Indiana Backyard Observers

Select a Site

Select a site to make phenology observations.

A site is the conveniently located area where you look for selected plant species you choose to observe.

A site should be:

accessible and convenient.

representative of the area.

no larger than 15 acres (Smaller is fine).

A site should have:

uniform site conditions.

Proper permission.

Watch the video

Read the transcript

Once again, I'm Amelia Auberry and I'm a volunteer for Indiana Phenology.

In this video we will talk about how to select a site for observation.

So, what is a site and how do you select it?

A site is a location where the plants you are observing reside.

You can set up your site in any kind of setting weather in a rural area, urban, or any place in between.

A common sight location is your own backyard.

The major caveat when considering a site, is that you must have permission to observe on that site before you begin observing.

It is the right thing to do legally because there are liability and privacy issues if you do not ask. Additionally, asking shows respect for the landowner.

What is the program we use for observations? You will be using the program Nature's Notebook, which is set up to take repeated observations of the same plants, every time, for more than one season, for more than one year.

That way you can make comparisons of individual plants from year to year, which helps us better understand seasonal change.

The data you collect are sent to a wider, national database of plant observations.

Many organizations other than Indiana Phenology use Nature’s Notebook; and they are not the same organization.

The first consideration to make when picking your site is whether it is a convenient location for you to visit.

The easier it is to get to your site, the more likely it is that you will visit it.

Pick somewhere you already visit regularly, for example your backyard, a park, or where you work or go to school.

The second consideration for choosing a site is whether there are uniform habitat conditions within it.

You should try to avoid extremes.

You want to pick a site that is representative, or similar to the surrounding area.

For example, you do not want to choose an extremely wet site within an area that is mostly dry.

The third consideration for the site is whether it is the right size.

The biggest size that a site can be is a square with a length the size of two and a half football fields.

In other words, a square that is 228.6 meters long on each side.

To give you an idea of what that size looks like, here is a picture of three squares surrounding areas that equal 228.6 meters in length.

In the upper left-hand corner is a picture of a football field, for further reference.

But, if you are in doubt about the size, go small. There is no minimum size for a site; you may observe only a single plant if that is most manageable to you (emphasis on manageable).

There are three common questions about choosing sites that I can answer here.

Firstly, can I observe in more than one site?

Yes, you can!

But start with one, and start small so that you are not overwhelmed.

Additionally, you will have to set up each site individually, and cannot join together multiple sites at different locations.

Secondly, how many plants should I include in my site?

You can have as few as one plant in your site, but the recommended number for beginner observers is 4 - 6.

Thirdly, do I need to get a permit to access land to make an observation site? In some cases, yes.

Always check with the landowners, or look up information about public lands such as parks, to see if you are allowed to observe there, and if so when you are allowed to observe.