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Citizen scientists from 200 years ago and today help shed light on climate change trends


Nearly 200 years ago, a system of academies across New York set out to collect data on the state’s climates and seasons. Equipped with thermometers, rain gauges and instructions for data collection, the schools’ principals and teachers — and even a few students — recorded temperature measurements and observations: when the robins were first seen, when the red maples bloomed, when the strawberries ripened, when the wheat harvest began. (Photo credit: Kerissa Fucillo Battle) At the time, the data helped farmers better understand the geographical and annual variation in the growing season and figure out when best to plant their crops. Two centuries later, a Portland State alum is using that same data to shed light on the effects of a changing climate and urbanization on the nature of our seasons.

Kerissa Fuccillo Battle Ph.D. ’18 led a multi-disciplinary team to compare the historical dataset with observations from a modern network that similarly collected data across New York State from 2009 to 2017. The group’s findings evaluating changes in plant phenology — earlier leaf out and flowering — between time periods were published this spring in the Journal of Ecology .

“This study really resets the clock for biological response to […]

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