Phil Townsend

Townsend_Phil_ThumbKnown aliases: P-ditty, Master of Coin, Maester of Magic, sometimes called “Phil the Baptist” because he thinks he has foretold the future of remote sensing (you know: hyperspectral remote sensing will provide all the answers and all that).

Last known location: wandering the halls of Russell Labs

GPS tracking transponder number: [redacted; for lab use only]

I grew up near Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in high school, the child of a mother from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a father from Southern California. I spent a lot of my youth exploring the woods and hills near my home on foot and on bike, and grew up with a great love of nature — forests, streams, lakes — and the solitude it provides.  Probably comes from being the youngest kid in a big, noisy family.


I received my BA in History at the University of Virginia in 1989, then worked for a number of years before heading to graduate school in Geography at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  I have always loved maps, and my undergraduate History thesis involved reconstruction of l

and use history for a settlement in Alabama. But as with many college students, I had no idea what I really wanted to do, so after years of odd jobs, retail, and working as a writer, I realized that at heart I was a landscape ecologist. I had no idea what this meant, so I headed back to school to indulge my love of maps and the outdoors. And I’ve been in school ever since. After getting my Ph.D. in 1997 and a year in Texas, I spent 7 years on the faculty at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science – Appalachian Lab before coming to the University of Wisconsin in 2005.  It’s a bit of a “full circle” for me, as my Dad got his Ph.D. at UW in the early 1970’s

I’ve been married to Emily McKnight Townsend since 1990, and have three children: Zoë, Ben and Quillan. I am an avid backcountry hiker and bicyclist, and in the near past have been an enthusiastic basketball player and fan. I try to get to the mountains once a year, and am especially fond of the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I am also a big fan of indie music, dating to my days as a DJ at WTJU in Charlottesville. Big fan of Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus, and other noisy, aggressive post-punk music.  Hodor.

Emily has a much varied background including degrees in Religious Studies from UVA, Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina and Library Science from UW-Madison.  She has advanced training in film, video and audio production and is deeply interested in early childhood literacy.  Emily works as a librarian for the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.  Zoe is an undergraduate student at UW-Madison, Ben is in high school where he runs cross-country, is taking Chinese and is an Eagle Scout, and Quillan is a middle-schooler who is frustrated that her parents are thwarting her dreams of Broadway superstardom.IMG_0426_Townsend-funny-face_Pagami_photo-by-JoelFlory