Patrick Comer directs the Ecology Department at NatureServe from the Boulder, Colorado office. For over 30 years, his applied research has focused on ecosystem classification, spatial modeling, ecological assessment, and systematic planning support for conserving biodiversity and sustainable development. Ecosystem classifications are a foundation for characterizing species habitat and natural dynamics (e.g., fire /flood regimes), for assessing threats to ecological integrity, and they form a “coarse filter” for systematic conservation planning.
Pat was trained at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in Forest and Landscape Ecology. He served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, working in agroforestry with rural cooperatives. In 1990, after returning to the United States, he worked as Ecologist in the Michigan Natural Features Inventory – formerly a part of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). There, Pat conducted systematic field inventories, and classified forest, savanna, and wetland ecosystems. He led an unparalleled effort to produce a detailed digital map of vegetation for the State of Michigan, circa 1800, combining historical land survey data with detailed topography and soils data. In 1998, Pat move west and served as Senior Regional Ecologist for TNC. In that role, he developed novel methods for ecoregion-scale assessment and planning, coordinated by The Nature Conservancy programs across the Americas. By 2002, Pat moved from TNC to NatureServe, and was appointed Chief Terrestrial Ecologist in 2003. He continues his work to advance methods for ecosystem assessment with the public agencies and the private sector in projects across the Americas and beyond. Pat is currently advancing methods to assess climate change vulnerability for ecosystems and landscapes to identify effective, ecosystem-based adaptation strategies.