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WyACT: Wyoming Anticipating the Climate-Water Transition



WyACT (Wyoming Anticipating the Climate-Water Transition) is an interdisciplinary five-year National Science Foundation-funded project led by the University of Wyoming. Over 100 researchers, students and staff from 16 University departments have participated so far. WyACT partners with Wyoming communities, practitioners, and decision-makers to understand, anticipate, and prepare for significant changes in climate and water, and the impacts of those changes on interconnected human and natural systems. The work concentrates on the headwaters of important river systems in western Wyoming: Snake River, Wind River, and Green River.  


WyACT will establish lasting and nationally competitive capabilities and infrastructure that improves predictive understanding of the coupled human-environment impacts of climate change on water availability. WyACT will enable Wyoming’s communities to anticipate and prepare for significant and lasting changes in water availability.

Our Mission is to

  • implement a transdisciplinary framework of co-production of knowledge that directly involves Wyoming communities, sovereign tribes and government
  • improve representation of socioeconomic, ecological, and hydrological interactions in integrated models that predict responses to climate change induced reductions in water availability and associated disturbances
  • enhance the economic development of Wyoming by leveraging investments in cyberinfrastructure, workforce development and statewide, regional and national partnerships

Map of WyACT research locations in Wyoming

Map of research locations in the headwaters of three major US river systems in western Wyoming: Wind River, Green River, and Snake River.



About the Project

What we do

Our activities all work towards the goal of understanding the interactions of social and ecological systems, so we can make better predictions about potential futures. 

Refining climate projections to anticipate changing water resources and their impacts
We are conducting regional climate modeling for Wyoming by fine-tuning an array of existing climate model outputs. We use these regionally relevant data in our hydrological, ecosystem and socio-economic models and make them accessible in a climate-change information database (wyadapt.org). Research teams are exploring how climate change affects hydrology, ecosystems, wildlife, and human communities.

Exploring human responses to changes in water resources and related risks
We examine values, information sources, vulnerabilities, and decision-making around water in Wyoming as well as responses to changes in water. This generates critical input for our integrated modeling, which in turn will enhance our understanding of future changes in the interrelated systems.

How we do it

We partner with groups at the forefront of changing water resources in Wyoming, such as sovereign tribes, agencies, organizations., and communities. Their diverse knowledge and perspectives are key to understanding and responding to complex challenges and help generate more robust outcomes. 

  • Collaborative approach
    Co-producing knowledge to create outcomes that are useful and usable for decision-making. 
  • Community engagement
    Leveraging model outputs with place-based and practical knowledge to imagine a range of scenarios about climate-driven changes to water resources as a way to prepare for an uncertain future.

These collaborative and transdisciplinary approaches, along with empirical studies and integrated modeling of interrelated natural and social systems, represent the synthesis of WyACT actionable science and engaged community efforts.

Project overview [PDF]



The project is establishing three ongoing centers at the University of Wyoming

The three sustainability pillars of WyACT

The CoLaborative for Intersectoral Modeling of the Earth System (CLIMES) will develop national leadership in integrated human-earth systems modeling.

The lab will provide quantitative, computational projections of regionally relevant environmental futures for Wyoming and beyond. It will produce innovative research with practical applications, aiming to make a real difference in how we understand and respond to environmental change.

The Center for Climate, Water, and People (CCWP) will sustain and extend WyACT’s applied research, climate services, and educational work.

The CCWP is driven by a vision where all Wyoming and Western residents thrive amid a changing climate. It will partner with communities and decision-makers to foster interdisciplinary research, education, and climate service offerings related to the challenges and opportunities posed by shifts in climate and water availability.

The Socio-Environmental Observatory Network (SEaSON) provides trusted, freely available data on coupled human-environment systems and their responses to changing water availability.

SEaSON monitors watershed health, ecological disturbances, community responses and feedbacks. Sensors and observations record hydrological flows and storage, lake and stream ecological states, fish population, forest structure, and human movements and experiences.



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