The U.S. Department of Interior this week announced the establishment of a Northwest Climate Science Center that will be jointly placed at University of Washington, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho, with collaborations at research institutions across the Northwest.
The consortium of the three universities will provide expertise in climate science, ecology, impacts assessment, modeling, and advanced information technology. DOI officials say the expertise will be needed to deal with critical issues in the Northwest, where changes in temperature, rain, and snowfall could have significant impacts on streams and the salmon they support as well as forests and agricultural lands.
In September 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar initiated a plan to establish eight regional Climate Science Centers around the country to address current and future climate change impacts on America's land, water, ocean, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources.
The DOI accepted a joint proposal submitted by the University of Washington, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho for creation of the Northwest Climate Science Center.
Once fully instituted, the Northwest Climate Science Center and the seven other regional centers established by the DOI will provide a network of scientific climate and adaptation expertise that can be accessed by managers in the DOI as well as by other federal agencies, state agencies, and the private and nonprofit sectors.
The nearly $3.6 million in Interior Department funding announced this week will ramp up efforts already under way at the three Pacific Northwest universities to help resource managers tailor the latest climate change findings to forests, waterways, parks and other lands where they work.
The new Northwest Climate Science Center brings an initial $1.4 million to the University of Washington, $1.2 million to Oregon State University and $980,000 to the University of Idaho during the next five years. After prioritizing research needs, the DOI intends to provide additional funds for three to six federal scientist positions based at the UW and OSU to work collaboratively with university researchers.
The money just awarded will be used each of the next five years to fund three graduate students at the UW, two at OSU and one at UI to provide science, maps, tools and other assistance managers need to apply what scientists are learning about climate change. For example, a graduate student with the UW School of Forest Resources will model how climate change could affect where herds of elk, mountain lions and other wildlife live as their environments changes. Ways the ranges of animals might change at five-year intervals during the next 100 years will then be provided to wildlife managers so they can plan accordingly.
The consortium will be led by Lisa Graumlich, dean of the UW College of the Environment; Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU; and Steven Daley-Laursen, senior executive, Office of Research and Economic Development at UI.
"There's a reason the Northwest Climate Science Center is in the first wave of the eight regional centers being created. It's because of the leadership on climate impacts that's already been done or is under way in the region," Graumlich said. "At the UW, for example, our Climate Impacts Group has been in operation for more than 15 years. These resources will enable us to build on this work and develop more of the tools needed to make effective management decisions on the ground."
The Interior Department also announced a Southeast Climate Science Center led by North Carolina State University and, last spring, an Alaska Climate Science Center led by the University of Alaska.
For more information about the DOI's climate change strategy, go to http://doi.gov/whatwedo/climate/strategy/index.cfm