Citizen scientists measure vegetation at the Loriaz study site © S. Gatti

Citizen Science: How you can Help Study Climate Change on your next Outdoor Adventure

In the French Alps, even the slightest fluctuation in the growing patterns of flora and fauna can provide vital information for scientists studying climate change. CREA Mont-Blanc's Phénoclim program addresses the need for this kind of data by empowering citizens to record meaningful observations about their surroundings. 

From professional naturalists to amateurs to children, the heart of Phénoclim is its network of dedicated citizen observers. Anyone living near the mountains of France can contribute an observation, such as noting that the leaves of an ash tree are beginning to change color and then continue to observe this tree during the next spring to notice when the leaves are developing. This observer can upload data to Phénoclim, where it will join more than 40,000 other data points charting the behavior of the flora and fauna of the region.

From that database, researchers can gather and analyze data in order to better understand the effects of climate change on France's mountainous ecosystems. For example, observations of when plants start to flower can help researchers determine what influence changing temperatures are having on the developmental schedule of those plants. For the past 18 years, Phénoclim’s database has been an invaluable tool for scientists researching how a changing climate is reshaping the ecosystems of the French mountains. Paradis Sport is proud to be directly contributing to CREA Mont-Blanc’s programs– especially Phénoclim– through 1% for the Planet.

While Phénoclim only operates in France and alpine areas of Andorra, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland, similar databases exist across the globe, offering opportunities for everyone to support scientists in the fight against climate change. The Appalachian Mountain Club collaborates with four such programs. Globe at Night and the iNaturalist programs welcome observations from anywhere on Earth– Globe at Night compiles images and observations of the night sky to better understand light pollution levels while the iNaturalist program, like Phénoclim, utilizes community-compiled data to analyze the growing pattern of plants and animals in changing environmental conditions. The iNaturalist tool features a variety of databases for specific regional projects, ranging from the flora of the Appalachian Trail to the molluscs of New Zealand.

In the United States, the Dragonfly Mercury Project collects samples of dragonfly larvae from bodies of water on protected lands, such as national parks, and tests them for mercury. Scientists can then determine the mercury levels in bodies of water and assess whether the wildlife in those areas is threatened by the chemical. Lastly, the Community Snow Observations program accepts snow-depth measurements from all across New England, which researchers use to understand how the region’s snow cover is shifting over time. 

These citizen science programs not only allow everyone to become directly engaged in climate change research, but they also fulfill a substantial need for comprehensive environmental data. By contributing to programs like these, either through donations or data, you can meaningfully support scientists in the fight against climate change.

Above: Citizen scientists take photos make notes about dragonfly larvae sampled for mercury analysis at a "BioBlitz" in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Photo submitted by iNaturalist member BJ Stacey

Above: Photo of shark eye snail in Essex County, MA, USA submitted by iNaturalist member BJ Stacey

Above: CREA founder, Anne Delestrade in her favorite fieldwork site, the Jardin de Talèfe © CREA Mont-Blanc

Above: CREA Mont-Blanc researchers take down vegetation measurements at the Jardin de Talèfre © CREA Mont-Blanc