UA, federal agency renew climate science partnership

AK CASC graduate student Maggie Harings wearing a life vest and standing in ankle-deep water uses a scientific instrument to sample river water for her eDNA research.
Photo by Erik Schoen
Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center graduate student Maggie Harings is studying eDNA and how it might be used to estimate fish populations in Alaska's rivers.

The University of Alaska will continue to host the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center after renewing an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS will provide $11.4 million to fund the center during the next five years.
The center, part of a national network, provides regionally relevant climate science to support climate change adaptation. It connects government agencies, researchers and local decision-makers.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has hosted the center, which was the first in the nation, since 2010. Scott Rupp, a UAF wildfire scientist, and Steve Gray, a USGS hydrologist, lead efforts to provide adaptation science to managers of Alaska’s land, water, fish, wildlife and cultural heritage resources.
Recent projects have focused on Alaska’s changing berry harvests, landslide risks along national park roads and glacier lake outburst flooding near Juneau.
UAF will continue as the university host, while UA Anchorage and UA Southeast serve as consortium partners. 
“The science happening in collaboration with the universities is helping land managers make better decisions in the face of a changing climate,” said Gray, the USGS regional administrator for the center. “That’s not just here in the Department of the Interior either. Our work is helping other federal agencies, state agencies and local land managers make better decisions too.”
The new hosting agreement coincides with new leadership. Patrick Lemons will become assistant regional administrator for the center at the USGS office in Anchorage.
Lemons was chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska Marine Mammals Management Office from 2016 to 2023. The office is responsible for the conservation of polar bears, northern sea otters and Pacific walruses. His understanding of regulatory research needs will provide a new and powerful perspective to the center.

“I’m excited to innovate on how we serve our managing partners in Alaska,” Lemons said. “What’s the best way to maintain clear and open communication with local, state and federal managers? How do we best turn their questions into research priorities?”