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Back on Valentine's Day 2011, Mark Sumner introduced a new group he called Backyard Science. As we did last year, we're going to let Mark's original diary explain the scope of the group:

The Importance of Backyard Science
Mark Sumner. February 14, 2011

The most sophisticated computer models in the world have a hard time predicting the exact consequences of climate change. With every passing winter, voices from the media shout that climate change isn't real. How can the world be getting warmer? It snowed! In January!

But there is a way to directly document the changes to our world, and it depends on you. Well, on you... and you... and you and you and you.

Throughout history, people have noted the dates of natural events -- the blooming of cherry trees, the first daffodil to poke out from under the slushy ground, the return of familiar birds, animals, and insects. For more than a century now, people have been collecting these dates regularly. It's called Phenology, and it's one way that regular people everywhere can record the impact of changes to our world without even owning a lab coat.

For this group, I intend to offer regular observations of my own neighborhood, and a place to report the changes that you're seeing. Don't restrict yourself to first frosts and changing leafs. Report that odd beetle you saw (there are enough entomologists around here that there's a very good chance someone can help you identify it), mention the fox in your front yard, the box turtle that struggled across your drive, and even the giant millipede that invaded your shower. Taken individually, these observations may have little value (though they're often interesting starts for a conversation). Taken together we can build up an image of the world that has real value, both now and for the future.

Open your eyes, start taking notes, and just consider this a convenient place to dump anything in nature that gets your attention.

The next day Mark introduced what has become the heart of the Backyard Science group, The Daily Bucket:
The Daily Bucket -- a generic container for pitching in your daily observations. Is there something new sprouting on the hill? A funny lizard spotted on the garden wall? An unsual bird at the feeder? Drop it in the bucket. Give a date and a place in the same message if it all possible, to make the post as valuable as it can be for those trying to dig out the data...

So here we are two years later. We've got 37 members and 282 followers. We've published over 1000 diaries (1021 to be exact), exploring all manner of subjects that have caught our collective interests: long term tracking of summer butterfly populations; detailed comparisons of similar and difficult to identify birds; explorations of west coast marine coast environments and of restoration sites in Florida. We've compared the dates when "our" Trillium first bloom as well as the dates when the last leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees in neighborhoods all across the country and beyond. We've also discussed alcohol preferences in fruit flies, mollusk sex, and "rolling your own" (it's not what you think!).

Today we're beginning the third year of Backyard Science. We've got two full years of observations now. Let's take this day to look back at what we were seeing around Valentine's Day in 2011 and 2012 and compare it to what we're seeing today.  If you haven't been involved before, please just jump in with what you've been seeing recently. Your note will be an important resource when we celebrate the third anniversary of Backyard Science.

By the way, there was one feature Mark imagined that none of us have followed up on:

Flat Biology -- a record of things seen, uh... in a less than natural state after unfortunate encounters with moving vehicles. Does that sound gross? Creepy? Well, there's nothing pleasant about a deer that's had a high speed meeting with a Volvo (just ask the Volvo driver), but noting these unfortunate deaths is sometimes the best way to measure the presence and population levels of the critters that are sharing our neighborhoods.
Maybe next year??

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BACKYARD SCIENCE!

And again, thank you, Mark.

###

Everyone is welcome to join into the discussion. All you need is an interest in your natural neighborhood. Please don't be shy - we all started by asking questions and we'll definitely help answer yours. And remember:

...People who don't want to read about interesting beetles encountered on a hike or how many bats flew over your house at sunset may be somewhat less enthralled, but then those people are beyond redemption in any case. ~ Mark Sumner - February 15, 2011.
As always, please note your location - as close as you are comfortable revealing.

I'll be back after about 1pm PST.

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