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Choosing Species to Monitor: Quick Start Guide Part 3

Guide to Building a New York Phenology Project Monitoring Site


If possible, choose species that:



  • Have historical datasets in your region for comparisons across time.


  • Are familiar or special to you or your target audience, or offer educational opportunities (i.e. pollinators and their associated plant species)


  • Will provide interesting phenophases at seasonally appropriate times for your target audience (i.e. autumn through spring for school groups, summer for summer camps, year-round for community groups)




More to consider:


  • Choose a small number of species so that volunteers can successfully learn to identify all the phenophases for each. Because each species has different challenges to accurate phenophase identification, it’s best to limit the number so that you can help participants know what each phenophase looks like for each species. Don’t fall prey to the naturalist urge to track every species  – your data collection will become too arduous and you will dread going out!


  • For plants, tag three or more individuals per species, if possible, to capture individual variation. Plants should be close to the edge of the trail and have branches you can touch or see closely.


  • For animals, think about how you will train participants to correctly identify the species. Insects in particular can be difficult to ID.


  • Start five to ten total species and twenty or fewer individual plants in all. Don’t overwhelm your participants or yourself in the initial pilot year. You can always add more species or individual in future years.


  • Set up your organization’s account and list of species on Nature’s Notebook before data collection begins.



Tags and signs

Ideally, your trail will have the following components:


  • A large, attractive permanent sign at the beginning of your trail that explains the project and provides contact information.


  • Smaller arboretum style signs with the name of each species for every tagged individual to help participants locate the plants along the trail. Make sure that these signs can be firmly (semi-permanently) established in the ground, especially in situations where they are likely to be vandalized or removed. Be prepared to buy more signs when they do get removed (or run over by a bike, or a tree falls on them, etc.)


  • Small tags or labels directly on each plant depicting its individual ID code. (These codes should be the ones that appear on your data sheets and on your list of species on the Nature’s Notebook website). Make sure you affix the tag to a place that is obvious to participants and will not get trimmed back by trail maintenance staff.


  • Flags to make the plants more visible – in the heavy growth stage other plants may obscure your plants. If you are flagging in the early spring, consider how much growth will take place around your tagged plants during the growing season. Flags need to be obvious to data collectors, but not be too obnoxious to other trail users.


NOTE: Check on the visibility of all flags and signage as the growing season progresses. If needed, move flags and signs or trim back foliage to improve visibility.


Other Quick Start Guides ... 

Questions to Ask: Quick Start Guide Part 1

Before You Launch: Quick Start Guide Part 2

Training and Leadership: Quick Start Guide Part 4


Complete Quick Start Guide (to view or download)

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