Staff Spotlight: Mark Mesarch

Mark Mesarch
Meet Mark Mesarch, a web and database specialist in the school of natural resources.
August 17, 2022

About Mark

I am a transplanted Pennsylvanian who has been at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 33 years, this time.  While working on my BS in Meteorology from Penn State University, I made connections with a professor here at UNL who offered me a research assistantship to work on my master’s degree in Agricultural Meteorology.  After I graduated, I went to work for Texas A & M University at an agricultural research station in Temple TX. There I evaluated weather data effects on crop growth models and helped develop a root growth study facility.  I then had an option to work on a PhD back at Penn State or work as a research technologist here at UNL investigating plant-light interactions through remote sensing techniques.  I decided to come back to Nebraska and take classes while working.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Currently I am a Web/Database Programming Specialist with the School of Natural Resources but still have a bit of research technologist component.    I generally work with different groups within the School helping them design databases and connecting them to the internet so that data can be collected from and distributed to various stakeholders.  I also manage the departmental website, which focuses on student recruiting for our five undergraduate majors and a graduate degree program with eight specializations.  But we also have a large data delivery presence on  our site ranging from tree identification, real-time groundwater levels, soil core analysis to climate data.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

When I had to make the decision between Penn State and Nebraska the biggest factor was that I could go to school investigating a couple of career paths while I was working for the Nebraska.   As much as I love the trees and mountains of Pennsylvania, I loved the wide-open prairies and sandhills and how you can watch a thunderstorm grow before your eyes.  That was not something we could do in the Keystone State.  Lincoln was also, at the time, a perfect size city; small town feeling without the Big City challenges but many of the amenities.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

Although I do teach a lecture or two in a Microclimate class, most of work is not directly related to the students.   But I like the variety of work that I get to do that can help people interact with student.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

If I focus on my work here, it would have to be bringing the wildfire reporting program for the Nebraska Forest Service from a paper and postcard reporting system to their first online reporting system. The primary database was already initiated but we improved it  and then made webpage connections so the volunteer fire department could not only report the number of people responding and acres burned but to start to report where the fires where and their causes.   By making this information readily available to the public we were able to reduce some of the causes and even the number of fires.

The other project I was involved that I am proud of is being the Site Manager for one of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network collection sites.    Our site is one of the original sites that has been collecting rainfall weekly for over 40 years. Information collected was instrumental in proving the at components of the Clean Air Act of 1990s helped reduce forest deterioration from acid rain.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I have completed 15 Bicycle Rides Across Nebraska since 1983.  I marched in BOTH the Penn State Blue Band and Cornhusker Marching Band.

What is your life like outside of work?

I am an avid bicyclist; I still do some long tours and commute most days to work.  I am involved with the theatre scene in Lincoln.  Besides acting and singing/dancing, I used to be a guest lighting designer at the Lincoln Community Playhouse.  But I have given up the dancing shoes and now dabble in directing.  I have been part of the Angels Theatre Company that produces short original works by local playwrights.  I even experienced directing myself in the most recent First Flight Festival.  I won’t  do that again…. for a while.

But what fills my time mostly now is managing the East Campus Community gardens.  My mother moved to Nebraska from Pennsylvania five years ago and she was a Master Gardener in PA.   So, I found a plot for her (us) on East Campus.  Somehow the next year I was managing part of the gardens and this year I am responsible for all  60 plots.  We have a wide range of gardening experience through the 50+ families  and people from all over the world.   It makes for a nice way to spend time with my mom and bring our dogs to campus for morning or evening walks while tending to the tomatoes.