Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Volunteers are being sought to track “nature’s calendar’’ in the Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and changes in tree canopy foliage.

Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. 

A three-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend a training at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations across the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall, though bimonthly monitoring is less critical in June and July at most plots. The Adopt-a-Plot project helps to better understand how changing weather patterns affect the diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

Anyone interested in this volunteer opportunity should contact Israel Golden at israel_golden@partner.nps.gov to register for the training. For more information about phenology research efforts across the country, visit the National Phenology Network at www.usanpn.org.