Leopold's Legacy

By Carolyn Rumery Betz - April 2013

Among the many legacies that Aldo Leopold left Wisconsin are the meticulous phenological records that he kept, tracking plants and wildlife around his shack in Sauk County, a tradition still followed by the family and staff of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Trish Stevenson is the grandaughter of Aldo Leopold_Betz photo

"Phenology was a daily pleasure of my mother's," says Trish Stevenson, daughter of Nina Leopold Bradley and granddaughter of Aldo Leopold. Stevenson has a particular passion for tracking birds, and she documents their spring arrival dates on the wall calendar in her Black Earth home in the tradition of the family.

Ongoing phenological records are maintained by the Aldo Leopold Foundation with help from Teresa Mayer, who worked closely with Bradley before her death in 2011. The cumulative records cover about 300 seasonal events. These data are managed by Stan Temple, emeritus professor at UW-Madison and a memberof the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts' (WICCI) wildlife and outreach groups.

Temple gives dozens of lectures each year on phenology and climate change. Temple and his colleagues recently used Leopold's records, as well as those of Henry David Thoreau, to document that native plants in the eastern United States are flowering as much as a month earlier in response to a warming climate.