Montana State University

Montana State University part of new U.S. Department of Interior North Central Climate Science Center

October 21, 2010 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Montana State University will be part of a U.S. Department of Interior climate science center expected to open in early 2011.

The new North Central Climate Science Center will be operated by a consortium of universities, but will be headed by Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., the U.S. Department of Interior announced today.

The North Central Climate Science Center is the fifth of eight planned regional Climate Science Centers - or CSCs - to be established by the Department. With Colorado State University as home base, the center's consortium will include: MSU, the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming, University of Montana, Kansas State University and Iowa State University.

"The members of the consortium headed by Colorado State University can provide us with great expertise in the major climate-related challenges facing the North Central region including diminishing water supplies, the spread of invasive species, outbreaks of pests and diseases, changing fire regimes, decreased crop and livestock production, and loss of habitat for critical fish and wildlife species," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "Selected through an open competition, these universities represent the full array of landscapes in the Rocky Mountains, Intermountain West, and Great Plains."

For example, members of the consortium are engaged in research to understand the effects of pine bark beetle outbreaks on water, forest conditions, and grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, and are also studying the potential for dust from overgrazed areas to accelerate climate-driven snowpack melting.

MSU faculty are actively studying climate change and its consequences for the agricultural lands and wild lands in Montana and beyond, said Cathy Whitlock, MSU director of Interdisciplinary Research Initiatives.

"Our research focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on water and snow resources, fire regimes, invasive species, and fish and wildlife," Whitlock said.

Other work of the U.S. Department of the Interior North Central Climate Science Center will include:

  • Downscaling of global climate change models linking physical factors with biological, physical and ecological responses.
  • Forecasting of the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife populations, habitat, and ecosystem services dynamics including research as well as tool and data development and distribution.
  • Climate adaptation research related to vulnerability assessments, adaptive management development, coping strategies, and risk analysis development.
  • Developing innovative decision-support tools for adaptation and mitigation.
Secretary Salazar initiated a coordinated climate change strategy in September 2009, with Secretarial Order 3289. The order called for establishing the regional Climate Science Centers as well as a network of "Landscape Conservation Cooperatives" that engage federal agencies, local and state partners, and the public in crafting practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts on natural resources. Twenty-one LCCs are planned through FY 2012.

The CSCs will serve as regional hubs of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey. USGS is taking the lead on establishing the CSCs and providing initial staffing. Ultimately, funds and staff from multiple Interior bureaus will be pooled to support these centers and ensure collaborative sharing of research results and data. Together, the CSCs and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will assess the impacts of climate change that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient.

The Department of the Interior previously announced:

  • The Alaska Climate Science Center hosted by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in Anchorage.
  • The Southeast Climate Science Center hosted by North Carolina State University.
  • The Northwest Climate Science Center led by a consortium of three universities--Oregon State University, University of Washington and the University of Idaho.
  • The Southwest Climate Science Center-University of Arizona, Tucson; University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; Desert Research Institute, Reno; University of Colorado, Boulder; and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego.
Announced today was:
  • The North Central Climate Science Center headed by Colorado State University and including the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming, Montana State University, University of Montana, Kansas State University and Iowa State University.
Announcements to come include:
  • The Northeast, South Central, and Pacific Islands Climate Science Centers-- Interior intends to invite proposals in the spring of 2011 to host the remaining regional centers.

Contact: Joan Moody, DOI (202) 208-6416; Cathy Whitlock, MSU, 406-994-6910,