We Are A Collective Of
Storytellers, Artists, Ecologists, Educators

A small team of people make Backyard Phenology happen by integrating artistic practices, scientific research, place-based education, and other practices. The team collaborates with participants and the public to catalyze awareness of and action on climate change. Everyone in the project brings unique perspectives to phenology, while sharing the idea that phenology is a universal way to learn about the world and each other.

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Disambiguation: What phenology is not.

Sometimes people confuse the term "phenology" with unrelated words, especially "phonology" and "phrenology".

Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies sounds of human speech and organizes them into systems.

Phrenology is a disreputable pseudoscience that purported to characterize people's personalities based on the shape of their heads.

Phenology is the study of cyclical and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate, and plant and animal life.

Contact Backyard Phenology

Project co-founders
Chris Beaumler

Christine Baeumler is an environmental artist, as well as a professor and current chair in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota who explores the potential of art as a catalyst to increase awareness about environmental issues and to facilitate stewardship. Her community-based environmental practice is collaborative and involves the ecological interventions on urban sites with attention to increasing biodiversity, providing habitat, improving water quality and the aesthetic dimension.

Rebecca Montgomery

Rebecca A. Montgomery is a professor in the Department of Forest Resources in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and a fellow at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Rebecca's research focuses on understanding the role of plant functional traits in plant ecology and response to global change. She is interested in understanding how plants interact with and respond to their environments and the implications of these responses for forest dynamics, forest management, biodiversity and ecosystem function. This broad scope will allow for better understanding of the effects of global climate change on terrestrial ecosystems, ecology of forest understories, mechanisms of species interactions in forest ecosystems, and the ecology of managed forest ecosystems.

Beth Mercer-Taylor

Beth Mercer-Taylor is one of the sustainability education program co-directors at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She administers the Sustainability Studies Minor, an interdisciplinary, free-standing program with nearly 200 undergraduates enrolled. Her work involves recruiting and advising students, creating community-building activities, coordinating the efforts of the curriculum committee that oversees the minor’s academic program, and leading new initiatives related to sustainability on campus.

Mae Davenport Bio Picture

Mae Davenport is a professor in the Department of Forest Resources in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and the director of the Center for Changing Landscapes at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests are focused on the human dimensions of natural resource management, specifically sustainable land use planning; community-based ecosystem management; recreation planning; and human beliefs, attitudes and behaviors associated with landscape change. Her research program has investigated community capacity for watershed conservation, stakeholder attitudes toward wetlands restoration, residents’ perceptions of the re-colonization of cougars in the Midwest, and recreational boating practices associated with aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. Mae is particularly interested in applying and expanding existing theories of community capacity in community health and development disciplines to the ecosystem management context. Much of this work is interdisciplinary and integrates biophysical and social sciences to better understand and address natural resource management problems.

Kate Flick

Dr. Kate Flick (Anglo-American) grew up by the Tomorrow River in the central sands of Wisconsin. Before treaties in the 1800s, Menominee regularly inhabited the land (and water) there. The Tomorrow River is part of the spring-dappled waters of the Waupaca River, which eventually flow into Lake Michigan. She has served with the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) in a variety of roles and is grateful to continue working with CMN now as STEM faculty. She enjoys learning from and with a very special forest and its communities while facilitating learning experiences at tribal colleges. Her formal academic background has centered on place-based education through multidisciplinary lens in community and environmental sociology (BS, University of Wisconsin), forestry ecology and management (MS, University of Freiburg, Germany), art-infused natural resource science (PhD, University of Minnesota) and most recently geoscience (CMN, WI). She has explored and practiced STEAM education and community-engaged research in many places and institutions—including participatory action research in forestry projects in the Amazon, statewide K12 teacher professional development in environmental education with the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, climate change narratives in metro Twin Cities, research with traditional ecological knowledge working alongside western scientific knowledge, formal and informal youth education, among others. She looks forward to working together to move towards a more diverse and land-centered education that focuses on place-based narratives of climate change.

