The University of Wisconsin and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies are helping to create a new climate science center to complete a network of eight regional climate science centers founded around the U.S. during the last three years.
According to Associate Director of the Nelson Institute Lewis Gilbert, the United States Geological Survey’s mission is to support the Department of the Interior by overseeing good climate science, which is why it is creating the regional science climate centers.
The DOI is interested in science primarily focused on climate impact, particularly in how ongoing changes in the climate affect natural resources such as wildlife and forestry. The Northeast Climate Science Center is a consortium of a number of institutions anchored by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Other partners include the University of Minnesota, the College of the Menominee Nation, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts and Columbia University.
USGS held a competition for universities to create a proposal to host the Northeastern CSC, Gilbert said. Rather than take the lead on a proposal, he said UW made the decision that it would be a valuable partner in other proposals.
UW was then contacted by a group putting together the Amherst proposal and was offered a subcontract on their lease proposal, Gilbert said.
According to a UW statement, DOI awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant for the creation of the Northeastern CSC, which can be renewed.
“We are at the stage in this process where the decision has been made, contracts are being signed and the funding will probably start to arrive over the next couple of months,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said the current climate center will be beneficial for the future.
“It is my expectation that the USGS will have the need to provide good climate science to its stakeholders for quite some time, and its our expectation that the climate science center that we are a part of will continue to provide that kind of information for quite some time,” he said.
The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts will benefit from UW’s involvement in the Northeastern CSC, according to the statement.
The Nelson Institute, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other organizations planning to be a research and outreach network created the initiative in 2007, the statement said.
Gilbert added the WICCI’s objective is to prepare information concerning climate change impacts in Wisconsin.
The Northeastern CSC will expand the influence of WICCI to a broader region by contributing resources in the form of infrastructure and funding, Gilbert explained.
He also said UW’s involvement in the Northeastern CSC creation will affect students by providing an increased level of activity on campus around climate impact.
Currently, Gilbert said, UW only has base level funding for two graduate students, but he hopes this involvement will provide increased opportunities for research and outreach around climate science.
“Indirectly, a lot of the student body comes from Wisconsin or from the Northeast,” he said. “The climate science center will enhance the ability of official wildlife managers, forest managers and others to make better decisions in regard to their management responsibilities.”