Phenology tracking network cofounded by UWM climatologist honored

When the National Parks Service wanted know if spring was coming earlier at many national parks around the U.S., it turned to the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN), an online environmental change-tracking resource cofounded by Mark D. Schwartz, UWM distinguished professor of geography.

The National Phenology Network provides Start of Spring maps and tools that allow users to track the onset of spring by correlating their historical temperature data with models of phenology — seasonal life-cycle events, such as leafing and reproduction.

The two men stand in front of a building.
UWM Distinguished Professor Mark D. Schwartz (right) and Julio Betancourt of the U.S. Geological Survey are cofounders of the USA-NPN. (Photo by Alyssa Rosemartin)

Now the interactive USA-NPN site, which includes first-leaf and first-bloom models developed by Schwartz, has been awarded the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s 2017 Outstanding Achievement Award for its contributions to the natural resources field.

Since its inception in 2008, USA-NPN has filled a gap in detailed phenological data on a national scale.

The network collects, organizes and distributes phenological data to support research and aid resource managers facing changing climates and environments. Its website also provides daily maps, graphical summaries and nontechnical interpretation to increase public understanding.

Schwartz established USA-NPN with Julio Betancourt at the U.S. Geological Survey, and he also served on its advisory committee until 2015. The organization operates with other partners, including the University of Arizona and the Wildlife Society.

Earlier this year, USA-NPN released tools that describe and forecast the biological start of spring across the nation. To enable a wide range of users to explore and to access these tools, USA-NPN enhanced its existing online data as map layers to be viewed either alone or in concert with ground-based plant or animal observational data.

The Renewable Natural Resources Foundation is a nonprofit public policy research organization established in 1972 to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and educate the public and decision-makers on managing and conserving renewable natural resources. Producers of the 2012 film “Chasing Ice” are among the previous recipients of the award.

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