How Does Climate Change Affect the Life Cycle of Plants and Animals?

Sep 13, 2012

Leading scientists gather in Milwaukee to study the impact of climate on life cycles.

Earlier this week we learned that this summer was the third-warmest summer on record for the United States. The heat and the drought had an impact on a lot of things – energy prices, the livelihood of farmers, people's health, and more.

UWM Distinguished Professor Mark Schwartz (left) and keynote speaker Steven Running of the University of Montana at this week's international conference on phenology hosted by UWM.
Credit Susan Bence

But extreme weather and longer-term changes in climate have impacts that cross boundaries and affect the life cycles of plants and animals that depend on them. The study of life cycles - and climate's impact on them - is called "phenology," and more than a hundred of the world's leading phenologists are in Milwaukee this week for an international conference.

Phenology 2012: Future Climate and the Living Earth is hosted by UW-Milwaukee at the School of Continuing Education. UWM Distinguished Professor Mark Schwartz is the co-founder of the National Phenology Network-USA, which enlists the help of citizen scientists in research. He and keynote speaker Steven Running spoke with WUWM environmental reporter Susan Bence this week, and Schwartz described the role of his field in studying ecosystems and climate.

Running is the Regents Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Montana, and an expert on monitoring global ecosystems. Mark Schwartz is Distinguished Professor of Geography at UW-Milwaukee and co-founder or the National Phenology Network-USA.