The Phenological Story of Alexander H. MacKay

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On The History of the Phenological Work of A. H. MacKay

MacKay Modeling Group

Phenological Phenomena, Canada, 1910.


At the meeting of The Royal Society on the 28th of September, 1910, Dr. A. H. Mackay, F.R.S.C., General Secretary of the Botanical Club of Canada, gave notice of the dissolution of this club, the chief work of which was the collection and publishing phenological statistics. The necessity for this decision is to be regretted, more especially by those interested in phenological phenomena, and it is to be hoped that Dr. Mackay and his phenological staff will still be able to carry on in Nova Scotia the excellent work they have been doing for so many years. In the various European countries the work of collecting and publishing phenological statistics is undertaken by the different Weather Bureaus, and the Meteorological Service of Canada, which for some years past has also published statistics prepared by Mr. F. F. Payne, of the Central Office, Toronto, will extend this work. It is also hoped that we may be able to enlist the services of the provincial Boards of Education, as has been done in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The chief use of phenological statistics from a meteorological point of view is the graphic indication they give of the climate and the varying seasons. To those familiar with the dates of the flowering of common plants, etc., in their own district, a mental picture of the climate of another district can more readily be formed by comparing such dates than would be formed by consulting meteorological statistics.

Included in schedules accompanying this report are dates from twenty-five selected stations in Nova Scotia, which have been kindly supplied, and, subject to the approval of Dr. Mackay and his staff, the average dates (phenochrons) for that province will be added for publication as soon as they have time to prepare them. The reports from other portions of Canada include six from British Columbia, six from Alberta, five from Saskatchewan, ten from Manitoba, nine from Ontario, two from Quebec and one from New Brunswick. Much fuller reports were supplied from Nova Scotia than are included in the Meteorological Service schedules and doubtless they will be published elsewhere.



Of the phenological reports received for 1911, six are from British Columbia, five from Alberta, five from Saskatchewan, eight from Manitoba, seven from Ontario, two from Quebec, and averages for ten regions or belts in Nova Scotia. Of these, the latter, which are taken from a much larger list, and which were kindly supplied by Dr. A. H. Mackay, F.R.S.C, Superintendent of Education, Halifax, take first place in importance. The dates from which these averages are computed are chiefly collected by the school children under the guidance of their teachers, who forward the schedules to the inspector for the superintendent, by whom they are sent to a staff of phenologists, the final computation for 1911 for the various regions being made by Mr. J. B. Reid of the Educational Department. This practical use of nature study has now been carried on in Nova Scotia for many years under Dr. Mackay's superintendence and it is to be hoped that similar work will soon be undertaken in other provinces. The climatic slopes or regions of Nova Scotia, which in any province could seldom be coterminous with the boundaries of the counties, are subdivided into coast, low inland, and high inland belts. To obtain the averages ten or fewer good phenological observations are selected from those belonging to any given belt as shown in the tables. If there are not ten from each belt, two or if necessary three belts are combined, and the average so computed is the "region" phenochron. If a full sheet can be made out for each belt, the average of the phenochrons for the three "belts" will give the phenochron of the "region." To find the phrenochron for each phenomenon for the province the phrenochrons of each of the ten regions are averaged.

The reports received from other provinces are in most cases excellent and many observers evidently take great interest in the work. This gives great hope for the future and as several departments of education in other provinces have offered their assistance, reports from much wider areas are expected for 1912. The work of collecting and preparing the phenological data at the Central Meteorological Office is undertaken by Mr. F. F. Payne.