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U.S.A.-National Phenology Network Announces First Director and Headquarters
Released: 8/24/2007 2:52:09 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Jake Weltzin 1-click interview
Phone: (520) 626-3821

Mark Losleben
Phone: (520) 626-4696

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Arizona are establishing a National Coordinating Office in Tucson, Ariz., to support a new and fast-evolving initiative - the USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN).

Dr. Jake Weltzin, most recently an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee and a Program Director at the National Science Foundation, will become the first Executive Director of USA-NPN. The USGS will provide support to maintain the National Coordinating Office. The University of Arizona has hired Mark Losleben as Assistant Director of USA-NPN, and will provide offices and other services at the University's Office of Arid Lands Studies.

Phenology is an important biological indicator of change, involving study of periodic biological phenomena. In particular, phenology considers how plant and animal life cycles are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate and weather. Examples include the timing of leafing and flowering, agricultural crop stages, insect emergence and animal migration. All of these events are sensitive measures of climatic variation and change, and are relatively simple to record and understand.  These measures are vital to both scientific and public knowledge, and can be used as predictors for a variety of processes and variables important from local to global scales. Phenology modulates the abundance and diversity of organisms, their related interactions and ecological functions, and their effects on water, energy, and chemical elements at various scales.

Phenological data and models are important to agriculture, drought monitoring, and wildfire risk assessment, as well as management of invasive and pest species and infectious diseases. Integration of spatially-extensive phenological data and models with both short and long-term climatic forecasts offer powerful methods to inform adaptation and responses to ongoing and future global change.

About 100 federal and university scientists, led by Julio Betancourt, USGS, and Mark D. Schwartz, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, have created USA-NPN to engage federal agencies, environmental networks and field stations, educational institutions, and citizen scientists in phenological monitoring nationwide. The USA-NPN is intended as a large-scale network of repeated and integrated phenological observations, linked with other relevant data sources, and the tools to analyze these data at a useful variety of scales.

Jake Weltzin will assume his position as the first Executive Director of the USA-NPN in August, 2007. Jake's interest in natural history evolved from his youth in Alaska and as an exchange student in the Australian outback. He obtained his B.S. from Colorado State University, M.S. from Texas A&M University, and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at University of Notre Dame, Jake became a faculty member of the University of Tennessee, where he served most recently as an Associate Professor. Jake's interests encompass how the structure and function of plant communities and ecosystems might respond to global environmental change, including atmospheric chemistry, climate change, and biological invasions.  His research spans temperate and tropical grasslands and savannas, temperate woodlands, deciduous forest, and high-latitude peatlands.  His recent experience as a science administrator at the National Science Foundation underscored the need to foster large-scale science initiatives such as USA-NPN.  As its first Executive Director, Jake's vision for USA-NPN is "to develop a continental-scale instrument for integrative assessment of global change that simultaneously serves as an outreach and educational platform for citizens and educators."

Mark Losleben assumed his position as Assistant Director of the USA-NPN in January 2007. Mark obtained his B.S. in Math from New Mexico State University and M.S. in Geography from the University of Colorado. He spent the last 25 years as Director of the Mountain Climate Program at the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station (Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research Site) attaining Senior Professional Scientist status. Mark has studied climate processes in complex terrain throughout the world (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Greenland, Switzerland, Barbados, Argentina, Antarctica, and Colorado Rockies), and has a particular interest in the development of climate and ecological measurement networks.

BACKGROUND: Much of the initial planning for this network was accomplished at workshops hosted by the University of Arizona (August 2005 and March 2006) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (October 2006). The three workshops were funded by the National Science Foundation, USGS, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service USDA-Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration.  The first NPN planning workshop, held in August 2005, established a framework of four expandable components or tiers, each representing a different level of spatial coverage and quality/quantity of phenological and environmental information. NPN will consist of four components or tiers: 1) Networks of locally intensive sites focused on process studies (Long-Term Ecological Research Sites, AmeriFlux, Organization of Field Biological Stations); 2) Spatially extensive environmental networks focused on standardized observations  (National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network, National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring sites); 3) Volunteer and Education Networks (garden clubs; plant, bird and butterfly monitoring efforts; and 4) remote sensing products (e.g., satellite imagery from MODIS) that can be assimilated to extend surface observations. The second planning workshop held in October 2006 focused on (a) developing lists of target species and observation protocols; (b) leveraging existing networks to build a nationwide backbone observation network; (c) identifying and launching new opportunities for education, citizen science and outreach; (d) developing strategies for implementing the remote sensing component of NPN; and (e) drafting a data management plan and designing the necessary infrastructure to operate NPN over the long term.

Find out more about USA-NPN and related projects at these Web sites:

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