Extra Credit #1: Phenology Site Visit

The morning of December 3rd at 9am, I revisited my phenology site for the last time. My initial observation was that little to nothing had changed since my previous visit. While there was no change in the absence of foliage and leave coverage, I did notice a change in my sense of this place. After recording some observations in my journal, my eye caught the previous page of observations from my last visit. I had recorded a downcast, bleak ambiance about the area. After my recent visit I noticed a change in my perception of the environment. While I did not observe one active species (squirrel, bird, etc.), I did feel a positive change in the mood of the landscape. The morning sun shone through the leafless trees, casting a warm glow on the snow covered ground, creating the appearance of a sparkling walkway. The air was crisp and lacked the harsh wind that usually leaves your ears and nose numb. I felt a sense of enjoyment while walking through the trees, a feeling I’m not always guaranteed at my phenology location. 

After skimming the W,W,W document, I would classify the natural community of my phenology location as a general “Oak-Pine-Northern Hardwood Forest Formation”. There are several different characteristics, as illustrated in Thompson & Sorrenson’s guide, that correspond to the characteristics of my particular phenology spot. For example, the guide lists Oaks, Sugar Maple, White ash, Pines, and Beech trees as possible species that one would encounter in an Oak-Pine forest formation. I have identified several of these trees at my phenology location, including Sugar Maples and White Pines. After digging deaper into the reading, it seems the specific natural community type that fits my spot (within the Oak-Pine Forest category) would be a Dry Oak Forest. 

Species in this habitat include the trees previously mentioned, as well as the grey squirrel, a family which I observed in a previous blog. The habitat is described as having shrubbery that occupies the forest floor, accompanied by dry soils, a description which perfectly fits my observations.

Journal observations…

Sense of Place: Brookline, MA

The red outline marks the borders of Brookline and the dropped pin represents my house!

Brookline Massachusetts is a town just outside of the city of Boston that spans over almost 7 square miles of land. My family has lived in the center of Brookline for almost 200 years; an area of town dubbed “the Village” by townies and town workers. My younger sister and I attended the same highschool as my parents and their parents, the only highschool that lies within the borders of town. I would call the economic, social, and cultural values/aspects of Brookline diverse. The town has several different housing projects or assisted living properties spread out around the district. In recent years, there has been an increase in minority populations. There are eight K-8 elementary schools in the district, all with rapidly increasing numbers of students and renovation demands from parents and town meeting members. While I attended elementary school and high school, the Metco program was implemented, transporting students from low-income living situations to Brookline schools to encourage diversity in education. Since the time I entered elementary school to the time I left, the population of students in my particular elementary school alone, doubled from 450 to 900 students.

The population increase is evident in more than one way. With more and more families streaming into Brookline, property values have increased and the towering buildings associated with the downtown medical district continue to encroach passed our borders. One of the more recent, ‘progressive’ changes to the village area has been the addition of NETA (New England Treatment Access), a marijuana dispensary two blocks from my house. After transitioning from providing medical-use marijuana to a legal dispensary, the company (and the town) has received quite a lot of backlash for its establishment and legalization. The building occupies a corner at the intersection of one of the busiest streets in Brookline. The legalization of the dispensary has made the traffic in town unbearable. Even the sidewalks are flooded with younger people that crowd the streets, bringing unwanted attention to NETA. 

The installation of the dispensary, along with the encroachment of medical office building and parking garages near Brookline Village has consequently distorted and fragmented my sense of this place. Seeing as my town is so close to the center of Boston, green space is already limited. As more buildings go up, trees come down and the lack of a natural landscape is evident. One feeling that I noticed had changed my perception of Brookline in recent months was the feeling of alienation. Before I had really begun to notice the sudden industrialization/contemporization of my surroundings, I felt secure in the small bubble that was my town. Recently, the flood of new families and younger weed-walkers has made me question where I fit in, and how I impact the ever-changing environment that is Brookline Village. 

Growing up, I was always aware of the lack of nature in my hometown. My parents are huge fans of the outdoors and always made sure we immersed ourselves in nature over vacations or long weekends. Unlike some of my early-education peers and friends that have grown up in the city and haven’t been offered opportunities to travel and observe more natural environments, I feel fortunate to have been raised with an instilled appreciation and admiration for nature. While I will always cherish the area where I grew up, as I have aged, I have discovered more and more flaws with the town and its values. Preserving the natural landscape is not a priority of the town, and I’m not sure it ever was. I hope that in years to come, Brookline is able to incorporate more greenery into its setting and genuinely value the natural scenery and terrain of the land. 

This is an image of a building that has historical significance and was/is still used to identify a particular part of town called Coolidge Corner. This image dates back to 1898.
This is a photo taken in the past few years of Coolidge Corner. As you look to the left of the iconic S.S. Pierce Clock Building, you can see the tree’s from the first photo have been replaced by an endless strip of stores and details such as the street light to the pavement have undergone significant change.

