Collaboration Provides Science-Based Information and Tools for Adapting to Climate and Weather Variability

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thompson HallThe University of New Hampshire is one of 12 land-grant universities in the Northeast to join a coalition of peer institutions in the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, a collaboration of U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies, state agencies, and land-grant university partners. The universities involved will provide the region’s farmers, foresters, and land managers better access to science-based information and tools for adapting to climate and weather variability.

Jon Wraith, dean of the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, and director of the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, and Ken La Valley, interim dean of UNH Cooperative Extension, will serve as UNH’s points of contact for the Climate Hub.

“UNH is an ideal partner for the Climate Hub and the New Hampshire community to disseminate climate adaptation research,” Wraith said. “The university is well-known nationally for its extensive research on climate vulnerability issues. From policymakers to farmers, growers, and producers across the state, our research helps the Granite State better adapt to and mitigate the agricultural, environmental and economic impacts of climate extremes.”

UNH also will seek producer and stakeholder input regarding climate adaptation solutions and needs, to better focus the hub’s outreach efforts.

“UNH Cooperative Extension’s statewide network lends itself well to our overall efforts to understand the concerns of New Hampshire citizens in relation to climate and to help deliver information concerning climate to the public,” La Valley said. “Cooperative Extension, in partnership with NH Sea Grant, has been working with communities to consider a changing climate as well as the impact of severe weather patterns when making business, land and economic growths decisions for more than three years.”

Wraith agreed, observing that “the close functional partnership between the Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension programs at UNH makes us well suited to help fulfill the Northeast Climate Hub’s role of providing useful management solutions and education.”

UNH has a long history of conducting climate-related research, teaching, and outreach. In addition to the research funded by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, the university supports extensive research on the effects of climate variability and adaptation at the UNH College of Life Sciences and AgricultureUNH College of Engineering and Physical SciencesUNH Institute for Earth, Oceans, and SpaceNH EPSCoR Systems and SocietyCenter for Coastal and Ocean MappingNH Sea Grant and UNH College of Liberal Arts.

UNH’s climate science faculty outreach includes not only the work of UNH Cooperative Extension but efforts at Climate Solutions New England, the Sustainability Institute, and the Infrastructure and Climate Network. Each of UNH’s five colleges offers at least one course that addresses the importance of climate, and the university offers numerous graduate programs that allow students to delve deeply into climate related management and social issues. Former Provost John Aber opined that it would be a rare student that graduates from UNH without a course with significant climate related subject matter.

Based in Durham, N.H., the USDA Northeast Climate Hub is one of seven hubs around the country formed to address increasing climate and weather-related risks to agriculture such as devastating floods, crippling droughts, extreme storms, fires, and invasive pests.

The Climate Hubs are a USDA multi-agency effort being led by the Agricultural Research ServiceU.S. Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Key partners in the networks include land-grant universities (particularly their Agricultural Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension programs), USDA researchers, producer groups, the private sector, state, local and regional governments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), regional climate experts, and nonprofits engaged in providing assistance to landowners.

The overall purpose of the agreements is to create a network for information sharing and exchange. Universities will be active partners in developing, implementing, and evaluating decision support materials for producers that describe how to best cope with and take advantage of increasing variability in weather.

“The heart of the Northeast Climate Hub is serving land owners in the Northeast, from dairy farmers to family forest owners, and providing tools and information that they need,” said Michael Rains, director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “Partnering with land-grant universities throughout the Northeast is a significant step in developing a network of resources that will be local, accessible and the best available science.”

The Climate Hub will fund university projects geared toward solutions and adaptation tools that are applicable to farming and forestry practices at regional and local scales. “Our ultimate purpose is to provide science-based, region-specific information and technologies that enable climate-smart decision-making,” said David Hollinger, director of the Northeast Climate Hub. “The land-grant universities have a long and successful history of delivering science in forms that people can use.”

The Northeast Climate Hub stretches from Maine to West Virginia and includes the Northern Forest Sub-Hub focused on forestry. USDA regional Hubs are also located in the Southeast, Midwest, Southern Plains, Northern Plains, Southwest and Pacific Northwest.

Founded in 1887, the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at theUNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is UNH’s original research organization and an elemental component of New Hampshire's land-grant university heritage and mission. We steward federal and state funding to provide unbiased and objective research concerning diverse aspects of sustainable agriculture and foods, aquaculture, forest management, and related wildlife, natural resources and rural community topics. We maintain the Woodman and Kingman agronomy and horticultural farms, the Macfarlane Greenhouses, the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Additional properties also provide forage, forests and woodlands in direct support to research, teaching, recreation and outreach. 

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,300 undergraduate and 2,200 graduate students.