UW-Madison to collaborate on new federal Climate Science Center

Oct. 20, 2011

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is among several institutions that will collaborate through a new federal Northeast Climate Science Center to study the effects of climate change on ecosystems, wildlife, water and other resources.

The center will produce data to help managers of natural, cultural and historic resources plan for the challenges posed by climate change and other landscape-scale stressors — including fire, invasive species and changing land use.

The Northeast Climate Science Center (CSC), which will be based at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is funded by a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior. It will coordinate research across a region extending from eastern Minnesota to the Atlantic Coast.

Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and William Karasov, chair of the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, led the UW-Madison effort to collaborate on the Northeast CSC.

"Participation in the Northeast CSC will strengthen UW-Madison partnerships with federal and state agencies and will enhance collaboration among a wide range of scientists, resource managers and private sector interests," says Gilbert.

The Climate Science Center will provide infrastructure for additional federal support for UW-Madison research on climate change adaptation and produce numerous opportunities for faculty and students to help shape management policies and practices, according to Karasov. He notes that the Northeast CSC is one of several regional centers sponsored by the Department of the Interior, which also sponsors regional Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that are tightly linked to federal and state natural resource managers.

"CSCs will deliver basic climate-change-impact science to the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to help managers make informed decisions," says Karasov. "UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have been heavily involved with our regional cooperative. This helped make our proposal competitive."

The CSC will coordinate research on climate impacts on water resources, agriculture and grazing, fish and wildlife, forest resilience, invasive species, migratory fish and waterfowl, coastal erosion, flood management, water quality and other topics. To win the CSC award, partner institutions had to demonstrate research strengths and multi-disciplinary collaborations spanning the Northeast region.

Wisconsin has been investigating the potential impacts of climate change since 2007 through the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, a statewide project that grew out of a partnership between the Nelson Institute, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other institutions and agencies. Gilbert says WICCI provides a strong foundation for Wisconsin's role in the Northeast CSC.

"The CSC will provide opportunities to connect WICCI with regional and national efforts to support better management decisions in the face of ongoing changes in climate," says Gilbert.

Other Northeast CSC members are the University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of Minnesota, the College of the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis., the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., and Columbia University in New York City.