, and scientific practice--seeking another line of evidence supported by data.

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