Journal archives for April 2019

April 08, 2019

Phenology ... what is it & what's happening?

Hi, all!

Hope you are all enjoying the crazy Northeasern US weather, getting out to enjoy nature, and making some observations for the WXXI Nature Challenge!
I'm Betsy Ukeritis, an environmental educator for NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation. I just wanted to take a minute to talk about phenology.

What is Phenology

It is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. In simpler terms: it's why bird species come back almost to the same day year after year in the same location or why, on my old college campus, witch hazel would flower within a 5-day window for a 75-year record. It is also how we can start to see how the climate is changing: snow is melting sooner (okay, maybe not here in Lake Effect areas) and plants are greening up sooner, even insects & birds are showing up sooner. That witch hazel on my old college campus? The records in the last 20 years since I graduated show it is flowering nearly 10 days earlier than it used to: the college is in Maine.

What Phenology Can We See Right Now?

Center for Northern Woodlands Education (aka Northern Woodlands on Facebook) has a whole hashtag on facebook about the Northern Forest (yes, NY is included) on phenology. Today they posted about how painted turtles are the earliest turtles to come out of hibernation (you can occasionally see them swimming under the ice! And just like we at the DEC remind the public about taking down bird feeders in March & April to prevent bear conflicts, Northern Woodlands reminded people this weekend that racoons are up and trying to wreck bird feeders at night.

Center for Northern Woodlands Education's website
Northern Woodlands' Facebook

Good luck with your observations!
You can reach me on iNaturalist at "EvilTwinNYC" or at my DEC email

Posted on April 08, 2019 16:04 by eviltwinnyc eviltwinnyc | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 02, 2019

Welcome to WXXI Nature Challenge - April 2019

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for joining WXXI and our partners as we explore our region and look for nature during the month of April! We're loving all the observations that we're seeing so far. Please tell your friends too! Participation is easy, free, and open to anyone in the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region. Help us see all the different living things in our community and get excited about being citizen scientists!

Learn more about WXXI's Citizen Science work:

We'll be popping in with some news and updates throughout the month of April to give you some tips and challenges for what what living items to look for. So stick with us!

Posted on April 02, 2019 17:16 by caradale1014 caradale1014 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2019

Observation Tips - what counts? what doesn't?

Holy cow - we are doing a great job of collecting data observations so far! Give yourself a high-five!

This morning I wanted to share some tips for how to make our observations even better. iNaturalist provides some helpful information about "observations' and "organisms". Below are a few tips and links to a few others:

What Are Observations?
An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location. This includes encounters with signs of organisms like tracks, nests, or things that just died. When you make an observation, you'll record:
-Who you are - by having an iNat account
-What you saw
-Where you saw it
-When you saw it - the date of your encounter, not the date you post it to iNat
-Evidence of what you saw - photo or sound
More info can be found here:

Making Useful Observations

  1. Take identifiable photos: Photos of distant trees or speck-like birds will not garner much attention because they're usually hard to identify, so make sure you show your students how to fill the frame with your subject, perhaps using the phone or camera's zoom. Because smartphone cameras are designed primarily for photographing humans and landscapes (and, apparently, food), taking an in-focus photo of an insect or a plant is actually quite difficult. Using your hand to hold a flower or plant still can be helpful, but make sure the plant is not dangerous.
  2. Take multiple photos: Many organisms, particularly plants and insects, cannot be identified to species from a single photo. Show students how to take multiple photos from different angles (top, bottom, side, front, back), and/or photos showing different features of the organism. For plants it's especially important to take pictures of flowers or fruit. Photos of flowers or fruit AND leaves are the most helpful. Be sure to add multiple photos of the same organism to the same observation.
  3. Focus on wild organisms: Most students seem to focus on the cultivated plants and animals they can find near their classroom. That's totally fine, but in general, the iNat community is more interested in wild organisms, and respond more to pictures of weeds and bugs than to cultivated roses and hamsters in cages.

Wild/Cultivated/Captive Organisms
iNaturalist is primarily about observing wild organisms and creatures. If you do upload captive or planted things like house plants, garden plants, zoo animals, or pets, please mark them as "captive/cultivated" on the add observation screen. That helps make sure the range maps only represent wild populations.

How to Become a Better Identifier
At its core, iNaturalist is about making observations and identifications. Everyone can get outside and point a camera can make observations. But identifying observations requires some expertise. Learning to identify organisms is a lifelong journey of slowly becoming better acquainted with more and more critters. So don't feel bad if you can't identify as many observations as well as you'd like, the important thing is to remember that everyone can and should get started learning how to identify organisms!
Learn more here:

Happy exploring! And let us know if you have any specific questions about making observations.

WXXI Education

Posted on April 15, 2019 16:11 by caradale1014 caradale1014 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2019

NatureFest on 27th & CITY Nature Challenge 26-29 April

Wow! All y'all have been doing a fantastic job of making observations. Keep it up! We also wanted to let you know about (or remind you of) two events coming up this weekend: NatureFest at Seneca Park and Greater Rochester CITY Nature Challenge!

Upcoming Events

NatureFest on Sat, 27 April, 10 AM to 2 PM

Join us for nature-themed fun at Seneca Park (go passed the zoo and down into the park by Wegman's Lodge!) and visit with partners like WXXI Kids, NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation, Monroe County, Rec on the Move, Seneca Park Zoo, Monroe County Libraries, REI (outdoor store), Rochester Fire, Rochester Police, and more.
Meet WXXI Kid's Nature Cat! Get a picture with Smokey Bear... and wish him a happy early 75th birthday!
Visit WXXI's Nature Fest for more info about the event, or follow the Nature Fest event on Facebook.

CITY Nature Challenge runs April 26-29

Seneca Park Zoo is running Greater Rochester Area's attempt in the CITY Nature Challenge, an international challenge to make observations during one weekend. This year, 2019, over 150 cities around the world are participating! But remember to make sure they are observations found in nature, not at zoos or of pets. You can learn more about Seneca Park Zoo's CITY Nature Challenge over at Greater Rochester CITY Nature Challenge.

Posted on April 23, 2019 13:27 by eviltwinnyc eviltwinnyc | 0 comments | Leave a comment