Building Stakeholder Partnerships: Putting Science Into Practice

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 11:00 AM
121BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Mark A. Shafer, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman, OK

With the rapidly-increasing number of climate services providers, the landscape for putting climate into practice is getting both easier to access and more confusing. Each provider serves a different clientele, and in so doing draws more stakeholder organizations into the sphere of those using climate information in decision-making. The challenge has been in connecting these new stakeholders with expertise that may reside within a different provider organization.

To help close the gap, the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP; http://www.southernclimate.org), a NOAA RISA Team, initiated a summer internship program, where students with expertise in meteorology or climatology would work for an organization more closely aligned with another climate services provider network. The format was patterned after the successful NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the National Weather Center, where students are selected from undergraduate programs across the nation to spend a summer conducting research under a scientific mentor. The SCIPP initiative flipped this model, instead sending students to organizations with operational needs for climate information to work under their mentorship in partnership with SCIPP scientists.

Through an open call via the network of stakeholder partners associated with SCIPP, two host organizations were identified: The Gulf Coast Joint Venture and the National Wetlands Research Center, both located in Lafayette, Louisiana. Both organizations had expertise in ecology, GIS, remote sensing and other areas, but neither had anyone with expertise in meteorology or climatology. Both organizations shared with SCIPP a long-standing association with Sea Grant and the DOI Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, although neither organization had collaborated with SCIPP previously.

SCIPP recruited two students, both from Environmental Sustainability, with backgrounds in climate and statistics, who spent the summer in Lafayette. The National Wetlands Research Center investigated the effects of cold air outbreaks on mangrove swamps along the Louisiana coastline. The Gulf Coast Joint Venture correlated climate and drought indices with acreage of flooded wetlands for migratory bird habitat. Students worked alongside ecologists on a daily basis and were supported through periodic calls with the SCIPP team to help identify appropriate datasets and work through methodological issues. Both organizations were supportive of the outcomes and new partnership with the RISA Team.

This presentation will discuss how these relationships were created, the expertise of each of the organizations involved, and outcomes from the two projects.