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Monthly Archive | CLIMAS

Monthly Archive

Southwest Winter Climate Update (2014-2015)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This mini-segment was taken from the Mar 2015 Southwest Climate Podcast

Image & Story Credits

CLIMAS Colloquium: Connie Woodhouse - Collaborative Research in the Upper Colorado River Basin: User-Driven Research Results and Challenges

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This presentation will focus on ongoing work to better understand the effects of temperature on water supplies in the upper Colorado River basin. Overall, spring and early summer temperatures explain only a small portion of the variance in water year streamflow in the basin. However, in a subset of years (both warm and cool), temperatures appear to have a stronger influence on streamflow than might be anticipated, given the precipitation. The presentation will also touch on the challenges associated with incorporating the input of water resource management partners, a central component of the project design.

Connie Woodhouse's research concerns the climatology of western North America, including paleoclimatic reconstructions of past climate and hydrologic conditions from tree rings, the analysis of past and current climate, and circulation features that influence climate, particularly at decadal and longer time scales. Her work has ranged from the reconstruction and analysis of drought in the western Great Plain, to temperature variability over the past eight centuries in western North America, to the development of a network of streamflow reconstructions for major rivers in the Colorado, Platte, and Rio Grande river basins. A recent emphasis has been on applied research to assist water resource managers in using reconstructions of past hydroclimatic variability in drought planning and water resource management.

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El Niño Tracker - March 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Originally published Mar 19, 2015 in the CLIMAS Southwest Climate Outlook

After months of vacillating sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, limited coordination between oceanic and atmospheric conditions favorable to El Niño formation, and ongoing confusion regarding the strength of the various diagnostic signals, El Niño has “officially” arrived in North America. This is late in the season to declare an El Niño, and the so-called spring predictability barrier makes it difficult to anticipate how seasonal changes, particularly westerly wind bursts, will help or hinder the ongoing conditions favorable to El Niño. This has been a strange season.  Strong signals in early 2014 stalled in summer and into fall, delaying the event’s onset until this month, when ocean-atmosphere coupling and an additional Kelvin wave again indicated more favorable conditions for an El Niño event.

The most recent forecasts offer mixed signals regarding El Niño. On Mar. 5, the NOAA-Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued an El Niño advisory, maintaining a 50–60 percent probability of a weak El Niño event developing and extending through the summer. On Mar. 10, the Japan Meteorological Agency declared the El Niño event likely to have ended, with greater likelihood of a return to El Niño than ENSO neutral conditions in the summer. On Mar. 17, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology elevated its El Niño tracker from neutral back to watch status, noting the “unusual conditions” in the tropical Pacific, including warmer-than-average SST anomalies (Fig. 1-2). On Mar. 19, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and CPC reasserted a 50–60 percent probability of this El Niño event extending into summer 2015 (Fig. 3), similarly noting atypical (or even strange) conditions that have made characterizing this particular event difficult.  The North American multi-model ensemble shows a weak event extending into summer (Fig. 4), and corroborates the forecast discussion that suggests an increased possibility of a stronger El Niño signal extending into 2016.  While the models are bullish on the possibility of a moderate to strong event, this will depend on how ocean and atmospheric conditions progress from summer into fall. 

With a seemingly definitive El Niño declaration, we are finally out of “El Limbo”.  While forecasting or characterizing this event has been difficult for all involved, the complexity of this El Niño will be of interest to climatologists for years to come.  Looking forward, seasonal forecasts still indicate an increased chance of above-average precipitation through much of the Southwest for late winter and spring. Despite numerous storm events, we have yet to see widespread and sustained above-average winter precipitation in the Southwest, which would help considerably in mitigating longer-term drought conditions.

