Southeast Climate Consortium wins $4 million grant, UF to benefit

Cutline at bottom. Click here for high resolution image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The multistate Southeast Climate Consortium has been awarded a five-year, $4 million grant that will fund climate research and outreach at the University of Florida and other institutions.

The grant is part of a $23.6 million package awarded to six regional centers by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through its Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments, or RISA, initiative.

The consortium’s work focuses mostly on the effects of climate on agriculture and water resources, said Jim Jones, the principal investigator and a distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“These funds will enable us to study climate variability and climate change over all time scales,” he said. “People often want forecasts for the next one to nine months and climate outlooks for the next 10 to 20 years and longer. They want to know how to plan for their agricultural and water management operations and decisions.”

The consortium’s institutions include UF, Florida State University, University of Miami, University of Georgia, Auburn University, University of Alabama-Huntsville, Clemson University and North Carolina State University, said Keith Ingram, a UF associate scientist and a coordinator for the consortium.

However, the RISA funds will only be applied in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, because another RISA grant funds work in the Carolinas, Ingram said.

The six grant recipients are considered RISA centers, joining five previously funded centers. One consequence: Consortium personnel will help develop plans for nationwide climate assessments, the next one beginning in 2011.

Jones said the assessments will generate a “state of the union” overview of climate change, its effects on the vulnerable geographic and demographic sectors of American society, and on potential societal responses for adapting to climate change and climate variability.

“By having this grant, we hope to influence the next assessment to make sure it includes the kind of information decision-makers really need,” Jones said. “It will also allow us to work with stakeholders, providing new education and extension to help them understand all the information that’s out there so they can better decide what to do in response to reliable science-based climate change information specific to our state and region.”

Because climate change has generated controversy, it’s sometimes difficult for agricultural producers to know which information to believe, he said.

For more about the consortium go to http://SEClimate.org and http://AgroClimate.org.

A new counterpart to the consortium, the Florida Climate Institute, focuses on Florida but addresses a wide range of topics, including agriculture, wildlife, land-use change, utilities, forest management and tourism, said Jones, the institute’s director.

Faculty from various colleges at UF and Florida State University are working in interdisciplinary teams to develop research and education programs to address the complex issues associated with climate change and societal responses.

The institute was officially founded in July, when UF’s and FSU’s boards of trustees approved it, said Ingram, who serves as executive adviser to the director.

“We’ve already done a lot of work,” he said. “We’ve submitted about 22 grant proposals.”

Organizers hope to bring other Florida universities aboard, Ingram said.

The institute will have a kickoff event from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the FSU Alumni Center in Tallahassee.

For more information, go to http://FloridaClimateInstitute.org.

Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: Jim Jones, 352-392-1864, ext. 289, jimj@ufl.edu

Keith Ingram, 352-392-1864, ext. 283, ktingram@ufl.edu

Photo cutline

Jim Jones, a distinguished professor with the agricultural and biological engineering department, is UF’s principal investigator in the Southeast Climate Consortium. The consortium was just awarded a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for climate research and outreach at UF and other institutions.