U of M to host new Midwest consortium dedicated to actionable climate science
The U.S. Geological Survey announced today that the University of Minnesota will host a new partnership of higher education and natural resource institutions dedicated to advancing actionable science in response to the climate crisis in the Midwest.
The Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center will be housed at the U of M’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) in close collaboration with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); Extension; and the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). With the U of M, the consortium partners include College of Menominee Nation, Indiana University, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Michigan State University, The Nature Conservancy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and University of Wisconsin.
The UMN was selected by USGS through an open competition and extensive review. The national CASC program is designed to generate research, data sets and tools that natural and cultural resource managers can use to help ecosystems and communities effectively respond to a changing climate. The new Midwest region was previously included in the 22-state Northeast region CASC. With this announcement, the USGS now has nine CASCs covering the entire US.
The five-year cooperative agreement, which went into effect September 20, includes $4.5 million in operational funding, creating a platform to coordinate collaborative projects and capacity-building activities. Because the U of M is a consortium member, its researchers and professional staff will be eligible to propose, compete for and collaborate on CASC projects, which draw on additional USGS funding. The CASC comes with opportunities for students at consortium universities and regional Tribal colleges as well, from fellowships to cohort experiences.
“We are thrilled to bring cutting-edge science of the USGS and the CASC program to the Midwest region,” said Jessica Hellmann, IonE executive director and U of M professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior. Hellmann will serve as the Midwest CASC director. “Working alongside our consortium members, our singular focus will be developing a world-class capacity to study and implement adaptation that benefits all Midwesterners.”
The U of M worked closely with Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who championed creation of the Midwest CASC. The new Center will focus on synthesis projects—work that builds on existing science and knowledge in a way that generates new resources and tools and catalyzes adaptation capacity across the region. Engagement with stakeholders and practitioners is also key. The consortium will work closely with the USGS and other federal, state and Tribal entities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
“The greatest strength of our new Midwest CASC consortium is our connection to thousands of natural resource managers across the region. This will ensure that we stay connected to past work and make our research and education, going forward, relevant to practice on the ground,” said Dana Infante, an aquatic ecologist and professor at Michigan State who will transition from the Northeast CASC to serve in a leadership role for the Midwest CASC.
In addition to Hellmann, U of M leaders include Heidi Roop (Extension/CFANS), who will serve as program lead for capacity-building; Michael Dockry (CFANS), who will be program lead for Tribal relations; and Susan Galatowitsch (CFANS) and Lucinda Johnson (NRRI, Duluth), who will take on advisory roles for graduate trainees and postdoc scholars, respectively.
Given the mission of the USGS to serve science needs of the U.S. Department of Interior, the Midwest CASC will focus on Midwestern ecosystems and natural resources, including forests, grasslands, the Great Lakes, and inland lakes, streams, and wetlands, as well as their intersection with agriculture and urban areas.
A ribbon cutting celebration is planned on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus later this fall.