Brandeis University Phenology Research

a tree marker describes the chapels field wetland on campus

The Campus Phenology Project is a place-based project that provides opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct citizen-science research through partnership with the USA National Phenology Network.

Phenology is the study of seasonal biological events. We examine plant and animal life cycles, including leaf color change and leaf-drop of plants, emergence of insects and migration of birds. Observing and noting these seasonal events is an ordinary part of life here in the temperate Northeast.

Changes in phenological events are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier — and fall events are happening later — than they did in the past.

However, not all species are changing at the same rate or direction, leading to mismatches between species and the food sources they depend on. How plants and animals respond can help us predict whether their populations will grow or shrink – making studying phenology an important indicator of climate change impacts.

Participating in phenology research on campus make climate change relatable and real to students, while simultaneously building transferable skills such as analysis, synthesis and critical thinking as they place this work in the context of local research.

Our project maintains approximately 30 marked campus trees that have been monitored every year since 2015. All of the data collected on campus trees are accessible through the USANPN’s Nature’s Notebook online visualization tool.

The map of monitored campus trees is updated each fall. Each tree is embedded with a tag containing a QR code, which can be scanned to provide additional information.

We look forward to sharing more about this project as it continues and seeing your contributions.