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The Enthusiasts: The phenologist mail carrier
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John Latimer's mail route takes him down 100 miles of forested back roads in Itasca County (MPR Photo/Chris Julin)

Duluth, Minn. — John Latimer is a mailman, but he can tell you when the marsh marigolds will bloom. He can tell you when the yellow warblers returned in 1994, and he can tell you when the maple trees lost their leaves in 1986.

He's a phenologist. He records the coming and going of animals, when plants bloom, and when the lakes freeze. He drives a mail route in the north woods near Grand Rapids, and once a week, before he drives his route, he hosts a program about phenology on a local community radio station.

Latimer says he's always been curious about the natural world around him, but now he's to the point that he has to keep records about what he sees.

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