Discussion on US National Phenology Network Volunteer App


noon, Oct. 19, 2022


The US National Phenology Network has several thousand volunteers who gather data on phenophase. Phenophase is the timing of phenotypic expression with environmental events. Examples include leaves on trees in the spring, flowers blooming at different times of year by different species, birds migrating north and south with the seasons, plant phases following the monsoon in Arizona. This is important to predict the impact of climate change on different species including agriculture.

For the first time last year, more PNP volunteers used the online app than used the paper forms to submit data. This is an opportunity to enhance the user experience for the volunteers, making their work more enjoyable but also an opportunity to increase the volume and quality of the data.

Theresa Crimmins, Director, USA National Phenology Network and Research Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, thought that the iSchool might have people who could do research into new interface techniques to increase volunteer engagement through the app. For example, if Mary normally collects phenophase information on agave plants, then if any other volunteer in the area reports a phenophase change, we might push a notification to Mary asking if she'd like to check her agave plants to report changes. Or a more advanced system might use modeling techniques to use past history and recent weather patterns to predict phenological events. For example, our models might indicate based on weather that agave will bloom a week early this yes. We might push notification to all agave volunteers to be on the lookout. We might facilitate communication among all the agave enthusiasts. 

We can view this as a study population and do research on volunteer engagement and associated phenomena. We are just in the brainstorming phase. Please bring your ideas to lunch and meet staff from the USA-NPN. Everyone is welcome, undergraduate, graduate, faculty, staff and friends of the iSchool.


Dr. Bryan Heidorn will be hosting a meeting at noon Oct 19, Harvill Room 460. Bring your lunch if you like.


Bryan Heidorn