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Local volunteers needed to help track seasonal changes of trees
Published March 3, 2023; 11:22 a.m.

great smoky mountains national park kuwohi
Kuwohi in Great Smoky Mounains National Park. Image by GSMNP

GATLINBURG, TN -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently recruiting local volunteers to 'Adopt-A-Plot' and track the seasonal change of trees, also called phenology. Members of the public who visit the Smokies often are encouraged to sign up to adopt a plot of trees near the roadside at Kanati Fork, Newfound Gap, Kuwohi (Dome Rd.), and other locations in the park.

Interested volunteers can attend a virtual orientation session on March 11, 2023, f 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, and later field site orientations will follow. Volunteers can sign up to visit their “adopted” study plot weekly, and less during summer months, to monitor trees from the first bud in spring to the last leaf drop in fall. Volunteers will monitor when trees develop buds, leaf out, produce flowers and fruit, and when leaves change color.

kanati fork great smoky mountains national park
Kanati Fork in Great Smoky Mounains National Park. Image by GSMNP

Data collected by volunteers will be used in collective park-wide research to interpret how changing climate and length of day affect when seasonal changes occur. Researchers are noticing seasonal and annual shifts of the timing of phenophases, the stages of the life cycles of trees in the park. Early or late phenophases can affect entire forest ecosystems because all organisms are interconnected in the food web and depend on trees to survive.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please email Angel Chaffin at to register for the virtual phenology orientation.

For more information about phenology research efforts across the country, visit the National Phenology Network.


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