504 Communicating Climate Change Science to Rural Communities in Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee

Tuesday, 8 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Robert Mark Simpson, Univ. of Tennessee, Martin, Martin, TN; and R. Tewari, J. E. Mehlhorn, B. Parr, and N. Musunuru

The U.S. agricultural industry is a major player in the global market, and changes in climate that impact U.S. agriculture have implications for both domestic and global food security. Existing studies have revealed a disconnect between agricultural stakeholders and the wider climatological community in the U.S., which impedes the process of making informed decisions in response to climate related changes in agriculture. While the topics of climate and climate change are somewhat embraced by national and state science standards, there is little concerted effort to apply these topics to agricultural education in any meaningful way. This is an especially acute problem in rural areas of the country, such as the ones in western Tennessee and western Kentucky, where state and local budgets may limit science-education funding. The University of Tennessee at Martin and Murray State University are in the second year of a three-year collaborative project that aims to bridge this gap in perception and understanding regarding climate change science among the region’s agricultural stakeholders by building the capacity to advance climate science education and research in the rural communities that we serve.

This year, we have developed and continue to develop short modules describing different aspects of climate change science, climate models, impacts and mitigation, and policy implications related to agriculture and related interests. These modules are designed for online dual-credit classes offered in Kentucky and Tennessee. The first such offering will be at Murray State University’s dual-credit Agriculture 199 class offered this fall (2018) through Racer Academy to over 500 students that incorporates the climate change science introductory modules and the impact and policy modules. UT-Martin offers a graduate-level Global Climate Change class as an elective within its Master of Science in Agriculture and Natural Resources program and has done so for 4 out of the past 6 years.

In the coming year, we will be expanding the project to incorporate the development of workshops aimed at providing in-service agriculture teachers, extension agents, and other interested persons information related to climate change science and its impacts on the agricultural sector of the economy.

This project is funded from the 2016 NLGCA grant opportunity in alignment with the Farm Bill Priority areas 1 and 4 by promoting awareness among stakeholders regarding climate change. The ultimate goal of this project is to promote within the agricultural community in western Tennessee and western Kentucky awareness of the science of climate change and its impacts on agriculture, and to develop the knowledge, skills, and adaptive strategies required to meet the challenges associated with a changing climate.

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