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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

Monitoring phenology in US national parks through citizen science: Some preliminary lessons and prospects for protected areas


Phenology—the timing of seasonal events such as flower production, insect emergence, bird migrations, and snowmelt—has profound significance for people and ecosystems. Many US national parks monitor phenology through citizen science projects that use tools developed by the USA National Phenology Network. We summarize the scope of such efforts conducted over the past decade and identify some preliminary lessons and recommendations for others who wish to develop new projects. Successes include an enormous wealth of data relevant to resource management and park operations, and attainment of goals for resource management, education, and public engagement. Challenges include long-term sustainability, limited capacity to analyze data, and the ongoing demands of matching volunteer interest and capacity with the geography and natural history of studied species. Practical recommendations pertain to project planning, design, and volunteer engagement, and highlight the need for working and communicating across organizational and disciplinary boundaries. With careful planning and awareness of opportunities and pitfalls, citizen science-based phenology monitoring can benefit any protected area.

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