The Summer 2019 Phenology Team. From left to right: Kayla Cleveland, Sharissa Grignon, and Luke Perez. Not pictured: Brandon Boyd

By Kayla Cleveland

Upon starting the Phenology Internship, it was really hard to tell a group of people what phenology is and the important role it plays within the Menominee Nation.  The computer research that I had done to mentally prepare myself for Earth Day at the College of Menominee Nation was not enough and the amount of questions I had was very overwhelming at times. 

It wasn’t until the first time that I went out into the forest to experience phenology that I finally understood. 

Phenology is all around us. It doesn’t run on Indian Time– phenology is the time that Mother Nature runs on. Its indicators help to clue us in on the changes that are happening all around us. These changes may start as a bud sprouting from the ground, or a robin laying its eggs. As these changes are tracked over time, one will begin to see the changes, or the effects that our actions are having on the environment and the climate. 

Being out in the woods is an exhilarating feeling, minus the swarms of mosquitoes that we may encounter. We are taught to be aware of our surroundings, because you never know what will be lurking around that shrub. Another thing that we are taught is to step lightly, meaning watch where you step. All the plants that we follow are critical in our research, one wrong step and the plant is done for. 

One of the most important aspects in our research is to determine whether or not our indicator plants are being affected negatively or positively. Because we are halfway through our third year of research, it is still too early to determine how any of these indicator plants are being affected. By the end of the summer we should have further results. 

Throughout the summer, we have had many opportunities to share what we are learning with the younger generations by giving tours on the CMN learning path. This gives each of us an opportunity to help reflect on the knowledge that we have learned. At the same time, it also gives us the opportunity to inform the younger generations of the opportunities they have sitting right in their backyards. 

On a personal level, this internship has sparked my interest in plants. I was always extremely skeptical about plants because I could never keep them alive. So I took it upon myself to plant some flowers. You could not imagine my excitement when I seen little green stems sprouting from the soil. At this point in my plants life, it is at the fruiting stage, and this is by far the longest I have ever kept a plant alive. At some point I plan on transplanting it outside, but I will keep you posted. 

Since learning about phenology I tend to take a little more time walking outside. I take more time to, “stop and smell the roses” as some would say (not literally, I don’t live near any rose bushes.) I take more time enjoying the plants, because they are a life all on their own. This internship has so far, been a great experience! I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for SDI phenology future.