Tonight was the first class in the California Naturalist course I’m taking, a course offered by a local nonprofit, Grassroots Ecology, and University of California Agriculture and Renewable Resources.

Tonight I learned that we’ll be participating in “Nature’s Notebook,” a citizen science project of the USA National Phenology Network, in cooperation with the US Geological survey. The Web site says, “Nature’s Notebook gathers information on plant and animal phenology across the U.S. to be used for decision-making on local, national and global scales to ensure the continued vitality of our environment.”

Put into plain English — With global climate change, spring arrives earlier and winter starts later. Ordinary people like you and me can help gather data on these changes by observing key species of animals and plants. They make it easy; you submit your observations using either a smartphone app or a Web site.

And I learned a new word, phenology, which the OED defines as “the study of times of recurring natural phenomena.”