CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Department of the Interior will establish one of its eight planned Climate Science Centers in the Pacific Northwest, led by a consortium of three universities: Oregon State University, the University of Washington and the University of Idaho.
OSU will host the administrative core of the center.
In making the announcement today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar described the initiative as one that will bring together expertise in climate science; ecology and impacts assessment; and information technology.
“In the Northwest, changes in temperature, rain and snowfall will have significant impacts on streams and the salmon they support, and on our forests and agriculture as well,” Salazar said. “The consortium of University of Washington, Oregon State University and University of Idaho provides enormous and complementary capabilities and familiarity with issues across the Northwest.”
This is the second major federally funded climate center announced this week where Oregon State has been awarded a primary leadership role. On Sept. 22, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it would establish one of six new regional integrated sciences and assessments (RISA) programs at OSU. A five-year award of at least $3.5 million will launch the Pacific Northwest Climate Decision Support Consortium.
The NOAA center will support a broad number of stakeholders, including municipalities, utilities, emergency management organizations, and state and federal agencies, while the Department of Interior Climate Science Center will focus primarily on science supporting decisions related to agencies within the DOI.
Today’s Department of Interior announcement introduces another consortium, which will be led by Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, and by Lisa Graumlich, new dean of UW’s College of the Environment. Steven Daley-Laursen at UI is also a co-leader. Mote said the new DOI climate center would serve as a resource for federal agencies in providing necessary science in advising policy decisions. It would also be attentive to the needs of state agencies, non-governmental organizations and others, he added.
“It is the agencies that create action plans to adapt to climate change,” Mote said. “What the Climate Science Center will do is provide the science needed to help the agencies make the best decisions. There also is a role for training students on climate change-related issues and preparing them to work in the organizations the center will serve.”
The center will consist of both university and federal personnel. The university side has initial funding of $3.6 million over five years, which will provide logistical support for the federal scientists and train graduate students. "I'm pleased to be working with this diverse consortium of northwest universities in developing the Northwest Climate Science Center", said Carol Schuler, interim center director with U.S. Geological Survey.
The federal side of the center will eventually bring three or more scientists to both OSU and UW, and allow the University of Idaho to house the computing infrastructure. Additional funding will provide competitive grants for which researchers may apply.
The selection of the consortium to lead the Northwest Climate Science Center was made through a competitive bidding process, according to Interior Department officials. The combined strengths of the three universities in applied climate research made a compelling case for their selection.
“OSU brings to the center the nation's top-ranked conservation biology program as well as nationally ranked programs in fish and wildlife research, and the strengths and connections of a land grant university,” Mote said. “The university also boasts rapidly growing programs in applied climate research, and extensive connections to landscape and species management agencies in the Northwest.”
Schuler noted that the research agenda for the center has not yet been established. The next steps are to hire a director and administrative staff, convene a council of stakeholders as an advisory group, and identify the scientists who will come to OSU and UW.
These regional climate centers are a key element in the Interior Department’s first coordinated strategy to address climate change in the United States. The centers and a network of “Landscape Conservation Cooperatives” are part of a plan launched by Salazar last fall to engage the public as well as local, state and federal agencies on climate change issues and managing impacts on natural resources within the eight regions.
Salazar also announced this week that North Carolina State University would lead the Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center. The University of Alaska Fairbanks previously had been selected to lead the Alaska Climate Science Center.
Other regional centers are planned for the North Central, Southwest, Northeast, South Central and Pacific Islands.