Fight or Flight: How will New England’s animals respond to climate change?

New England’s changing climate is altering habitat location and quality, breeding and migration patterns, and the availability of food for a variety of local animal species. Heat stress may leave moose more vulnerable to ticks and parasites. Floods, droughts, and rising seas threaten breeding success of wetland birds. Invasive insects are eating through forest habitats. Migratory bird ranges are shifting in response to warmer weather and changing forest composition. Higher temperatures and decreased water quality pose health risks for cold-water fish like brook trout. As our climate continues to change, some species will adapt. Others may have nowhere to go.

Will climate change leave New Hampshire without it's official state bird? A 2009 analysis of citizen science data showed that the purple finch has undergone a significant range shift, with current wintering locations more than 433 miles farther north than they were just 40 years ago.

Changes We Can See

Maybe you’ve noticed different birds visiting your backyard feeder, a strange new insect chirp is keeping you up at night, or you no longer see moose feeding along your favorite hiking trail. Animals are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Changes in animal behaviors and habitats can provide early warnings about how climate change will impact New England.

Scientists need more observational data to find out what the animals of New England can teach us about climate change and its impact on our region. Check out these citizen science projects for some ideas about how you can help collect valuable climate change data while engaging in fun activities like birdwatching, listening to frogs, counting insects, and a whole lot more.

Get Involved

Christmas Bird Count Brave the cold during your Christmas holiday and count birds for the nation’s longest running wildlife census.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Choose from nearly a dozen different fun and exciting birdwatching projects.

Firefly Watch Observe fireflies in your own backyard to help scientists figure out how environmental factors are affecting these insects.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Program Help monitor butterfly distribution and abundance patterns by conducting weekly surveys of monarch larvae and breeding habitats.

Check your state’s Audubon Society website for current citizen science opportunities like counting birds, recording amphibian breeding calls, or testing water quality.