Image Source - Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Image Source - NOAA-National Climatic Data Center

Image Source - International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Image Source - NOAA-Climate Prediction Center

Southwest Climate Outlook March 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Originally published Mar 19, 2015 in the CLIMAS Southwest Climate Outlook

Precipitation: In the past 30 days, precipitation was below average in much of southern Arizona, above average in portions of northern Arizona and southern New Mexico, and near normal across much of the rest of the region (Fig. 1). Precipitation totals for the water year (since Oct. 1) are below average across all of Arizona and most of New Mexico and are even worse in other western areas; California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Intermountain West are recording significantly below-average winter precipitation (Fig. 2).

Image Source - NOAA/NWS - Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Image Source - NOAA/NWS - Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Temperature: In the past 30 days, temperatures in nearly all of Arizona ranged from 0 to 6 degrees F above average. The western half of New Mexico was warmer than average, while the eastern half was cooler (Fig. 3). Regionally, winter 2014-2015 has seen a continuation of well above-average temperatures across much of the western U.S.

Image Source - High Plains Regional Climate Center

Snowpack & Water Supply: Snow water equivalent (SWE) is very low in most of Arizona (ranging from 2 to 74 percent of average) and much of New Mexico (ranging from 11 to 111 percent of average), although Califonia and the Pacific Northwest are at even lower levels (Fig. 4). Well above-average temperatures continue to have a significant effect on snowpack, pushing the snowline higher and driving early snowmelt runoff. In January, total reservoir storage was 45 percent in Arizona (compared to 46 percent last year) and 24 percent in New Mexico (compared to 23 percent last year) (see reservoir storage on page 4, for details). 

Image Source - Natural Resources Conservation Service - NRCS

Drought: Long-term drought conditions persist across the West, and the U.S. Drought Monitor continues to document long-term drought conditions across much of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 5).  

Image Source - National Drought Mitigation Center

Plant Ecology & Human Health: Above-average temperatures and winter rains jumpstarted plant activity across the region, and the Southwest is experiencing a banner year for wildflowers. This beauty comes at a cost; pollen levels are high enough to affect most allergy sufferers and are expected to remain that way through the spring.

El Niño: El Niño finally arrived, and will likely remain a weak event this spring and into summer. Forecasts suggest El Niño could escalate to a moderate to strong event in 2015-2016 (see ENSO Tracker on page 3).

Precipitation & Temperature Forecasts: The Mar. 19 NOAA-Climate Prediction Center seasonal outlook continues to predict above-average precipitation this spring for most of the Southwest. Temperature forecasts remain split across the region, with elevated chances for above-average temperatures along the West Coast and eastward into Arizona (and the western U.S.) and increased chances for below-average temperatures across Texas and into New Mexico (Fig. 6).

Image Source - NOAA-Climate Prediction Center

Streamflow Forecasts: The Mar. 1 forecast for the Colorado, Rio Grande, and Arkansas river basins projects well below-average streamflow for most of Arizona and New Mexico, with the exception of north-central New Mexico and a few isolated locations in Arizona (Fig. 7).

Image Source - Natural Resources Conservation Service - NRCS

2015 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellows

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program supports University of Arizona graduate students whose work connects climate research and decision making. Fellows receive $5,000 and guidance from members of the CLIMAS research team (Climate Assessment for the Southwest) for one year. The program’s main objective is to train a group of students to cross the traditional boundaries of academic research into use-inspired science and applied research. While CLIMAS research generally occurs in the Southwest U.S., the Fellows program allows students to work anywhere in the world.

Fellows’ projects may follow two tracks. Students who want to conduct collaborative research may use their funding for use-inspired projects. Students who have conducted climate research and want to communicate their findings to audiences outside of academia may use their funding for outreach. Fellows may also use their funding for a combination of the two tracks.

The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program helps students address the world’s climate-related problems by funding projects that engage people outside of the university.

The 2015 Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellows are:

Christina Greene

Abstract: A history of prolonged droughts has long challenged the food system in the Southwest, and these challenges will become steeper under a future of climate change. This project seeks to better understand the vulnerability of the food system to drought by focusing on the impacts of the California drought on farmworkers. By identifying the needs of farmworkers during drought and evaluating the distribution of drought relief boxes through community food banks, this research seeks to connect the environmental and social dimensions of drought, labor, and food insecurity.

