Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Live, Work, or Know Someone in Ward Two? Track Seasonal Changes with Us!

The weather is out of whack these days: many fall events are delayed while signs of spring are popping up earlier than expected – and not all species are changing at the same rate. Monitoring, and then analyzing, these changes can help us predict the impacts of a changing climate. We’re partnering with American University to dive deeper into local changes of the urban forest and we need you! 

If you are a volunteer interested in hosting a time-lapse camera, capturing images at a designated site or just have a general interest in documenting seasonal change, we want you! We’re especially interested in Ward Two, so send this along to any and all who may be interested!

Studying the timing of these biological processes is known as phenology, so you already know what it is, you just don’t know you know. Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves change color in the fall.

From the tourism industry driving tidal basin Cherry trees to the nationally treasured Oaks rooted in district parks, a phenological examination can inform biological response at a ground scale. 

The phenological progress is one that affects individuals, populations to entire species; its interconnection is dismissible. At Casey Trees, we are interested in understanding the interconnection of seasonality in a changing climate. These biological changes, occurrences and patterns in the natural world are heightened in an urban environment. Through citizen science, volunteer events and educational workshops, we’re empowering a workforce to deepen our connection and understanding of the landscape we inhabit. If interested, please fill out this form for the involvement of research during Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. 

Phenology Volunteer Interest Form

We need your help! In partnership with American University, we are looking for individuals interested in hosting a time lapse camera either this spring or this fall. The images captured will allow us to track seasonal changes in the nation's capital and determine an urban environment's impact on these biological processes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long are cameras left on the property?

About 30 days. The time frame may vary based on when buds, flowers and leaves are popping. We will potentially begin placing cameras in March 2020.

How many times will someone visit the property?

At least twice: one to correctly mount the camera and one to retrieve it. If there is concern about the camera malfunctioning, a Field Technician would make additional visits.

Where can cameras be mounted?

Camera should be mounted in locations of clear view of a single tree or trees. This could be a secure location on your private property or work either outdoors or indoors. Once we receive interest from our volunteers, we will request an image of the view and location of proposed mount.


Am I liable for damaged or stolen cameras?

No, you are not.  Before deployment we will discuss mounting locations and view to ensure the device is secure on the property. If you have other concerns, please let us know ahead of time so we can determine if the location is appropriate to place a camera.  


I don't have any trees in my yard or garden, wouldn't it be a waste of time to put a camera here?

We are interested in exploring trees in a variety of location, along streets, in corner parks or in parks. If you have trees visible from anywhere on your property we’d like to explore the possibility. Does your property have a 2nd floor window or a rooftop,  and are trees visible from them? These might make greater, colorful mounting location. 

Where can I see more examples of photos from this project?


Project Budburst and Picture Posts at the Rock Creek Nature center are great example of similar projects with citizen scientists and seasonal change. 

If you have any additional questions about the project or your eligibility, feel free to email

Observing phenological events have indicated the natural calendar’s progress since agricultural times. From sayings like “If oak’s before ash, you’re in for a splash. If ash before oak, you’re in for a soak” to “April Flowers, Bring May Flowers”, humans have sought to understand nature calendar. These changes in weather signal to different organisms to enter new stages of their development. From birds nesting to their dependence on insects’ availability to feed their young, this synchronicity influences the abundance and distribution of organisms, ecosystem services, food chains, water cycles and more.  

Robert Marsham, in 1736 was the first to keep systematic records and indications of spring on his estate in Norfolk. From flowering to buds emerging and bursting to bugs in flight, generations to Marsham families maintained records of these “phenophases” for an unprecedented period of time, eventually endings when Mary Marsham passed in 1958. The term was introduced in 1853 by a Belgian Botanist Charles Morren who derived it from the Greek word phainos meaning to appear, to bring to light or view. It became the science for all seasons, species and locations. From the leafing, flowering and fruit production time extents of plants to the molting, mating and migration of animals that rely on them. 

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