Author: Lina Swislocki, Invasive Plant Assistant Coordinator, September 2021
Go take a hike. Or a walk. Or a drive. Whatever gets you outside and looking at plants! This was the directive Lina Swislocki, the VT Forests Parks & Recreation’s Assistant Invasive Plants Coordinator playfully gave to volunteer observers. During the second full week of each month from April to September, these observers take note of all things invasive plants – getting up close and personal to collect data on invasive plant phenology.
Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. Tracking when invasive plants enter certain phenophases (or life stages), like when leaves emerge, flowers bud and open, or seed ripen, is useful for many reasons, and for this project specifically because:
- It allows land managers and stewards to better time their management practices. Different treatments are more effective at different stages of plants’ life cycles, and managers can’t effectively manage plants without knowing what stage the plants are in
- Gathering this data over time allows scientists to track changes in trends. This indicates how invasive plants are responding to climate change
Aside from the scientific and stewardship values, this project affords observers the excuse to get outside and learn about plants. In fact, volunteers find the work is rewarding. One writes, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to open my eyes to this part of the natural communities I see on my walks! It’s been an effective way of learning...”
Since 2017, volunteers have been collecting this data in Vermont, and each year the Statewide Invasive Plant Phenology Monitoring Project (or SIPPMoP) has grown. After data is submitted, it is tabulated and shared in the monthly FPR Insect and Disease reports, and used to inform workplans for managing invasive plants. Find the August report here, and historic reports can be accessed through this link.
The data is organized by county, and the project could use more representation in Bennington, Essex, Franklin, Rutland, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties. In 2022, observations will take place April 10-17; May 8-15; June 12-19; July 10-17; August 14-21; and September 11-18. If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please contact anr.fprInvasivePlants@vermont.gov