Eric Magrane

Abstract: As a CLIMAS fellow, Eric Magrane will design and teach a community course for the University of Arizona Poetry Center called “Climate Change and Poetry.” Climate change is both a scientific and a social issue. It is a threat to life on Earth as we know it as well as an opportunity for social change and environmental justice. A growing body of poetry addresses climate change, and this course will use poems as boundary objects to both communicate climate change and to examine its different frames or narratives. It will explore what role the imaginative and emotional resonances of poetry might have in the way we think about adaptation and mitigation. 

Valerie Rountree

Abstract: In March 2015, the City of Tucson Office of the Mayor will hold a half-day summit on Energy and the Economy with policy makers and business owners in Tucson to discuss the economic opportunities associated with increasing energy and the use of renewable energy. The purpose of Valerie’s CLIMAS project is to enhance the summit and evaluate its success in engaging participants and initiating action on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the private sector.  The project will include three parts: first, a pre-summit survey of prospective attendees will be administered to get baseline data regarding participants’ opinions and knowledge of energy efficiency.  The results of the survey will also be used to tailor the content of the summit to participants’ interests.  Second, a post-summit survey of attendees will be administered to evaluate the impacts of the summit on attendee opinions, knowledge and perceptions.  And third, follow-up interviews will complement surveys to evaluate whether participants plan to implement energy efficiency measures.  The results of this project will be used by partners in the Mayor’s Office to enhance the 2015 Summit and improve summits in future years.

Bhuwan Thapa

Abstract: Nepal’s water resources and agriculture sectors are one of hard hit sectors by climate variability and change. There are about 25,000 irrigation Systems which are managed by farmers and which irrigate about 25 percent of total irrigated area in Nepal. Though Farmer-managed irrigation system (FMIS) is considered a robust system, it is facing increasing stresses from climatic and non-climatic elements including competing water demands, frequent infrastructure damage from flooding and landslides, degraded water quality, and poor governance. My study will conduct use-inspired research on adaptation strategies of FMIS in order to strengthen their management capacity. As a part of the project, I will conduct i) participatory assessment of biophysical and social vulnerabilities of the FMIS to climatic stresses; and ii) support the irrigation managers with development of appropriate adaptation strategies.

Chris Guiterman - 2014 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellow

Thursday, March 12, 2015

From the very beginning, Chris Guiterman just wanted an opportunity to expand his collaboration with the Navajo Forestry Department, and to demonstrate what he could do to help them. 

Guiterman is a 2014 recipient of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Arizona, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, working in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

He used the CLIMAS fellowship to jumpstart a project that he had been struggling to fund.

Tribal nations across the Southwest are increasingly at risk of climate change impacts on the landscape, and because many of these nations rely on the ecosystem services of healthy forests, the risks are intensified. 

“Tasked with managing over 5 million acres of forests and woodlands, the Navajo Forestry Department has identified the need to assess sensitivities of their forests to drought and climate change,” according to the abstract of Guiterman’s research project. Guiterman worked with the NFD foresters to address their needs by quantifying the climatic drivers of forest growth in the Chuska Mountains.

Previously, Guiterman worked with the NFD on another project for a couple of years, and he and his NFD collaborators had a series of discussions about what the next steps could be. Guiterman basically told the NFD, “you can see what I can do…what do you need? And what can I do for you?”

Guiterman said the project spawned from that initial conversation, and the NFD essentially asked him the research questions. 

They wanted to know how vulnerable their forests are to climate change, what the long-term productivity of their forests would look like, and the overall age of the forests.

“I was really excited to be able to contribute and to be able to give them some knowledge that they want, and that I actually have the skills and capacity to do,” Guiterman said. “I understand what it is like to be a forest manager from my background, so I know how valuable this information is.” 

