Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

Phenology Project: Studying the Seasons

Phenology can be considered Nature’s calendar. It is the study of seasonal and cyclical changes in plants and animals, like the flowering of plants, the emergence of insects, or the migration of birds. 

The timing of these events are influenced by environmental triggers (sunlight, temperature, and precipitation) making phenology a leading indicator of climate change.

Phenology records around Mohonk Lake date back to 1925, when Daniel and Keith Smiley started noting the date of spring bird arrivals. The Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research Center continue this tradition of natural history observation and have expanded the scope of the Smileys’ phenology records to monitor seasonal changes in plants and other fauna at Mohonk Preserve on local, regional, and national levels.

Mohonk Preserve Phenology Trail

Phenology Project Volunteer Observers document distinct stages in select trees, shrubs, spring ephemerals, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles throughout the year. 

Volunteer as a Phenology Observer

When and How to Observe

  • Once trained, volunteers observe on their own schedule
  • Observers look specific life cycle stages occurring for a given species at each visit.
  • “Negative data” is collected too (observation continues during the winter months, even when observed species are mostly dormant)

Our Species List

Plant profiles featuring photographs of key phenophases for many of our species, can be found on the New York Phenology Website.

American Witchhazel—Hamamelis virginiana

Common Milkweed—Asclepias syriaca

Common Winterberry—Ilex verticillata

Eastern Redcedar—Juniperus virginiana

Flowering Dogwood—Cornus florida

Highbush Blueberry—Vaccinium corymbosum

Jack-in-the-Pulpit—Arisaema triphyllum

New England Aster—Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Northern Red Oak—Quercus rubra

Northern Spicebush—Lindera benzoin

Red Maple—Acer rubrum

Sugar Maple—Acer saccharum

Trout Lily (Dogtooth violet)—Erythronium americanum

White Wood Aster—Eurybia divaricata

Monarch Butterfly—Danaus plexippus

Connections Regionally and Nationally

Mohonk Preserve’s Phenology Project is a participating member of the New York Phenology Project, a regional network of preserves, nature centers, and educational institutions working together to study climate and urbanization impacts on plants and pollinators.

On a more national note, The Phenology Project uses protocols developed by the USA National Phenology Network (USANPN) for their program, Nature’s Notebook. This data is immediately available to scientists, land managers, educators, and citizens everywhere to answer questions about how plants and animals are responding to environmental change.

For more information about the Foothills Phenology Project please contact: 

Natalie Feldsine
Research Collection Citizen Science Coordinator
(845) 255-0919 ext. 1271