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UMass Amherst wins major grant to host $7.5 million Northeast Climate Science Center

AMHERST, Mass. Today in Washington, D.C., Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been chosen to lead a consortium of seven universities and host a major new center, the Northeast Climate Science Center through a five-year, $7.5 million grant. It will support federal, state and other agencies by studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems, wildlife, water and other resources in the region.

UMass Amherst and partner institutions in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts will together receive $1.5 million core funding each year for five years, with more project-specific funds available. The Northeast CSC is one of eight established by the Interior department since Salazar founded the program in 2009. The region includes New England and states west to Minnesota and south to Maryland.

"Selecting the locations for the final three of our eight Climate Science Centers is a major milestone in our efforts to implement our department-wide climate change strategy," Salazar said. "The nationwide network of Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States, and how the Department of the Interior, as our nation's chief steward of natural and cultural resources, can prepare and respond."

Specific challenges could include climate impacts on water resources, agriculture and grazing, fish and wildlife and responses to climate change, forest resilience, invasive species, protecting migratory fish and waterfowl, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flood management and water quality.

Funded research is only one benefit of being named a CSC. The designation also positions the university for a future leadership role in regional and national climate research, notes Michael Malone, UMass Amherst vice chancellor for research and engagement.

Principal investigator of the new CSC at UMass Amherst is Richard Palmer, head of civil and environmental engineering, with co-principal investigators Raymond Bradley, Distinguished University Professor and director of the 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.

Bradley noted there is a pressing need for information on how climate change will affect conditions at the local level, which requires studies using high-resolution climate models. "Most studies so far provide broad-scale assessments at the national level," he said, "but 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."

Palmer says that to win this major federal recognition, UMass Amherst and its partner institutions demonstrated that they offer unparalleled research strengths and established multi-disciplinary collaborations spanning the Northeast region needed to carry out research on specific regional climate change effects.

Graduate students from many UMass Amherst departments and undergraduates in the Commonwealth Honors College will be involved in the Northeast CSC, including a possible exchange program with other regional centers. In addition to UMass Amherst, other Northeast CSC members are the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Missouri Columbia, University of Minnesota, the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis., the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass. and Columbia University in New York City.

According to the Department of the Interior, the eight regional climate science centers extend from a hub at the National Climate Change and Wildlife Center at the U.S. Geological Survey national headquarters. In addition to Interior Department bureaus such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, other federal cooperating agencies taking part in the CSC program are U.S. Forest Service and NOAA.

State, tribal, landowner and non-governmental organization interests also will be engaged in identifying science priorities for the CSCs. Other Climate Science Centers are in Alaska, Pacific Islands, Northwest, Southwest, North Central, South Central and Southeast.


Contact: Janet Lathrop
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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