State funding phenology study
The Sportsmanís Report
Bookmark and Share
By Bill Hanson  April 25, 2014 12:00 am

At a recent lecture, Susan Mazer, PhD, spoke of a new project funded by the state Parks Department.

This in itself is remarkable, given current budget restraints. The effort is the California Phenology Project (CCP). The first thing explained was that phenology is different from phrenology, the study of bumps on your scull that is thought to reveal your inner nature and predict your future. 

Then a bump from a baseball might be a precursor to stay away from a flying baseball in the future.

Phenology is the study of annual cycles in plants and other organisms. For example, apple trees break buds in the early spring, followed by apple blossoms then the formation of the tiny proto apple from the core of the blossom and so on. This study is as old as agriculture, used by farmers, botanists and even by Native Americans whose observationed plants like the salmon berry. 

Once ripe, they would pack up and camp on the rivers to ply the waters for migratory salmon, an important food source.

The effort now is nationwide and is as much about individual plant phenology as it is about volunteer reliability. Those who collect data on selected wild plants will monitor the different phases of the plants annual cycle. 

Their data will be graded for accuracy, which will then be used in future phenological studies. One goal for future projects will be the effects of global warming on plant life cycles, this is where the important work begins.

Locally, Prahlada Papper, is the intern charged with development and data collection for Sonoma County. One of his projects is the study of plant life on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus. 

It’s not so much a study of campus plant phenology but a training exercise for volunteers. 

The work is tasked through the Pepperwood Preserve in Franz Valley East of Santa Rosa.

If you would like to become a part of this most valuable program go to their web site: and drill down to the volunteer pages. 

Your work will become an important part of the future of native plant monitoring and management of those resources. Phenology studies have alerted botanists to bug infestation, deadly fungus (sudden oak death) and invasion of non-native plants.


Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

Post Your Comments:
 *name appears on your post