Current collaborators
Femme with white skin wearing a wide-brimmed hat

Abbie Anderson is an artist, educator, and advocate of participatory science. She received her MSc in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota in 2018. Her graduate studies helped her understand urban ecology and the importance of public participation in science. Her passion for phenology began in childhood and led her to projects such as Open Phenology (2011-2014), Pesky Plant Trackers (2020-2022) and Season Watch (launched 2023). She enjoys learning with her family, botanizing with friends, listening to birds, biking, and making objects.

Man with white skin and a wide-brimmed hat, gesturing with his hands

Christian Bell is a community-based theatre practitioner, educator, and scholar. He received his PhD in theatre historiography from the University of Minnesota in 2022.

White man with blue eyes, green leafy plants in the background

Dr. Stephan Carlson is a professor in the Department of Forest Resources, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), in the area of environmental education and interpretation at the University of Minnesota. He has offered statewide workshops in phenology and youth development outreach. 

Three-quarter portrait of a Black woman wearing cloth over her hair and a circular earring.

Chotsani Elaine Dean is an artist and an Assistant Professor of Ceramics  in the Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts (CLA), at the University of Minnesota. She is the coauthor of Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists (2022), Schiffer Publishing.

Woman with white skin smiling, wearing a reddish stocking cap and a patterned scarf

Jessie Merriam is a research assistant for Backyard Phenology, assisting with the podcast and projects connecting art and ecology. She graduated in 2023 from the University of Minnesota's Heritage Studies and Public History program and is interested in the relationships of people to their personal and cultural natural histories, and how land use history affects current ecosystems and can inform future actions and policies. Jessie has worked in various food-and-plant-people systems in Athens, Georgia (restaurants and farming), Anchorage, Alaska (wild harvest surveys, salmon tagging), and now Minnesota (landscaping, farming, and "Plant People" research). Jessie also studies and teaches printmaking at Fireweed Woodshop. She loves tagging along with her prairie and art nerd friends on adventures, canoe mornings, movie nights, and talking in the kitchen.

Asian woman wearing a navy jacket with a field and pink sky in the background

Maria Park is a PhD student in the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior program at the University of Minnesota. She functions at the intersections of ecology, art, and community engagement.

Partners and past collaborators


Past collaborators

  • Alex Adkinson
  • Alyssa Baguss
  • Randy Duerr
  • Bree Duever
  • Byju Govindan
  • Sam Graf
  • Emily Green
  • Rachel Jendrzejewksi
  • Nick Jordan
  • Jessica Lackey
  • Karsten Lennartson
  • Rachel Nichols
  • Lauren Schultz
  • Jenn Shepard
  • Jonnelle Walker
Smart Set
Kevin Brown of Smart Set helped produce printed calendars for Backyard Phenology. Smart Set is the only certified B-Corp printer in Minnesota.
ThreeSeven collaborated on the design and restoration of a vintage Boler camper, transforming it into the Climate Chaser.
This is Folly

Holly Robbins and John Moes of This Is Folly contributed design services and helped develop Backyard Phenology's graphic identity.

Funding and affiliations
Maroon "M" representing the University of Minnesota

This project was made possible through the support of a University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Research Grant.

College of Liberal Arts
Department of Art
College of Liberal Arts
Forestry Department
NorthernLights, Minnesota

Very special thanks to Northern Lights and Steve Dietz (former artistic director and president) for presenting and supporting Backyard Phenology's debut in 2016 at Northern Spark.

Project background

Backyard Phenology participants act both as scientists and artists. They contribute scientific observations through participatory research (the Minnesota Phenology Network, a regional partner in the USA-National Phenology Network). They also add their experiences to a collective public art project that uses phenology to connect with the natural world. Keep an eye out for Backyard Phenology events around Minnesota and across the region!

The Climate Chaser mobile lab is a place to share stories about how climate change impacts our sense of place. It is an interactive platform that integrates well with community events. Facilitators in the camper serve as hosts, engaging visitors through dialogue, the collection scientific data, and documentation of stories through photos, videos, and audio recordings.

From June 2017 to September 2018, Backyard Phenology partnered with several metro area organizations, engaging community groups in a design process to develop site-specific “phenology walks” that include observation, artistic expression, and reflection.

Academic writing:

  • Flick, Kate. (2021). Building Place-Based Stories About Climate Change Locally: Ecocultural Calendars. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/225117.


Blog posts by Sam Graf: