From Green Blog:
Henry David Thoreau was a peculiar fellow. After his secluded stint at Walden Pond, his fixation with the natural world only grew. Starting in 1852, his journal turned into a two million-word project documenting seasonal observations around his small Massachusetts township, Concord. Over the next six springs he could be seen racing about town like a madman in an effort to spot and record that year’s first elusive blooms, all the while taking notes.
“Thoreau was sort of crazed, traveling near and far across Concord to find the earliest flowering species, many of which can no longer be found in the area,” said Charles Davis, a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. “We don’t ultimately know why he was gathering this data.”
Until relatively recently, many critics dismissed Thoreau’s work as amateurish. Today, however, he is respected not only for his contribution to literature and philosophy but also for his work as a naturalist.
Most recently, his data made their way into the journal PLoS One, where researchers used those early observations to plot 160 years of ecological change. In 2010 and 2012, which saw record-breaking spring temperatures, plants responded accordingly, they found, with dozens of species in the eastern United States flowering at the earliest times in recorded history.
“It was hard not to notice in 2012 that things were different,” Dr. Davis, a co-author on the paper, said. “For me, one of the telling stories was walking around Cambridge and Boston and seeing the Irises in bloom in late 2011 and early 2012 — it was totally bizarre.”
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