You are here

Phenology studies implemented in higher education courses can provide a framework for teaching critical thinking skills, offer insight into science careers, supplement core science and ecology skills, and serve as a window to community-based research.

Image credit:
Brian Powell

Resources for Higher Education

Where do I begin?

Technology in education allows for collaboration in new and exciting ways, including remote data collection and analysis, collaborative webspaces and blogging. Developing a monitoring project that meets multiple course objectives will not only create a sustainable program but provide opportunities for cross-course and community collaboration. 

Some faculty choose to do a one-time introduction to phenology and using Nature's Notebook.  Others choose to create a semester-long project where students make observations, develop hypotheses about what they are seeing on campus, record their observations in Nature's Notebook, and then analyze data at the end of the semester. Doing a project such as this, over multiple years, helps to create a base of observations that faculty and students can use for comparison.  We recommend creating a Group for your campus, to which you can add multiple sites, and invite individuals to make and enter observations on their own.  You can track who is monitoring, for course credit, by becoming an administrator of the group.  Consider partnering with other local non-profits and government agencies to provide multiple monitoring experiences. 

Any semester-long implementation of a Nature's Notebook monitoring program can help address the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education call for transformation.  It teaches science and applications, modeling, critical thinking, and promotes learner-centered investigations and inquiry.  

It would be wonderful to hear about universities encouraging monitoring in multiple classes, over multiple years, so students entering as freshmen can observe throughout their career at the school and then, as seniors, truly see what their data show and how things have or have not changed. 

More Curriculum Ideas

Biological science courses use phenology monitoring in lab settings to track seasonal changes on campus throughout the semester and over multiple years.  Dendrology courses use phenology to teach tree identification.  Ecology courses use phenology data to teach statistical analysis and applied concepts such as climate change.  Pre-service teacher courses use citizen science and Nature’s Notebook to provide future teachers with ideas about how to incorporate environmental education into their classrooms.

The table below includes links to some examples of how phenological monitoring is being used in higher education. On the link for Sample Nature's Notebook Higher Education Semester-long Program, you can see some recent examples of syllabi created and executed by faculty teaching at the college level. 

Don't forget to ask students to explore the data using our online tools. The Visualization Tool allows students to summarize their data and compare it to across geographic locations. The Phenology Observation Portal allows students to download the data via an excel file and work with it to analyze trends through time.


View Nature's Notebook curriculum materials developed for higher education students in the table below.

Title Description
Climate Drivers of Phenology (Project EDDIE) - adaptation focused on Part A and B

This adaptation explores the questions: Based on observations of bumblebee phenology, are bumblebees in the western United States behaving differently from 2011 to 2019? What climate variables may help explain bumblebee activity?

Climate Drivers of Phenology (Project EDDIE)

By Emily Mohl

St. Olaf College

This activity explores the question: which species will be most affected by temperature changes, and how will changes in the phenology of one species affect its interaction with others as the climate warms.

Through this module, students should develop data analysis skills that help them to evaluate the relationship between a variety of temperature-related environmental cues and a taxa's phenology. In the context of climate change, they will be able to make an argument using data about whether changing temperatures are likely to impact the phenology of a particular species of interest. They will compare the results using different subsets of a large dataset and make decisions about how to create subsets of data for the analyses they plan to complete. Students will able to compare the strength of the association between temperature/climate-related variables and phenology for different species. To achieve these goals, students will develop abilities to generate, read, and evaluate scatterplots and regressions between sets of variables. They will also develop capabilities to select and download data for their species of choice from the National Phenology Network (NPN) and organize the data for analysis.

The many uses of your Nature's Notebook data

This set of slides was used in our webinar, The many uses of your Nature's Notebook data, on February 23, 2021. The video recording is available at 

The presentation covers a diversity of ways that Nature's Notebook are being used by scientists, natural resource managers, educators, the media. These slides may be used to communicate the value of the data submitted to Nature's Notebook

Visualization Tool Step By Step Instructions

Use this guide to help walk you through the steps for using the visualization tool. 

Visualization Tool Step By Step Instructions

Use this guide to help walk you through the steps for using the visualization tool.