Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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What can a lilac tell us about national climate change? Using the USA-NPN's Spring Indices to measure the impact of weather on biota

This lesson can be used as a supplement in a course designed to demonstrate climate change impacts on biotic species or a course designed to study the natural history of species in a given range.

Prior to presenting this lesson the instructor should familiarize themselves with the USA-NPN’s Visualization Tool ( and First Leaf and First Bloom maps (Spring Index Maps; Both tools have accompanying technical documentation on the website, including tutorial videos and info sheets.

The instructor should also identify a study range and at least two species of interest for student to explore, found on the Nature’s Notebook Plant and Animal list ( In this example the Tucson Basin was chosen for exploration of the Spring Anomaly and the Northern red oak and Blue Jay were chosen to demonstrate the species phenophase overlap in the Activity Curve. The Activity Curves are designed to display phenological information such as resource availability in an ecosystem. Included with this assignment is an editable student page where the instructor may edit the range and species to be explored.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-001-C

Type of Resource: 
Lesson plan
Audience Type: 
High School (9-12)
Post Secondary (Higher Ed)
Length of Time: 
60 minutes