Melanie Lenart, Ph.D.: Environmental Scientist and Writer

Melanie Lenart
Melanie Lenart is an environmental scientist and writer. Since 1996, she has dedicated most of her time to understanding how the planet changes with climate -- and conveying this information to the public.

After receiving her Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Global Change (2003) from the University of Arizona in Tucson, she took a postdoctoral research position with the UA's Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, now the Institute of the Environment (IE). In this position, Lenart worked to inform a variety of stakeholders throughout the Southwest on climate variability and change.

Lenart also holds a master’s degree in forestry (1992) from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a bachelor’s degree in journalism (1984) from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Her scientific research has involved studying carbon cycling, the effect of high carbon dioxide levels on plants, tree-ring dating and tree uprooting dynamics. She has explored both physical and social questions working in subtropical, temperate and tropical forests.

From 1982 through 1996, she worked primarily as a newspaper reporter and editor, including at Puerto Rico’s English-language daily newspaper The San Juan Star and several papers in the Chicago area. Since then, she has continued to report on climate and its impacts for a variety of venues, including Landscape Architecture and Nature Reports Climate Change. She teaches environmental writing at the university and in workshops.

In 2007, the UA Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) project published her book compilation, Global Warming in the Southwest. In 2010, the University of Arizona Press released her book Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change.

C-SPAN Interview: Climate Change Panel with Melanie Lenart

Melanie Lenart discussed her recent book, Life in the Hothouse: How A Living Planet Survives Climate Change, at the Tucson Festival of Bookson March 12 as part of a panel called Hot Times: Can Nature Survive Us? Other panelists were Laura Lopez-Hoffman, author of Conservation of Shared Environments, and Mitch Tobin, author of Endangered. The authors talked about their findings and took questions from the audience.


cover of book, Life in the Hothouse

Life in the Hothouse
released in April 2010, explores how the planet responded to previous temperature extremes, in both modern times and the distant past, for guidance on how to prepare for our future in this warming world.


“This intelligent, well-written book makes a substantial contribution to the climate change debate” – Roger Paehlke, Environmental Practice

“This is a fine book.” – Elery Hamilton-Smith, Electronic Green Journal

“Readers will learn much about the Earth and the role life plays in its climate system from this book” – Jeffrey T. Kiehl, The Quarterly Review of Biology.

See more on these reviews and others



A River Rams through It

A research trip to Argentina resulted in this publication for Scientific American on how the destructive rise of a new river relates to an ongoing switch from forests and grasslands to crops. Read more

Southwest Environment Stories Released

The students in Lenart’s environmental writing course came up with 16 good stories on topics ranging from fish farming in the desert to using wastewater for growing food and supporting rivers. Read more

The Cooling Power
of Trees

Recent Guest Commentaries in the Tucson Weekly cover the cooling values of trees, especially in a warming climate, and an idea on how to get more of them planted in the city.




Life in the Hothouse

Global Warming in the Southwest


Translating Environmental Science

Courses and Workshops


Nature Reports Climate Change

Climate, Forests and Woodlands Website

Southwest Climate Change Network

Southwest Climate Outlook

Tree-Ring Times

UA News

Other Publications


Tucson Green Times/
The New Southwest

Other Opinion Pieces


Additional Background


Forests in Puerto Rico lost leaves, branches and many trees during Hurricane Georges in September of 1998 (image on left). Three months later, they had largely revived (image on right).