Many of our biology classes engage in monitoring the resident and migratory populations of plants and animals that live on campus, gathering phenological data used both in class and within nationwide databases.
Phenology refers to important stages in the life cycle of an organism, such as when a plant flowers or when birds migrate.
Engaging in phenological observations increases observational skills and awareness of our surroundings. At a large scale, data regarding phenological changes over time act as one measure of environmental responses to climate change.
Foothill Student Phenology and Monitoring Projects
Foothill students monitor up to 24 plant species on campus, sharing the data with both the USA National Phenology Network (https://www.usanpn.org/) and with Project Budburst (http://budburst.org/). Many of the plants we monitor were selected based on their utility as indicator species in these national databases: citizen scientists throughout the country submit their observations, enabling tracking of large scale geographic patterns. The species we monitor include familiar species such as Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) and Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).
Students also currently monitor selected animal species, sharing the data with the USANPN:
- 9 bird species: Anna’s hummingbird, acorn woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, cliff swallow, western bluebird, American crow, black phoebe, killdeer, western scrub jay
- Western fence lizard
- California ground squirrel
When we think of animals, the invertebrate creatures living in the soil do not typically come to mind, yet they are incredibly abundant and form an important soil community. For several years students in Biology 1C have sampled Foothill College soil invertebrate communities. This classroom activity introduces the concepts of sampling design, the calculation of biodiversity statistics, and helps document these underground natural communities on our campus over time. We currently sample in Winter quarters. Locations vary, typicaly including comparisons between oak woodland, grassland, coastal scrub, and non-native eucalyptus sites. All of these vegetation types are found on our campus.
Bay Area Phenology Projects
We share the phenological data Foothill College students gather with the USA National Phenology Network and Project Budburst. In some cases, the efforts also overlap with other Bay Area Phenology Projects.