To keep himself busy, billy barr -- who likes to spell his name with lowercase letters -- started tracking the snow outside his door in the early 1970s. He has tracked it day after day, year after year, in a remote town near Crested Butte called Gothic, where he lives. Eventually scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gothic got wind of it, and since then barr's meticulously collected data has led to published papers about the effects of climate change in Colorado.
Besides precipitation and measures of snow depth, barr records temperatures each day, and the first appearances in the spring of species like marmots and robins. David Inouye is a biologist and an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland who has conducted research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab since 1971. He does long-term studies of flora and fauna in the area, and says barr's data show species are emerging much earlier in the spring than they used to, and also demonstrate how flowers behave differently from year to year depending on the snow depth.
Barr's commitment to recording data is so firm that he rarely leaves home. When he does get away, it's often to cricket tournaments. An avid fan of the game, barr founded the Gothic Cricket Club, which hosts matches with students and scientists from the lab.
Barr is the subject of a short film released this year, "The Snow Guardian," by Day's Edge Productions, which recently won second place at a World Bank competition called Film4Climate.
Inouye and Barr spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.