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‘Nature: American Spring LIVE’ tracks the change of seasons

Starting Monday, PBS debuts "Nature: American Spring LIVE," which will document the change from winter to spring in real time from iconic locations across America. The three-day, multi-platform event looks at the unique changes spring brings and how climate change can affect ecosystems from cities to the mountains. Hari Sreenivasan spoke to the show's field scientist Phil Torres to learn more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    There is a three-daylive event beginning tomorrow on PBS. The program 'Nature' Is showcasing the wonder and science of spring. Field biologist Phil Torres gave us some highlights.

    So how are you going to make three nights of live television that documents spring?

  • Phil Torres:

    You know we got 150 people working on this question right now. And it's a it's a giant team of people who are all across America and right now we're, there's already people out there looking for things, trying to make sure we can find the best spots so that when I am there, I will be able to document these things and watch it as it goes. I'm going to be in Sequoia National Park, I'll be alongside a river and I'm a biologist by heart so I'm going to be doing my best to just find some amazing nature to show America.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK. So as we kind of flit between back back and forth from you know from Maine to Florida to California how is it possible, I think this is just a logistical question, to coordinate the timing because you know a bear's not going to come out of its cave exactly at 5:35?

  • Phil Torres:

    You know we got a lot of fingers crossed on this one and really hoping that nature gives off a good show. That being said we are out there right now. We've been documenting things that have been happening in this past week.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yeah.

  • Phil Torres:

    So that if it doesn't show at that moment then we could say you know what here's what happened a couple of days ago right here in this exact same spot. But we also use up some really cool technology. We have low light cameras so when we're on the East Coast we'll be able to see things like alligators in the water, exciting things like that. Should be really good.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the clips that struck out on the site was Dr. Rae-Wynn Grant, when she was holding these little bear cubs.

    Dr. Rae-Wynn GrantYou got to keep them warm because they've never experienced a real cold.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And she was warming them in her own jacket because it was the really the first time exposure to cold that was obviously taped a little earlier.

  • Phil Torres:

    Yeah, I mean she's wonderful. The research they're doing there is so amazing and it's a really exciting thing to show. That is what spring is all about and that is the big lesson we're trying to teach through this is that the bear also interacts with the flowers with the berries with the bees. There's all these things that we'll be documenting that all are part of this big song and dance of nature that we call spring.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know we think of spring as like oh this is now officially the day of spring on the calendar but you're talking about all these tiny triggers. So what are some of the things that we're not thinking about that actually trigger whether it's the plants or whether it's the animals?

  • Phil Torres:

    Yeah. You know we do take it for granted because we just look at a day and we say hey, today spring but for animals they take triggers from the light, from precipitation, from the heat. And so, if you take something like bees and flowers, right. So bees need flowers to get the nectar, flowers need bees so that they get pollinated. Well, if bees come out because they're triggered by say heat and it's a warm day but the flowers haven't bloomed yet because they're triggered by light, there's this discord that is going to start to happen more and more in nature and more and more during this critical period of spring where animals in the resources or plants and their pollinators aren't gonna be matching up.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So people are probably wondering how much of this is impacted by climate change especially when it comes to temperatures, if that's the trigger for certain things and it gets warm too soon. Are there ecological imbalances that we can start to document now?

  • Phil Torres:

    Absolutely. And these have been documented and this is still a big question that we're trying to answer. And that's one of the beauties of this program is that we're talking a lot about citizen science. So this is something that the viewers can do from home, from their backyard, from the park down the street and actually contribute to collecting the data of spring.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So give me an example.

  • Phil Torres:

    So one of my favorite ones is let's say it's a rainy day outside and you don't even want to go outside, you can watch bird cam labs and you can watch this bird nest and document the behaviors and that's helping scientists. There's also ones where you can watch a flower and document all the native bee species because there are I think something like 4,000 across America native bee species.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And we only think of the honeybee.

  • Phil Torres:

    We only think of the honeybee now. And so understanding when these things are coming out that these really fun activities you could do with your family, with your friends and that is helping us answer that big question is of what is climate change doing to spring.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And so what are you most excited about? I mean you're an entomologist by training so is it something that happens in sort of small insect level that triggers spring?

  • Phil Torres:

    For me it's been a long winter. I cannot wait to get out there and just see the butterflies fly again. For me those are the moments that really excite me.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right Phil Torres with American Spring LIVE. You can watch those nature programs on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday night. Thanks so much.

  • Phil Torres:

    Thank you.

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