On October 7th, 2011, the University of Massachusetts Amherst was chosen to host the New England Climate Science Center, with the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Columbia, and University of Wisconsin-Madison serving as consortium partners. Through the Department of the Interior, UMass Amherst has been given a multimillion dollar grant over a five year period to host one of the eight centers around the country for research. The research will provide land managers in federal, state and local agencies access to quality information on climate change in an effort to address the problem of global warming. The NE-CSC established by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, includes New England and the entirety of the Northeast region of the U.S., which includes Wisconsin and Maryland as its southwestern extremities.
UMass-Amherst has been involved in a number of previous climate change research projects and has established beneficial relationships with several organizations which conduct research on the effects of climate change in the area. These factors have led to UMass’ position as host of the Northeast Climate Science Center. One of the past projects which demonstrate UMass Amherst’s involvement with climate change research is the River and Stream Continuity Project, which is a comprehensive research and outreach program developed at UMass to inventory and address barriers to the movements of fish and other aquatic organisms and river and stream continuity in New England. UMass Amherst also has previously-established relationships with The Nature Conservancy and currently hosts a United States Geological Surveys Water Resources Research Institute on campus, providing research, technology transfer, and competitive grants on state and regional water problems. Also, two regional US Fish & Wildlife Service offices are located near UMass Amherst and have participated in a large number of projects with consortium members. All of these factors were considered in selecting UMass to host the NE-CSC.
The UMass Climate System Research Center (CSRC), a previously-established campus entity, brings together students, post-docs, and faculty who conduct research on all aspects of the climate system. The CSRC includes studies of both natural and anthropogenic forcing factors, as well as climate impacts. Specifically, as host of the Northeast Climate Science Center, UMass Amherst will study climate change impacts on water resources, agriculture and grazing, fish and wildlife, forest resilience, invasive species, protecting migratory fish and waterfowl, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flood management, and water quality. Raymond Bradley, a university professor who will serve as one of the new CSC’s principal investigators, said that, “Resource managers need more detailed information that is relevant to their specific problems. One of our goals for the new center is to develop this capability.”
Funded research is only one benefit of being named a Climate Science Center. The title also positions the university to become a leader in the future of regional and national climate research, noted Michael Malone, UMass Amherst Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement. UMass faculty involved with the new Climate Science Center include the principal investigator, Richard Palmer, head of civil and environmental engineering, with co-principal investigators Raymond Bradley, Distinguished University Professor and director of the previously-existing Climate System Research Center; Curt Griffin, professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and co-director of the Environmental Sciences Program, and Keith Nislow, wildlife and fish team leader of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Northern Research Station.
According to the Climate System Research Center’s web site, “Changes [to Earth’s climate system] are occurring at an unprecedented rate, with profound risks and consequences for all organisms on earth. The course of future interactions between climate and human society hinges upon policy decisions which must be based upon modern climate science.” The necessity of the Northeast Climate Science Center is clear, and as its host, UMass is going to be a significant player in investigating and potentially solving the problems of climate change before it is too late.