This was a win-win for both the NFD and Guiterman.  He found the research compelling because it was at the core of what he does as a scientist, and it was also directly beneficial to a group who needed this information and analysis, and who had plans to use it.  

When Guiterman approached CLIMAS with this study, he knew that his ambitions were bigger than the five thousand dollar budget CLIMAS allowed.  But he didn’t care. 

“I told the Navajo foresters I could do something when they asked me a question,” Guiterman said. “I told them I could help answer it and I just wanted a start to show them that we could go in the woods, we could all core trees, I could bring back data and show them x,y and z to help answer their questions.”

Throughout this project, Guiterman learned a lot about what it means to work on a Native American reservation.  Because the tribal government functions differently than he is used to, he had to learn as he went along.  “I think I jumped a few hurdles before I ever knew they existed and then I backed up,” Guiterman said.  “They were willing to work with me, be patient and understanding.”

Although learning the rules and regulations was difficult at first for Guiterman, it was also very rewarding. “Trust and credibility in a relationship are paramount to doing the kind of work that I want to keep doing and what this project emphasizes,” said Guiterman.

Guiterman worked in the field with two men from the NFD, who had been there for at least 20 years, and they helped core most of the trees. The fieldwork was complete in June of 2014.  They visited 7 plots, cored 111 trees and took 222 cores back to the lab. 

“I learned a lot just by being around them in the woods, asking what they saw and what they thought,” Guiterman said.

One thing Guiterman wasn’t expecting was how much they taught him about navigating the road network in the area.  “There are roads everywhere and there are few markers, some of them aren’t even on the map,” Guiterman said.  “Local knowledge is so key when you are in the forest landscape.”

This project took the men out to plots in the middle of the forest, so Guiterman usually gave the Navajo foresters the plot locations and he would follow behind so he wouldn’t get lost. 

“We would be driving along and we would just turn off the road into what to me looked like a meadow and drive on up,” Gutierman said.  “A couple of times they would disappear and I would have no idea where they were going because I didn’t see the road there.”

As Guiterman followed, a road would appear. Somehow, the foresters knew it would be there.

Guiterman was able to begin his research with the CLIMAS fellowship, and has subsequently received a fellowship from The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Star) and a grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  With this extra funding, Guiterman has been able to make this project part of his dissertation, which he intends to finish in August of 2016. 

Guiterman is also excited to finally be a part of CLIMAS.  He has always admired their work and with this fellowship, not only did he get to do this project, but he also joined a community of people that he wants to work with.


Rebecca Lybrand - 2014 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellow

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

To Rebecca Lybrand, calling soil “dirt” is simplistic and diminishes its importance to plants, animals, and human beings.  So why is soil, the foundation of life, constantly being referred to as “dirt?”  Rebecca began this line of thinking in college, and this spark of curiosity turned a simple question into a career. 

Rebecca is now a soil scientist at The University of Arizona.  She received her Ph.D. from The University of Arizona’s Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science (SWES) in 2014. She is also a recipient of the 2014 Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellowship. 

Rebecca’s CLIMAS project centered on creating two short films that documented her research across the Santa Catalina Mountains in Arizona. These films showcase four of her field sites, which span over 4000 feet of elevation gain. The sites differ in temperature, precipitation, and vegetation, all of which have remarkable impacts on the characteristics of these soils. 

The visuals for both films are the same, but the scripts change to present the science message in two different contexts. One uses a lively, first person perspective that relays a scientific story, using Rebecca’s personal experience to frame the film.  The other is in third person, and presents a formal video delivering a more scientific message along the lines of what you might see in a science documentary. The main objective of this project is to survey students and to evaluate the effectiveness of formal and informal communication techniques.

