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Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Northwest Climate Science Center
Climate Science Centers’ Research Designed to Fill Knowledge Gaps, Provide Land and Wildlife Managers with Tools to Adapt to Climate Change
Released: 12/19/2013 12:00:00 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
Reston, VA 20192
Gustavo Bisbal 1-click interview
Phone: 541-737-2525 (O)

Paul Laustsen 1-click interview
Phone: 650-329-4046

In partnership with: Northwest Climate Science Center

Reporters: Descriptions of the funded projects for the Northwest Climate Science Center are available here.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center is awarding nearly $1.3 million to universities and other partners for research to assist Native Americans and federal and state land managers plan for and adapt to climate change.

"Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,"said Secretary Jewell. "These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change."

The Northwest CSC will fund seven new projects and continue funding eight projects from previous years; the ongoing projects range from developing future climate, water, and vegetation scenarios for the Northwest to determine how climate impacts will affect different habitats, such as wetlands, streams and sagebrush steppe, and the animals that live in them, such as frogs, salmon and sage grouse.

Most of the new projects focus on the effects of climate on resources of cultural significance to tribes. While the emphasis is on Northwest tribes, the NW CSC has built a partnership with the Alaska CSC and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative to fund projects that benefit Native Americans in both regions. This underscores the NW CSC pledge to provide enhanced services to the Native American community at large and to engage in collaborative partnerships that leverage limited resources and address shared priorities. New projects include:

  • Assessing the vulnerability of traditional women’s foods of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to climate change in the Olympic Peninsula, Wash. Elders and wisdom keepers in these tribes are deeply concerned that climate change may diminish or eliminate culturally significant plant species. Researchers will work closely with them and resource managers to document the historical distribution of these plants and assess future distribution using climate scenarios. Study results will produce specific management options for the tribes.
  • Understanding Native American cultural responses associated with climate change. There are aspects of tribal culture -- such as songs, stories, prayers and dances – that focus on fish, wildlife or plants as central images or main symbolic figures. Because climate change affects the presence, abundance and patterns of distribution of animals and plants, the study will concentrate on four Northwest tribes to document whether and how such changes influence tribal cultural aspects connected to those significant resources. These observations will help better describe the nuances and dimensions of Northwest tribal culture and its vulnerability and adaptive capacity to a changing climate. 
  • Supporting  the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, an annual forum that provides an opportunity for  researchers and practitioners to exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the region.
  • Through several projects funded jointly by the NW CSC, the Alaska CSC and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, researchers will:
    • Work with the Chugachmiut tribal consortium to develop a model that predicts where subsistence berry plants will be most resistant to recent moth outbreaks that are decimating berry harvests in south-central Alaska. The Native people of this region rely heavily on gathered food for sustenance and nourishment, but the recent outbreaks of geometrid moths may be linked to climate change; tribal elders and scientific records document that such outbreaks have not occurred in the area before.
    • Identify climate vulnerabilities of eulachon, a highly nutritious fish that is culturally significant to peoples of the Tlingit Nation in Southeast Alaska. The project will conduct a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan for eulachon in the Chilkoot and Chilkat rivers near Haines, Alaska. A tribal group will analyze these climate change projections, apply traditional knowledge, rank climate vulnerabilities and prioritize adaptation strategies. This project’s results will be valuable to Native communities throughout the region.
    • Evaluate the impacts of future climate scenarios on the survival and health of Pacific lamprey and Pacific eulachon; these species are used as important food sources by the Native American tribes of the Columbia River basin and coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. This project will also include certain salmonid (steelhead and salmon) species of importance to these tribes.
    • Foster a more collaborative tribal and government approach for tribal climate change and adaptation planning in the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California. A tribal youth intern program will be created, building on current efforts to integrate western science and traditional ecological knowledge for climate change and adaptation planning in the area.

 "Our Center contributes a broad range of services that better prepares the Northwest community to respond to the effects of climate on its people and resources," said Gustavo Bisbal, director of the Northwest CSC. "These services involve a large cohort of regional academic, agency and tribal minds to undertake complex science projects, help organize and translate climate data and results as they come in, educate and train young professionals, and communicate actively with a wide audience that is both curious and concerned about the changes they are experiencing now and those to come."

Each of the Department of the Interior's eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network, and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior's strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior's CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Northwest Climate Science Center is hosted by Oregon State University with University of Washington and University of Idaho. The NW CSC conducts climate science for Idaho, Oregon, western Montana, and Washington.

Useful links:

Northwest CSC Projects

Northwest CSC Homepage

Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers

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