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Happy Anniversary, Backyard Science! While we've grown some since Mark Sumner introduced the group on Valentine's Day of 2011, and perhaps broadened our scope a bit, we've done our best to remain true to his original vision. Here's how he first described the goal of a group he called Backyard Science:

The Importance of Backyard Science
Mark Sumner. February 14, 2011

The most sophisticated computer models in the world have a hard time predicting the exact consequences of climate change. With every passing winter, voices from the media shout that climate change isn't real. How can the world be getting warmer? It snowed! In January!

But there is a way to directly document the changes to our world, and it depends on you. Well, on you... and you... and you and you and you.

Throughout history, people have noted the dates of natural events -- the blooming of cherry trees, the first daffodil to poke out from under the slushy ground, the return of familiar birds, animals, and insects. For more than a century now, people have been collecting these dates regularly. It's called Phenology, and it's one way that regular people everywhere can record the impact of changes to our world without even owning a lab coat.

For this group, I intend to offer regular observations of my own neighborhood, and a place to report the changes that you're seeing. Don't restrict yourself to first frosts and changing leafs. Report that odd beetle you saw (there are enough entomologists around here that there's a very good chance someone can help you identify it), mention the fox in your front yard, the box turtle that struggled across your drive, and even the giant millipede that invaded your shower. Taken individually, these observations may have little value (though they're often interesting starts for a conversation). Taken together we can build up an image of the world that has real value, both now and for the future.

Open your eyes, start taking notes, and just consider this a convenient place to dump anything in nature that gets your attention.

Mark published the first Daily Bucket the next day:  
The Daily Bucket -- a generic container for pitching in your daily observations. Is there something new sprouting on the hill? A funny lizard spotted on the garden wall? An unusual bird at the feeder? Drop it in the bucket. Give a date and a place in the same message if it all possible, to make the post as valuable as it can be for those trying to dig out the data...

We're three years old now, have 45 members and 387 followers. Over those three years we've published around 1380 diaries - Buckets, longer non-Bucket essays, diaries from other dKos members that we've felt fit in with the group's goals. As a far flung group, we continue to write about many different subjects. We've described local habitat restorations, puzzled over the way to differentiate between Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, compared notes on butterfly populations over the course of a year, and followed individual families of Pileated Woodpeckers and Barred Owls.

We've helped one another learn how to ask questions about what we're seeing in our natural neighborhoods, and how best to go about working out ways to answer those questions. We've tried our best as well to welcome everyone who stops by, whether to share their own observations, or to ask questions, or to add their insight to a question that's been raised.

So here we go into the fourth year of Backyard Science. We have three full years of observations now, so how about taking this day to look back at what we were seeing around Valentine's Day in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and compare those observations to what we're seeing today. If you haven't been involved before, please just jump in with what you've been seeing recently. Your note will be an important resource when we celebrate the fourth anniversary of Backyard Science.

As always: Thank you, Mark.

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Everyone is welcome to join into the discussion. All you need is an interest in your natural neighborhood. Please don't be shy - we all started by asking questions and we'll definitely help answer yours. And remember:

...People who don't want to read about interesting beetles encountered on a hike or how many bats flew over your house at sunset may be somewhat less enthralled, but then those people are beyond redemption in any case. ~ Mark Sumner - February 15, 2011.
As always, please note your location - as close as you are comfortable revealing.

I'll be in and out all day, but will need some time and coffee before I can put any words together to reply to comments.

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"Green Diary Rescue" is posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page. Green Diary Rescue has been good to Backyard Science, so take a minute to recommend, comment, and then link to your other off-Kos groups.

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