NE CSC Stakeholder Outreach and Science Planning Meetings: Massachusetts

January 09-10, 2013:  University of Massachusetts


Executive Synopsis

by Meeting Facilitators from the Keystone Center


This was the first of two stakeholders meetings held at opposite ends of the Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC) geographic region (the second occurred in Minnesota January 17-18, 2013). 

The meeting attracted over 80 participants, including representatives from, among others, USGS regional leadership, the Climate Change and Land Use Mission Area, BIA, states and tribes, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, National Park Service, Forest Service, FWS, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon (MA), Vermont DNR, MA Coastal Zone Management, NY Energy Research and Development Authority, NY CEP, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), Merrimack River Watershed Council, Delaware River Basin Commission, North Atlantic LCC, Northeast States Coordinated Air use Management, and eastern Consortium members (University of Massachusetts, College of the Menominee Nation, Columbia University), University of New Hampshire (see the full summary for a complete list of attendees).

The meeting began with welcomes from: NE CSC Director, D.r Mary Ratnaswamy; Dr. Shawn Carter, Chief Scientist, NCCWSC; the host and NE CSC University director Dr. Richard Palmer the University of Massachusetts, and USGS Northeast Regional Director, Dr. David Russ.  The remainder of the meeting focused on gathering input from stakeholders on the key science topics/priorities under seven theme areas identified in the NE CSC draft science agenda.  Input was gathered primarily in small groups, contextualized by earlier presentations of each theme by a team: a scientist and recipient of the science.  Day one small groups discussed three cross-cutting themes: #1-Climate change assessment and projections for decision making by resource managers; #6-Impacts of climate change on cultural resources; and #7-Decision frameworks for evaluating risk and managing natural resources under climate change, and an additional topic focused on needs and suggestions for communicating with and from NE CSC.  During day two participants selected one of four theme small group concurrent discussions: #2-Climate impacts on freshwater resources and ecosystems; #3-Coastal and near-shore response to climate change, including Great Lakes; #4-Climate impacts on land use and land cover; or #5 Ecosystem vulnerability and species response to climate change.

 The meeting objectives—to share and receive information about how the draft science themes fit with the needs of the NE CSC stakeholders and partners and to create and enhance opportunities for communication among those present—were largely realized.  Participants engaged fully and forthrightly during the course of the meeting and offered many insightful recommendations and observations from the small groups and in plenary sessions.  Three key refrains arose during the course of the meeting.  One, the necessity of decision-making in the face of uncertainty and risk and what tools are available or could be developed to help managers act as intelligently as possible.  Two, the importance of fostering a genuine collaboration between researchers and natural resource managers so that the information provided by the NECSC is both scientifically sound and of practical use.  The third area of considerable discussion and interest centered on several aspects related to cultural issues, including the value of traditional ecological knowledge and climate change impacts to traditional practices.


Some salient points by theme include:

Theme 1: Climate change assessment and projections for decision making by resource managers. Important factors and priorities included stakeholder driven science and applicability to managers.  A number of participants commented on the importance of the NE CSC serving both as a provider and interpreter of information.  There needs to be collaboration between scientists and resource managers so that information and research products are a “mutual arising” between those developing and those using information.  Recommendations included improving two-way communications about needs regarding models and developing guidance about decision making in the face of uncertainty.

Theme 2: Climate impacts on freshwater resources and ecosystems.  A key focus of discussions under this theme related to interactions between climate change and human dimension impacts/drivers (e.g. population trends, land use and infrastructure) and on resilience, as well as impacts on water resources (e.g. supply and wetlands) and quality.

Theme 3: Coastal and near-shore response to climate change, including Great Lakes.  This theme needs to include the impacts on the human dimension (e.g. sea level rise impacts on infrastructure and drinking water), determine the vulnerability of human systems.  Priorities included predicting and understanding the impact of storms, the effectiveness of various adaptation approaches, ecosystem services as a protective barrier, and links to other themes (e.g. impacts of changes in freshwater flow).

Theme 4: Climate impacts on land use and land cover. Discussion included emphasis on the human dimension, adaptation and mitigation; forest and different forest management strategies; agricultural impacts; an examination of the differential responses of wildlife populations; and an awareness of connections across themes, states, and existing information and data.  It is important to know the audience and assist tribes address or adapt to changing land cover.  In addition to being a clearinghouse for information, some participants recommended the NE CSC also become comfortable communicating about uncertainty and what is not known.

Theme 5: Ecosystem vulnerability and species response to climate change.  Much discussion centered on frameworks that would work for any targeted species to address this broad theme and move away from the ‘laundry’ list approach.  Specific areas of mentioned: privately owned/managed landscapes, forests, urban heat island effects, managing uncertainty, large scale challenges (e.g. migration of species across the region) and sentinel species.  Work should incorporate “traditional ecological knowledge.”

Theme 6: Impacts of climate change on cultural resources. Since the meaning of “culture” varies it is important to define the term in this context.  Among other things, it may include objects/artifacts, uses or practices, values, or traditional ecological knowledge.  Culture also includes modern-day norms and practices.  Remember that preservation and adaptation are both important.  Develop good partners for gathering and using traditional ecological knowledge in decision-making; combine the social and biological approaches.  In this theme as with several others, there was an emphasis on focusing on deliverables and applicability to managers.

Theme 7: Decision frameworks for evaluating risk and managing natural resources under climate change.  This aspect is critical and less a stand-alone topic and more something that needs to be integrated into each theme (including cumulative effects).  This needs to be about applicability at each level of decision-making (e.g. private land owner, municipality, state, and regional).  Information developed will help decision makers communicate the basis for decisions (and mitigate the fear of looking like they don’t know what they are doing).  Frameworks should also include political and social sciences-- particularly in this region where there are few public lands—and the public is an audience for this theme.