Appalachian Mountain Club Seeks Volunteer ‘Citizen Scientists’

By AlpineZone News |
May 26 2006 - 01:52 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts ??” The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is seeking volunteers to participate in its Mountain Watch citizen science program by observing and recording flowering of alpine plants during Alpine Flower Watch Week (AFWW), June 10-18.

The AMC designed the Mountain Watch program to document such seasonal events as the blooming of alpine flowers and the onset of fall leaf coloration in the higher elevations.

This new “citizen science” program engages hikers and other outdoors enthusiasts in tracking seasonal trends and contributing that information to a long-term data base that will help provide information on the health of mountain environments for years to come. A key component of Mountain Watch is the observation of seasonal plant behavior.

Creation of a long-term ecological database should further understanding of how climate change and other factors affect mountain habitats, said AMC Alpine Ecologist Doug Weihrauch. Mountain Watch and AFWW are designed to raise awareness of fragile ecosystems and encourage mountain stewardship, he said.

The AMC is collecting flowering time (known to scientists as phenology) data on six alpine plant species. Phenology observations are valuable in detecting the impact and significance of climate change. Alpine plants are likely to be particularly sensitive indicators of temperature or precipitation changes because they are closely linked to climatic conditions. In addition, because of their rarity and isolation in our region, alpine areas may be especially susceptible to the effects of climate change, according to Weihrauch.

While the Mountain Watch plant monitoring is an ongoing effort, the AMC is making these efforts a particular focus of AFWW, to increase participation and awareness of these issues and to create a detailed snapshot of alpine areas throughout the region.

During their hikes, volunteers record when and where they observe any of the six target species, and whether those plants are in flower. Volunteers then return completed data sheets via mail, or by dropping them off at any AMC destination. Organizations and individual volunteers will be collecting data from alpine areas throughout the Northeast, including the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, Maine’s Katahdin Range, and the Adirondacks of New York.

Volunteers can participate on their own by obtaining a monitoring kit and planning a day hike to a local alpine zone. (Suggested locations throughout the Northeast are at Volunteers can also sign-up for a training workshop at one of the AMC’s alpine huts. Anyone unable to participate during the AFWW June 10-18 can participate at any time during the growing season, late-May through August).

Monitoring kits can be downloaded from or picked up at an AMC destination.

Volunteer training workshops will take place at AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds, Madison Spring, Greenleaf, and Mizpah Spring huts at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, June 10, 11, 17, and 18. Participants can sign up for one of the workshops by e-mailing [email][/email]. Volunteers should indicate their first, second, and third choices for training date and location. Access to the huts is via hiking trails.

More information is available at, or by contacting AMC’s alpine ecologist at

The AMC Mountain Watch web pages provide weekly alpine flower reports, naturalist notes from backcountry destinations and extensive background on mountain ecology, climate change, and air quality issues.

To facilitate participation in AFWW and alpine flower observation and monitoring, the AMC also offers its “Alpine Flowers in the Presidentials Self-Guided Tour” package from June 1-30. The package includes midweek accommodations at Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch and at Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the shoulder of Mt. Washington, along with a copy of the newly revised “AMC Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits,” which can be used for plant identification. A guided visit to the alpine zone in the Presidential Range, along with accommodations at the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch, will be featured during “Alpine & Wildlflowers Weekend,” June 16-18. The AMC is also offering guided hikes into the Alpine Garden on Mt. Washington in its “Curious Naturalists: Alpine Flowers” workshop, slated for June 29. More information is available at

Founded in 1876, the Appalachian Mountain Club is the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the United States. With 90,000 members in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and wise use of the mountains, rivers and trails of the Appalachian region.

The AMC supports natural resource conservation while encouraging responsible recreation, based on the philosophy that successful, long-term conservation depends upon first-hand enjoyment of the natural environment.