Phenology refers to the observation of seasonal
plant and animal life cycles. Aldo Leopold was a habitual phenologist.
Substantial portions of his classic book, A
Sand County Almanac, are devoted to such observations. Photography, of course,
can serve the phenologist well with its ability to record the visible world
with indiscriminate accuracy—as long as you know where to point the camera!
The Menomonee Valley Branch of the
Urban Ecology Center has undertaken a long-term project that it calls Photo
Phenology. The idea was inspired by the proximity of the Center to newly
rehabilitated parklands in the Menomonee Valley. Stormwater Park, 3 Bridges
Park, and the Hank Aaron State Trail are all a short walk from their back
|tracks in the mud|
Once a month, on the fourth Saturday, a
team equipped with UEC point-and-shoot cameras goes out on a regular route to
record the changes that are happening with the seasons. Last Saturday I
accompanied UEC staff members Lainet and Michael on their rounds. They
explained that certain vantage places are repeated each time to establish
consistent points of reference. They capture several views of the river and the
broad landscape. They also keep their eyes open for small details and ephemeral
changes, such as animal tracks, blossoming flowers, etc.
We chose Stormwater Park, an undulating
strip of swales and ponds under the 35th Street Viaduct that functions
as a passive runoff treatment area for the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center. Because
this was the first outing since the snow melted away (finally!), we observed a
greater than usual accumulation of trash. Another UEC program called Volunteer
Park Rangers is devoted to clean up and maintenance of the parks.
Here are some of the things we saw on
our phenological excursion. Leopold, indefatigable phenologist as he was, knew its
limitations as well. He cautions us not to read too much into surface
appearances: “It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies
the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of
the salient facts about any one of them.”
|out in front|
post is one in a series that relates to my Menomonee Valley Artist in
Residency. For more information about the residency and links to
previous posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.
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