Rebecca had been interested in doing this project for quite some time.  The year before she was a CLIMAS C&S graduate fellow, she was part of the Carson Scholars program, where she learned more about how to communicate science effectively. As a Carson Scholars Fellow, Rebecca saw the potential for making a soils video and even connected with Dr. Jay Hmielowski, an assistant professor specializing in Environmental Communication, who was willing to collaborate on the project. However, at the time, Rebecca was a graduate student and did not have a lot of free time or extra funding available to make the video happen.

In the back of Rebecca’s mind she knew that she wanted to make this video. She went out in the field to shoot footage and she even began to make connections with a local media and communications expert, all before learning about the CLIMAS fellowship. 

“Seeing the CLIMAS announcement and completing the proposal process is what solidified it,” said Rebecca.  “The CLIMAS fellowship made this outreach project happen.”

Rebecca didn’t have much experience with shooting footage or editing video prior to working on this project. Her inspiration actually came from mountain biking. Both she and her fiancé mountain bike, and enjoy using a GoPro camera to film their adventures on the trails. Moreover, they are avid fans of attention-grabbing, professionally produced mountain biking documentaries.

 “I always thought that the videos were really engaging and even people who don’t mountain bike enjoy watching them,” said Rebecca.  “I kept thinking, this is the way to present science, in a fun and interactive way.”

Because Rebecca had little experience with making a film, she reached out to Shipherd Reed, the Marketing and Communications Manager at the UA Flandrau Science Center. Shipherd helped Rebecca along the way with things such as how to capture footage and how to navigate Final Cut Pro.  Rebecca says he was very willing to help and extremely patient. 

Because Rebecca had never edited video before, her main challenge was that everything took much longer than she anticipated.  She had captured hours of video and then watched every second of it, taking notes along the way. 

“In my proposal I put together my nicely framed timeline, which was completely unrealistic,” said Rebecca.  “Every step took hours, days or even months longer than I had planned on, but it was worth it.”

Difficulties aside, Rebecca made great memories putting this film together.  On the longest day of shooting, Rebecca and her fiancé were on the road to a field site before the sun rose and were hiking back from another field site as the sun went down.

“We reflect back on that day and laugh. I know that we were both exhausted by the time we got home, but it was a really fun and exciting day,” said Rebecca.  “We also saw a Gila monster, so that was an added reward because I love reptiles.”

Now that both videos are complete, Rebecca has teamed up with her collaborator, Dr. Hmielowski, to write and carry out student pre-tests and surveys to test the effectiveness of the contrasting narrative strategies.  Rebecca hopes to present the study at a science communication conference with the ultimate goal of publishing her findings to reach a larger audience. 

Rebecca is now working on her Postdoc with Dr. Rachel Gallery’s soil microbial ecology research group. She is looking at how soils and topography are impacting soil microbes across pine beetle- and fire-disturbed environments in Colorado. Rebecca intends to continue working as a soil scientist and plans to maintain her science outreach work in the community. She knows that having this readily available video and the skills required to produce more videos will help her in the future. 

“Everyone is always interested in the different types of outreach work that you do and in knowing that you are able to communicate to interdisciplinary teams of scientists and the public,” said Rebecca.  “Having this real concrete visual representation of my research is a great product.”

Ling-Yee Huang - 2014 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellow

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Ling-Yee Huang received the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellowship a year ago, she proposed to create a climate science curriculum for law schools.  Little did she know, she would actually be teaching her own class on climate science curriculum for lawyers, at the James A. College of Law at The University of Arizona.

Huang is currently a M.S. student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) at the University of Arizona, as well as a researcher at the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC).  Previously, she earned a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rice University.

Before coming to UA, Huang worked as a policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform in Washington, D.C.  She provided legal analysis regarding the Clean Water Act and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, and she developed legal frameworks for climate change adaptation and protecting ecosystem services.

“I have always really liked the idea of combining science and decision making,” said Huang.  “I started grad school having worked in the decision and policy making field for a couple of years and in that experience I felt that there was a real lack of understanding of science.”

