Melanie Lenart is an environmental scientist and writer who specializes in climate change and forests. As a scientist, she studied forest dynamics in China, Colorado, and Puerto Rico, where she lived during two major hurricanes. Research activities included working on a FACE experiment testing how wheat responded to elevated levels of carbon dioxide, using dendrochronology to estimate treefall dates in a mixed conifer forest, and assessing soil disturbance from treefall and windthrow. While working as a postdoctoral researcher with Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), she focused on the intersection of climate and society, including conducting social research on forest policy in the aftermath of a 468,000-acre Arizona wildfire.
As a writer, Melanie worked as an environmental reporter and columnist for the daily San Juan Star in Puerto Rico, and for various Chicago-area newspapers before that. Some of the many feature articles she wrote for CLIMAS have been pulled into a book compilation, Global Warming in the Southwest. Her work for the general public has been published in Nature Reports Climate Change, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and High Country News. She provided a long view of climate change, including how forests and wetlands have responded to changes during the past 100 million years, in a 2010 book, Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change.
Melanie continues to work at the intersection of science and communication. Climate projects include one to compare vegetation greenness (NDVI) to a new drought index, and another involving downscaling climate models for the Colorado Plateau. Writing and editing efforts include work on an upcoming Arizona Cooperative Extension Community of Practice website on Climate, Forests and Woodlands. She is also involved in assessing science communication techniques for global change research projects and in planning for and evaluating practitioner needs at a May 2011 extension-supported workshop on Climate and Forests. Lenart teaches environmental writing (SWES 415/515, Translating Environmental Science) at the University of Arizona. Some student work is posted at the SWES website Southwest Environment.