2013-14 Annual Report
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Research Initiatives

The Institute of the Environment strives to create larger research projects and programs that stretch far beyond the single investigator and discipline to create an array of integrated knowledge that more effectively serves the public. These larger efforts are based on broad partnerships, often across three or more colleges on the UA campus, and often with partners in other universities, the private sector, government agencies, and the public arena. Interdisciplinary IE-related initiatives include:

Climate Assessment for the Southwest


Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) assesses the impacts of climate variability and longer-term climate change on human and natural systems in the Southwest. CLIMAS is designed to improve the ability of the region to respond sufficiently and appropriately to climatic events and climate changes.

Southwest Climate Science Center


The Southwest Climate Science Center (SWCSC) is part of a network of eight climate science centers created by the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques that land, water, wildlife, cultural resource, and municipal managers can use to anticipate, monitor, and adapt to climate change. The SWCSC is hosted by a consortium of six institutions in the Southwest: 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, San Diego. 

Renewable Energy Network


The UA Renewable Energy Network (REN) is a university-wide initiative designed to support the expanded regional, national, and global use of abundant, clean, and economical renewable energy by connecting community and industry to the UA’s research and educational programs. 

Assessing Climate Change Risk and Adaptability on Southwestern DoD Facilities


Reseachers are helping Department of Defense managers who oversee troop readiness, flight training, built infrastructure, and environmental compliance assess the agency's risk and readiness for climate change effects in the Southwest. Goals of the project include assessing the managers' understanding of the risks that climate change brings to their operations; providing them with assessments of regional climate and ecological conditions and forecasting models tailored to their needs; and training them to use new strategies in how their operations are organized and how they make partnerships with other agencies to be more adaptable in their responses to climate change.

Climate Assessments

Climate variability and change present both challenges and opportunities for the U.S. To be better prepared, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is leading a National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. The UA has a total of six authors—all either IE staff or affiliated faculty—on this draft report, more than any other university in the country. As part of this project, IE coordinated a 120-author Southwest climate assessment report to determine the potential consequences of climate change and variability for key economic and natural resource sectors in the Southwest. Members of IE’s staff also led the effort to publish the Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States, the most comprehensive and understandable analysis to date about climate and its effects on the people and landscapes of the region. IE also lead authorship of a special report of the National Climate Assessment, Preparing the Nation for Change: Building a Sustained National Climate Assessment Process, released in September 2013.

Integrating Climate Information and Decision Processes for Regional Climate Resilience

The Integrating Climate Information and Decision Processes for Regional Climate ResilienceProject is a five-year, coordinated effort with Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (http://irap.iri.columbia.edu/), funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (under its International Research and Applications Program), and the U.S. Agency for International Development aimed at increasing preparedness and resilience of communities in the face of climate variability and change. 

The project focuses on improving the understanding, access and use of climate information products and processes tailored to the specific needs of affected stakeholders (people, communities, organizations, and governments).  Currently it addresses three broad sectors-- a) water resources management; b) disaster preparedness and hazard risk management related to extreme events and other changes; and c) coastal planning and management—with specific projects designed in collaboration with local and/or regional partners. The regional emphasis is in three regions—the Caribbean, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, with efforts in 2014–2015 principally focused in the Caribbean and South/Southeast Asia.  Activities by the University of Arizona team focus on vulnerability assessments, stakeholder needs assessments, network analyses, roles of extension services, and evaluation of climate services in each region.  Our approach involves understanding the decision processes in which climate information is used, and the institutional context within which information is provided, accessed, and implemented. A key aspect of our approach is multidisciplinary teams that bind climate, sectoral, and social scientists in collaboration with our regional and national/subnational partners to develop decision support systems in specific contexts.