Huang said when she learned about the CLIMAS fellowship, she realized it captured her dual interests in both science and policy perfectly. The curriculum and her final project were ideas she had been contemplating for a long time. 

“I found it the perfect fit,” said Huang. 

Huang’s CLIMAS Fellows project is Achieving Scientific Literacy in the Classroom: A Climate Science and Law Curriculum

Huang said she realizes there was a lot of interest in doing science literacy education in the legal field, but there weren’t many examples of exactly what she was trying to do.  For example, there are classes on climate change law, where students spend a few short lectures going over climate processes, but the focus is on the legal aspect of things, which makes sense in a law school.

Huang’s curriculum is different in that it orients students into thinking a certain way and towards being able to ask informed questions.

“I am not expecting them to be scientists but at least they are able to think critically about data that they are presented,” said Huang.

When Huang began, she had an ambitious curriculum. “I wanted to talk about air quality and water quality and climate process and how science works,” said Huang. “I had all of these topics that I wanted to cover in 8 weeks but when I presented it to one of the law professors who was helping me, she told me I really needed to scale back my ambitions.” 

The professor told her it was enough to just try to teach people about graphs.

With Huang’s final curriculum, students will learn how and where science and law interact, they will understand the basic scientific process, they will develop basic scientific literacy skills, they will apply the skills in a legal context, and they will learn the basics of climate science law. And she will do this all in 8 weeks!

“Trying to understand what I wanted to teach and what could realistically be taught in the constraints of the semester that was given to me was hard,” said Huang.  “I feel like there is so much information that could be useful for law students to know, but then being realistic about what was the most important was probably the most challenging for me.”

Difficulties aside, Huang created a curriculum that not only can be applied to law schools around the country but will definitely be in use in at the James A. College of Law.  Huang will be teaching Integrating Science and the Law in Practice (LAW698O), beginning March 3, 2015. 

Huang entered grad school with the idea that she wanted to have one foot each in the science and policy worlds. She wanted to figure out how to bridge communication gaps so that policies, however they turned out, are better informed by scientific research.

Huang said she wouldn’t have come up with this curriculum or put the work into it without this fellowship.

“I think UA is really fortunate to have an organization that is interested in funding this kind of policy, science type of work,” said Huang, referring to CLIMAS.  “Very often in academia, we get into our one discipline and we go, go, and go without looking across the horizon to see what is out there.”

Sarah Truebe - 2014 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellow

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sarah Truebe has always been a caver.  She grew up thinking the only things people should take from caves are photographs, but as she began her career as a paleoclimate scientist, she realized that scientists often take a lot more than photographs.

A stalagmite is a cylindrical mineral deposit, formed over hundreds or thousands of years on the floor of a cave, making them utterly non-renewable on human timescales.  Stalagmites contain valuable paleoclimate data; however, most of the time getting this information means permanently removing the stalagmite from the cave. 

“As the popularity of stalagmite paleoclimate science grows, development of sustainable sampling methods for these nonrenewable resources is necessary to balance the needs of science and cave conservation,” Truebe said. 

Truebe is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and is also a 2014 recipient of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program. She used this opportunity to collect information on different stalagmite sampling methods, with the intention of developing best practice recommendations for extraction. 

Truebe said the fellowship was very timely.  “Over the last 3 years of my PhD I have been thinking more and more that I want to be doing is science that is not only directly relevant to stakeholders, but is actually something that is engaged with stakeholders,” Truebe said.

She surveyed scientists on the different methods they currently or ideally want to use to extract climate information from the stalagmites. She asked stakeholders about which of the methods make the most sense to use, given the many other uses for caves, including tourism, education, recreation, habitat for many organisms, and so forth.

There were a few popular methods mentioned by scientists

  • The stalagmites can be cored, which leaves the majority of the structure intact; 
  • Broken or vandalized stalagmites can be permanently removed and analyzed;
  • Intact stalagmites can be temporarily removed and analyzed, and then repaired and replaced, or they can also be permanently removed and archived after climate information has been extracted.

