Phenology Community Science Project

The science of phenology is about observing and recording when things happen in nature. Join us as we practice this valuable scientific observational method and be part of a community science phenology project! The data observer volunteers collect and share will help our conservation managers make informed decisions about how our landscapes are best managed for habitat, restoration, and climate resilience.


Phenology is the study of changes in the natural environment through the seasons and years. Gathering and using this data is important to our understanding of how the natural world responds to change over time. For example, phenology allows us to track how plant and animal populations are responding to the impacts of climate change. This data can be used to make forecasts that guide conservation management decisions to protect vulnerable species and landscapes of concern.

Learn more about phenology in this video from the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN):

The cool thing about the USA-NPN/Lancaster Conservancy Phenology Project is that anyone can participate in gathering important data! Community-based observers can contribute a lot of information that, when combined with all the observations made by many more people observing the same species of plants or animals in a region, provide high quality data for researchers to observe trends and measure impacts of change on populations.

We’ve established three phenology paths that use existing accessible trails on three different nature preserves. Project volunteers may visit as often as they want or just a few times a season. Our project paths are the universal access trails at Welsh Mountain, Mill Creek Falls, and Clark nature preserves.

In 2024, the Lancaster Conservancy will join the United States Geological Survey/USA National Phenology Network to help track seasonal changes on our preserves while sharing our data with conservation scientists around the country, and you can be part of this project!

How to Get Involved

Learn more about phenology with an Introduction to Phenology walk, or get ready to join the project with a Phenology Project Protocols Training, offered in fall and spring.

Intro to Phenology Hikes

Powerhouse Native Plants for Wildlife

Thursday, September 21 from 6-8 p.m.

Nature Journaling & Navigating Citizen Science Apps

Saturday, September 30 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Lepidoptera ID & Host Plants

Thursday, October 26 from 6-8 p.m.

Invasive Species ID + Mitigation

Saturday, November 18 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Native Plants for Winter Interest and Wildlife

Thursday, December 7 from 6-8:30 p.m.


Native Plant Interpretive Hike

Saturday, October 21 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Native Garden Design for Stormwater Management

Saturday, November 4 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Site Assessment 101 – Sit-Spots to Soil Analysis

Thursday, November 16 from 6-8 p.m.

Green Mulch – Using Native Plants as Groundcovers

Thursday, November 30 from 6-9 p.m.


How can I learn more?

Join us for a phenology hike to learn about the science of phenology and how you can participate in this community science project! Check out these upcoming events for anyone interested in learning more:

Community Science: Phenology at Mill Creek Falls
Saturday, March 23 at 9 a.m.

Community Science: Phenology Project Protocols Training
Sunday, May 5 at 9 a.m.

How can I get involved?

If you’d like to be a part of the important community-based science initiative with the USGS and USA-NPN, sign up for a required Phenology Project Protocols Training offered at Climbers Run in the fall and spring. You’ll be asked to bring a laptop or tablet so that you can sign up for a Nature’s Notebook account, where you can join the Lancaster Conservancy’s project site. You will add your observations through your account and even link to the Nature’s Notebook mobile app to use with your mobile device.

What will I do?

Observer volunteers are encouraged to adopt one of three phenology paths at Clark, Mill Creek Falls, or Welsh Mountain nature preserves that is most convenient and accessible to you, and visit it frequently. We have established lists of plants and animals for each site. Record and upload your observations using the Nature’s Notebook app or at home using your laptop or tablet in your Nature’s Notebook dashboard linked to the Lancaster Conservancy project.

How often should I make observations?

Observer volunteers are expected to visit their phenology path weekly through spring, summer, and fall. However, if you can only visit monthly, or happen to miss a week or a month, that’s OK. It’s up to you when and for how long you want to observe, as long as the data you collect is uploaded the same day or same week as your walk.

Can I get more guidance after joining?

Lancaster Conservancy educators will offer occasional walks throughout the seasons at all three sites, and observer volunteers are encouraged to come along! We will refresh our skills for observing phenophases in our target plants and animals so that you will feel confident on your own making these important observations.

If you have additional questions or would like to get involved, please reach out to Environmental Educator Peggy Eppig at