Abrupt Changes

Phenological Changes in Place: Holland’s Naturally Curious

There were many correlations between the field notes made in Hollands Naturally Curious, and my phenology spot. Some of the species/organisms I observed during my last visit to my phenology location seem to have gone into hibernation, or perhaps are active, but no longer inhabit my area of study. For example, many of the species Holland refers to, including some of the families of the organisms I observed, have already begun hibernation; moths, birds, and some mammals (such as squirrels) that I observed are among these organisms. Though I did visit my spot somewhat early in the day, I don’t believe I would have seen a change in wildlife appearances if I had visited at a later time. After reading “November” I was able to identify some Foliose lichen on some of the trees in the area. I was surprised to learn that lichen can survive throughout the winter, if frost or ice does not cover it of course. The chapter November was subtitled “quiescence” which I discovered means inactivity or dormancy. This subtitle is a perfect description of the current conditions of my phenology location. 

Since my last visit, my sense of this place has certainly changed. As I included in my Grinell-styled journal entry, my location no longer feels alive. The deciduous trees have shed their last leaves, shrubs and long weed stalks have died and released all seeds and shed all flowers. A thin layer of snow coats the ground, leaving no view of the soil or O horizon. There is no sign of wildlife whatsoever. Throughout the 15 minutes I visited the site, I never once observed a life form, so much as a squirrel or bird. The only non-cynical word I can think of to describe this changed landscape is ‘un-alive’. 

The characteristic change that concerned me the most was how visible human life has become from my phenology spot. The thick foliage used to conceal all buildings and man made structures from view. Now, the thin, naked trees expose the buildings and unnatural landscape, altering my perception of the once secret spot. Unfortunately, these changes can be observed on a national, even global scale. Even environments that are not experiencing the first hits of the winter season are encountering human activity and exploitation of the land. Landscapes all over the world are changing due to human intervention and in turn, the senses of these places are changing, for the worse. The more the natural landscape is subjected to human destruction/transformations, the weaker the connection between man and nature becomes. 

This cyclic behavior is what has created insignificant/unimportant places in our country and all over the world. The miles of strip malls and fast food chains that exist within our country exist and prevail because of our desire for comfort and our hunger for wealth. 

Autumn Observations and Changes

CHANGES:

The six organisms that I discovered are accurate representations of the weather and seasonal change in my spot currently. The species I observed seemed to be common (slash typical fall) species. With the change in climate and the transition from autumn to winter, I was not surprised to find these species as opposed to others. The leaves found both on and off the trees at my phenology location have all significantly changed in terms of color and position from the last time I visited the spot. The leaves have changed from a reddy yellow, to a darker brownish tone. More leaves have fallen from the trees onto the ground, adding to the already thick layer of organic material that coats the forest floor. The evergreen trees that are not deciduous have obviously not shed any leaves and will remain this way for the rest of the season. The soils (in comparison to the last time I visited the spot) are somewhat more moist, considering the heavy rainfall we have experienced recently. The topography of my site has remained the same. Because of more leaves falling from the trees, more organic matter has been added to the top soil. It was somewhat helpful to visually picture my location from a birds eye view. I drew my map from memory, including the species I found, the water bodies present, and some of the most common trees found at my site. The next time I visit my location, I imagine I will be able to picture it from a birds eye view and have a great understanding/appreciation for my phenology spot.

SPECIES:

  1. American Robin – scientific name: turdus migratorius, Family: turdidae, genus: turdus, class: aves
  2. Earth worm – annelida, class: oligochaeta, family: megadriles
  3. Bridge Orb weaver spider – scientific name: larinioides sclopetarius, family: araneidae, genus: larinioides, class: arachnida
  4. Ochre dagger moth – scientific name: acronicta morula, class: insecta, family: noctuidae, genus: acronicta
  5. Common Squirrel – family: sciuridae, class: mammalia, order: rodentia, phylum: chordata
  6. water strider – scientific name: gerridae, kingdom: animalia, class: insecta, suborder: heteroptera

Welcome: An Introduction

As a student, one of the most gratifying parts of my daily routine is walking to class or coming  home and seeing the sun setting on the lake, or a new dusting of snow on the peak of camels hump. Even on a slightly smaller scale, the trees, leaves, and the scent of fall remains charming. I stumbled upon my phenology assignment location by accident while exploring the wooded area behind the Hamilton dorms with friends. There is a man-made bridge/walkway that separates two small pools of water, that leads directly to the woods. Common buckthorn and small reeds surround the mini water bodies as a bright green algae coats the top of the water. As you make your way across this strip of land, the trees open, revealing an infinite walkway through a series of hardwood trees. Some of the tree species that survive in this specific niche include sugar maple, white oak, northern red oak, white pine, common & glossy buckthorn, and more. More recently, the color of the tree’s leaves have begun to change and fall. Red, yellow and green leaves litter the ground, accompanied by other various forms of organic material, including: pine cones, nuts, berries, etc. Especially when visited at the right time of day, this spot can be truly enchanting. Around golden hour, the sun seeps through the trees, emulating the color of the changing leaves, casting warm shadows on the forest floor. The character of this location – though charming – is also somewhat mysterious. The snaking path leads beyond the trees to an area I have yet to explore. Moreover, a little ways into the trees there is a deteriorating ropes course with one or two different climbing structures crumbling into the surrounding setting. Whenever I visit my spot, I always question when the structure was constructed and what purpose/who it served.