While there are a few more techniques, these are the most popular methods. 

 “I had already done all of the scientist surveys before I heard about the fellowship and so I said this is a really cool project and there is a lot of potentially interesting information here, so how can we really do a great job on the stakeholder side of things too?” Truebe said.  “That was my intention in applying for the fellowship.”

The first survey covered which methods were being used or favored by these scientists. Truebe contacted 70 paleoclimate labs and received 45 responses to the survey, from 19 different countries.

The results showed that all of these scientists were removing the stalagmites from the cave permanently for sampling.  While less than 25 percent were using other techniques, the main method was permanent removal. 

From this study, Truebe found that one third of the scientists were not using their ideal or preferred method.  She also found they had awareness of the need or importance of conservation, but that there is not time, incentive or funding to do anything differently. 

A second survey was targeted at stakeholders, a group that included cave managers, state and federal agencies and recreational cavers.  There were 110 competed surveys with this group and while surveys were submitted from eight different counties, most came from the U.S.

These results for this survey were quite different compared to the scientist’s survey.  Permanent removal was a much less favored technique, while less-destructive coring was preferred. However, Sarah mentioned that coring isn’t always possible, depending on the geometry of the stalagmite.

After completing the surveys, Sarah built a framework that will give managers and scientists a place to start when wanting to sample in a more conservation-friendly way.  Along with this framework, Truebe will be writing a journal article for The National Speleogical Society and for the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

While Truebe thinks that these outputs are necessary, she felt she needed something else to really get the conversation about new sampling techniques started.  So she is also planning on holding two workshops, one on archiving that will primarily reach scientists and the other on developing new methods that will engage with interested stakeholders. 

Truebe said she was a bit concerned going into the project.  “Removing stalagmites is a very destructive process,” Truebe said. “So I was a bit nervous to send this survey out to the world wide caving community and say, “hey, there is this issue that you may or may not be aware of, what do you think about it?’”

 She was also worried to send it to scientists, who might not want a spotlight put on their sampling methods, because many know that sampling is already at odds to cave conservation.

But she was pleasantly surprised that people weren’t defensive or resistant to having a discussion, and most were receptive to the idea of shifting to a more conservation-oriented perspective, and were interested in how to do sampling better.  They were eager to find a compromise between what the scientists want and need to do for a robust analysis and what is good for the cave, long-term. 

Truebe is excited to see how this affects the future of caving and cave paleoclimate science.

“Now we can actually engage with the uncomfortable feelings that I have been having about this type of work and that other scientists expressed to me in the survey,” Truebe said.  “It is okay because we can study this and we can move forward.” 

Truebe said the fellowship made this idea that she had been thinking about for a while, more real. 

“I think that it has helped a lot, mainly because it has given much more credibility to the project, which until I received the fellowship was really just a thought experiment, or something like that,” said Truebe.  “Because the project is credible as is, but it was nice to be able to say ‘hey, I’m not the only one who thinks so.’”

2014 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellows

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program supports University of Arizona graduate students whose work connects climate research and decision making. Fellows receive $5,000 and guidance from members of the CLIMAS research team (Climate Assessment for the Southwest) for one year. The program’s main objective is to train a group of students to cross the traditional boundaries of academic research into use-inspired science and applied research. While CLIMAS research generally occurs in the Southwest U.S., the Fellows program allows students to work anywhere in the world.

Fellows’ projects may follow two tracks. Students who want to conduct collaborative research may use their funding for use-inspired projects. Students who have conducted climate research and want to communicate their findings to audiences outside of academia may use their funding for outreach. Fellows may also use their funding for a combination of the two tracks.

The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program helps students address the world’s climate-related problems by funding projects that engage people outside of the university.

This week we'll be publishing profiles of each of the 2014 Fellows: