ANOTHER TOPIC OF RESEARCH IS PHENOLOGY. Phenology is the study of the timing of life events in organisms. They study this in plants and in animals. An event might be something
like flowering. When do plants flower and what controls those type events. For a human it might be when do people normally have children. Understanding phenology, what controls
the timing of different things, is a scientific challenge. People are studying plants all across the country. They're focused on many different things. And that is part of the
problem. Every species seems to do things their own way. Here they are studying dominant organisms in the desert but there are people studying many species all across the country.
This group is studying the diverse strategy of plants like the Ocotillo which produces leaves after rain events, in a sort of opportunistic way and flowers immediately in the
growing season. Other species like Mesquite produce leaves once in a season, then hangs on to them until the end of the year, then drops them. It has 1 big flowering event, not
many. Or Cacti, which have an entirely different strategy. Their phenology is all governed around when they might produce fruit and drop their seeds. All of these things are
really difficult to understand because they're so driven by environment, they're driven a bit by species as well as biology, thus it's not so easy to tackle these problems. This
is something many are focused on. But it is difficult because it is hard collecting enough data to really determine what is controlling the way these plants work to help move the
science forward. Importantly, our audience can get involved. The National Phenology Network has just been initiated and it's focused on a couple of things. One it's focused on
collecting data form citizens who are observing the natural world, or their gardens or the species that are around them. So, people might walk out every day into their yards,
notice what's flowering and what's not, then contribute that data to a national database. There is even an experimental component. We know that if we use the same genotype when we
plant that plant all over the country, that's very powerful at helping understanding the biology. As an example, if people across the country were planting a Lilac of the same
species, then tracking its progress, that info could be helpful. The same genotype of Lilac planted all across the country in a big matrix, will help understand how environment
interacts with those genotypes to give different flowering times, different times of the initiation of the growing season, etc. To get involved click on the link below. Take a
look and start collecting data. Building this data set is really a way to advance the science.
By Jenny Biczak, Harmony Brands
Photographs courtesy of Harmony Brands
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