Oct 252010
Authors: Allison Sylte

CSU has beat out numerous other universities to host the North Central Department of Interior Climate Science Center, which is one of only eight other regional institutions in the country.

The center, which was announced Wednesday, aims to help resource managers understand the environmental impacts of climate change on critical natural, cultural, wildlife and agricultural resources.

The center will serve as a consortium of nine regional universities, including CU-Boulder and the University of Wyoming. In addition, it will host as many as eight federal scientists, who will be involved in all facets of the research process. It will be housed in the Warner College of Natural Resources.

“This is a big boost in recognition for our program,” said Dennis Ojima, a professor in the Forest, Rangeland and Water Stewardship department and the leader of the consortium.

“It’s a huge honor for the university to have been selected, and it’s really a reflection of the good work that we do here,” Ojima said.

The center is a key element of a new strategy coordinated by the U.S. Department of Interior to address the impact of climate change on America’s ecosystems.

In 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar created a plan to study climate change and establishing national centers were a part of the strategy. Salazar previously served as Colorado senator.

CSU was selected by the U.S. Department of Interior this summer after what Ojima describes as a “fierce” competition between schools. To be selected, CSU had to submit a detailed proposal regarding its institutional capacities and plans for the center and had a site review with senior Department of Interior scientists.

“It was really nerve-racking,” Ojima said. “But in the end, it obviously worked out.”

Now that CSU has been selected, Ojima said he will focus future research projects on issues involving the impacts of regional climate change, including pine beetles, extreme weather patterns and the prevalence of forest fires.

The U.S. Department of Interior has assembled a committee to advise the CSU climate center over future research.
The climate center is expected to be fully functional by early 2011.

According to Ojima, the climate center will have an array of opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in the impacts of regional climate change.

“We’re going to have psychology, political science, statistics, natural resources, and just about every other type of student and faculty member involved in the work that we do,” Ojima said.

“Even though the climate center is located in the Warner College of Natural Resources, it will benefit everyone, and it’s just a great opportunity.”

Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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