UW Selected to National Consortium for Climate Change Research

November 4, 2010

The University of Wyoming is one of nine institutions established under a major collaborative research initiative designed to study the potential impacts of climate change on the nation's natural, cultural, wildlife and agricultural resources.

The North Central Regional Climate Science Center, based at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, is a part of a larger Department of Interior (DOI) initiative that includes the collective efforts of university and DOI scientists from a variety of disciplines, with a focus on scientific research and information on regional impacts caused by climate change.

"Through the consortium and this long-term dedicated research endeavor, UW will be eligible for competitive grants to further fund its applied research efforts related to monitoring climate and recording the changes and impacts on Western natural resources," says Bill Gern, UW vice president of Research and Economic Development. "We look forward to collaborating with these university and federal partners to further the research and knowledge on this important issue."

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar says climate change is one of the most important and challenging issues facing natural resource managers.

"The members of the consortium headed by CSU can provide us with great expertise in the major climate-related challenges facing the North Central region, including diminishing water supplies, the spread of invasive species, outbreaks of pests and diseases, changing fire regimes, decreased crop and livestock production, and loss of habitat for critical fish and wildlife species," Salazar said in a statement announcing the North Central Regional Climate Science Center.

After Congress has approved funding the initiative, universities within the North Central consortium will be eligible for the competitive grants.

Indy Burke, director of UW's Environment and Natural Resources program, says the consortium underscores the importance of studying climatic variability in a regional context.

"Our natural resources are closely linked throughout the plains and Intermountain West, through water movement, rangeland and cropland production, forest status and wildlife habitat," she says. "Understanding regional change is a key component for appropriate adaptation to changes in climate, whether they are short-term, or long-term and directional.

"Networking with our colleagues across the region is key," adds Burke, who served as an author on the application to the DOI for selection of the North Central Regional Climate Science Center.

At the center, federal and university scientists will address regional climate issues ranging from the effects of bark beetle outbreaks on water and forest conditions, to early snowpack melt, that leads to earlier and faster seasonal runoffs in rivers and streams in Wyoming.

Other research under the center will include:

  • Downsizing of global climate change models, linking physical factors with biological, physical, and ecological responses.
  • Forecasting the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife resources.
  • Researching climate adaptation related to vulnerability assessments.
  • Developing decision-support tools for adaptation and mitigation.

"This collaborative effort will be an important new source of funding for studies seeking to understand how Wyoming's fish and wildlife populations will respond to climate change," says Matt Kauffman, director of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UW. "We are just beginning to understand how high-elevation migrants such as elk are responding to recent warming of their alpine habitats.

"Forecasting other impacts, like that of stream drying on Wyoming's fishes, will be made easier through collaboration with DOI scientists associated with this new center."

In addition to UW, the North Central consortium includes CSU, the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Montana State University, the University of Montana, Kansas State University and Iowa State University.

Other federal partners in the consortium include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Center for Atmospheric Research and others.

Visit the UW Research page for more information.

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