Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

CU Boulder to Host Federal Climate Adaptation Science Center

Researchers will focus on science in support of natural resource management, addressing tribal, federal, state and local needs

Buttes on the landscape across Thunder Basin National Grassland. Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Geological Survey has selected a University of Colorado Boulder team to host the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center for the next five years, in a move that will foster both innovation and applied research, said new University Director Jennifer Balch. The center is one of eight regional climate centers created to help meet the changing needs of land and resource managers across the country; the North Central center serves Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska.

Balch, an assistant professor of Geography at CU Boulder and director of CIRES’ Earth Lab, said the new, $4.5-million award recognizes the huge potential for synergy with existing campus programs and expertise.

“The new center is about generating usable science, and Earth Lab is all about accelerating discovery. The key advantage of having them both at CU Boulder and CIRES is that we can tightly couple those things to better serve resource managers,” Balch said.

Image removed.Jennifer Balch (CU Boulder) and Robin O'Malley (USGS), directors of the new North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center.  Images: CU Boulder and USGS

U.S. Geological Survey funds will enable CU Boulder researchers and a consortium of  partner institutions to focus state-of-the-art analysis tools on climate-related challenges facing natural resource management agencies: How to manage the habitat of a species in a changing environment, for example, and how to protect Tribal lands resources in the face of a changing climate. “Or how do we manage a resource so that it’s resilient in the face of extreme events?” Balch said.

Consortium partners include the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation Science Partners, South Dakota State University, and the University of Montana.

“The new consortium headed by CU Boulder is an exciting opportunity for us to build on our past and expand our capabilities for serving the science needs of natural resource managers in the North Central region. This new team brings an innovative vision, new partners, and a strong track record of producing useful science,” said Robin O’Malley, USGS Director of the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center.

Center staff will work from the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community building on east campus, in offices next to Earth Lab.

The new center will conduct science in support of the resource management efforts of a wide range of stakeholders, mostly Tribal, federal, and state resource managers. “These are the people who help define our science questions,” Balch said.

At times, academics have been reluctant to tackle real-world problems, she said, for fear it could compromise the cutting-edge nature of research. Balch’s conviction that it’s possible to do both—advancing science and conducting science that matters—aligns with a new university initiative aimed at simultaneously embracing academic excellence and innovation, and also furthering the public good.

“This center will advance the university’s core mission to engage in real-world problems, creating knowledge with and for the public,” said Terri Fiez, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at CU Boulder.

The North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center will host an Open House later in the year, date TBD.