Translational Climate Science: Resource managers and scientists partnering in the face of climate change

Translational Climate Science: Resource managers and scientists partnering in the face of climate change

Toni Lyn Morelli
U.S. Geological Survey - Northeast Climate Science Center
Time Slot: 
Thursday 1:20pm - Concurrent Session 10
Session Type: 
Symposium (Individual Presentations)

Many resource managers and conservation organizations are looking to help their ecosystems, habitats, and species adapt to anthropogenic climate change. To accomplish this, the process of translational climate science enables scientists and practitioners to work together to translate understanding of the novel, uncertain, and complex effects of climate change into practical action. In this symposium, speakers will describe the process of translational science and how institutions can improve its efficacy. Speakers will share examples of projects in which scientists and resource managers worked together throughout the research process, including examples from management in urban areas, national parks, and elsewhere. In this session, we plan to (1) share examples of successful science-management partnerships, (2) identify information and techniques that can inform resource management decisions, and (3) demonstrate application of best available science to management and conservation planning at various organizations through the translational process. Given the scope, magnitude, and the scientific and social complexity of managing the effects of climate change, translational climate science can play an increasingly important role in policy, natural-resource management, and conservation.
Toni Lyn Morelli, Dept. of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center
Steve Jackson, Dept. of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center


Translational ecology for climate adaptation: Old wine in new bottles? A fresh vintage? Does it matter?
Stephen T Jackson, U.S. Geological Survey - Southwest Climate Science Center
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Translational ecology spans the boundary between ecological research and deliberate practical application, inspired by translational medicine and motivated by growing needs for science-informed management, policy, and planning decisions to address mounting environmental challenges. For well over a century, individual ecologists and research groups have engaged successfully with decision-makers, and many important decisions and policies can be credited to these dialogues. However, despite good intentions, many attempts have fallen far short of needs and expectations. Efforts are typically ad hoc, and lack of experience, skills, or training on the part of ecologists contributes to lack of success. Accumulation of ecological knowledge continues to be disconnected from the direct needs, priorities, and applications of diverse stakeholders, and needs for effective translation are accelerating with climate change and other threats. Ecologists committed to relevant and impactful research – i.e., ecologists seeking to be effective translational ecologists – can benefit from exchanging their experience, successes, and failures with each other in a coordinated framework. Furthermore, they can adopt successful practices and draw from applications in parallel translational fields, particularly climate-adaptation science. In the past decade, explicit incorporation and application of social-science theory and practices into climate adaptation have led to a series of successful outcomes. Coordinated partnerships among natural scientists, social scientists, and resource managers have become common practice in climate adaptation, and translational ecology can learn from and build on these successes.

  • Carolyn Enquist, USGS Southwest Climate Science Center
  • Gregg Garfin, University of Arizona
Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation
Toni Lyn Morelli, U.S. Geological Survey - Northeast Climate Science Center
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Many resource managers and conservation organizations are looking to help their ecosystems, habitats and species adapt to climate change. However, this area is novel, uncertain, and complex, and thus very difficult to translate into practical action on-the-ground. The concept of climate change refugia, areas buffered from climate change that enable persistence of valued resources, is being discussed as a potential adaptation strategy in the face of anthropogenic climate change. It provides an example of how scientists and natural resource managers are working together to apply cutting-edge science on climate variability and vulnerability to prioritize limited resources. I will highlight examples of work that is taking place in the southwest, northwest, and northeast. Although no panacea, managing climate change refugia could be an important resistance strategy for priority species, ecosystems, processes, and even cultural practices in the face of cliamte change. This research was supported by the Northeast Climate Science Center, the California LCC, and NSF, among others.

A co-production approach for implementing refugia science into adaptive management in the Northwestern U.S.
Aaron R Ramirez, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
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Climate change refugia are locations more buffered from climate change than the surrounding landscape that enable the persistence of natural and cultural resources. Recent research and interest in managing refugia has created a new frontier of collaboration between scientists and resource managers. The NW Climate Science Center has initiated an actionable science group, the Refugia Research Coalition (RRC), to bring regional scientists and natural & cultural resource managers together to synthesize new refugia science and connect it to key management priorities in the region. The methodology of the RRC effort includes surveying regional resource managers, building connections between the research and mangement communites, and hosting targeted workshops where scientists and managers co-produce actionable science-based materials that 1) clarify the management and decision-making context of climate change refugia, 2) summarize the available science for non-scientific audiences, and 3) identify future research priorities for the region. This RRC effort to connect the science on refugia to management priorities in the northwestern U.S. is an important piece of developing a regional climate change adaptation strategy.

Insights from Use-Inspired and Translational Climate-Science Efforts in the U.S.: the social context
Gregg Garfin, University of Arizona
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A growing body of research in translational climate science provides a foundation for translational ecologists to consider promising practices and potential pitfalls in understanding the role of social, cultural, and policy contexts; science translation; and managing the science-decision-making boundary to develop usable science for decision making. We identify key issues related to the contributions of social science in the development of practices at the science-decision-making boundary, based on the climate science translation literature. We focus on understanding context; the process of engaging stakeholders; and evaluating the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of translational science projects and initiatives. Increasing focus on return on investment metrics leads to the conclusion that intentional structured processes increase the likelihood of success in the adoption of ecological science into environmental decision making and policy. We recommend processes including elements of ecological research design, social science research design for understanding decision-making context, planning for development of social capital and for maintenance of issues at the boundaries between scientists and practitioners. All of these are essential to improved communication and collaborations.

San Diego Resilient Coastlines Project: embedding ecology into local decision-making
Amber Pairis, Climate Science Alliance-South Coast
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In the face of climate change many coastal communities are striving to be “resilient”. How do we achieve resilience? Are there differences between local and regional resilience? How is broader community resilience linked to natural resilience? As the first California and west coast project supported by NOAA's Regional Coastal Resilience grant program, the San Diego region is actively working to overcome barriers to developing, and ultimately implementing, coastal resilience strategies. The Resilient Coastlines Project of Greater San Diego is taking a multi-faceted approach to building regional resiliency by connecting several local government sea-level rise initiatives in the region and uniting them into a regional strategy that will effectively protect our residents, natural resources, businesses, and infrastructure against climate impacts. At the heart of this initiative is the intentional effort to strategically embed ecologist throughout the project activities. Specifically, actions are designed to coordinate the region's fragmented sea-level rise initiatives and develop regional approaches that are consistent and collaborative; fill key information gaps that are barriers to local government action (i.e. cost-benefit, legal and living shoreline information); and pairing these efforts with an innovative and consistent regional communication strategy that expands public understanding and engagement. By embedding ecologists with land managers, climatologist, educators, and artists we are demonstrating unique approaches for building collaboration across sectors and jurisdictions; using legal and economic tools to move from planning to implementation; bridging natural and human resilience goals ; and using art and youth engagement to inspire communities to explore what “resilience” means to them.

  • Laura Engeman, San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative