Since 1876, volunteers have been central to AMC’s mission of understanding, enjoying, and protecting the landscape and trails of the Northeast. So, when research and education staff created Mountain Watch in 2003, AMC was confident volunteers would step up.
In the 13 years since its founding, Mountain Watch has benefited from the passion and commitment of more than 11,500 volunteer citizen scientists who have made more than 280,000 observations on plants and air quality. AMC Outdoors talked with the program’s co-creator and staff scientist Georgia Murray and longtime volunteer Jim Greaney to learn more.
Georgia, what made AMC want to launch such a program, and Jim, what made you want to participate?
Greaney: I’ve served as a hike leader and naturalist at Cold River Camp for five years and contributed as a volunteer naturalist presenting programs to guests at AMC huts for more than 35 years. I became a citizen scientist as a way to use my professional education and work experience, and to take the next step in my volunteer service.
Murray: AMC’s education and conservation staff created the program so staff could further their understanding of science and volunteers could contribute to scientific research through hands-on activities. Mountain Watch volunteers were already recreating in and around our research areas, so we developed an easy way for them to collect data while they hiked.
What makes Mountain Watch interesting to you?
Greaney: I get to use my biology background to work closely with AMC scientists and staff to contribute data directly to research in the White Mountain National Forest.
Murray: Working with volunteers who share a common interest of learning more about the environment through observing nature.
Has the program been a success?
Murray: We have been able to keep the program going for more than a decade, learning as we go. Mountain Watch is at the nexus of all that AMC works to promote: getting people outside, exploring and learning about our environment, and building science-based information to direct AMC’s conservation work.
What kind of research did you conduct this year?
Greaney: I helped monitor plant life stages, in conjunction with climate monitoring, in April and May at locations around Pinkham and Crawford notches. During these six weeks, I collected thousands of observations on data sheets in the field and then entered these observations from a research office computer directly into the National Phenology Network database. My data will be combined with all observations collected at these and other AMC sites since 2014. The data will be analyzed and then presented at the Northeast Regional Phenology Network meetings held at AMC’s Highland Center on November 17 and 18, 2016.
What do you like best about Mountain Watch?
Greaney: This program sharpened my observational skills. I really enjoyed close observation of natural phenomena throughout the whole season. My research experiences have informed my volunteer naturalist role at AMC’s huts this past summer and fall. I also enjoyed working with all the great scientists, staff, and volunteers from AMC.
Murray: I have been so impressed by the volunteers’ commitment and attention to details. Our volunteers take this work seriously, and it shows.