ESA and TWS publish final report on the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center

Report summarizes the planning process and outlines recommendations

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) and The Wildlife Society (TWS) recently published a final report describing the planning process that shaped the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and outlining recommendations for its structure and function.

The NCCWSC, which was established in 2008 by Congress, is intended to help resource managers across the U.S. anticipate the impacts of climate change on plant and animal communities and to help them devise strategies for mitigating and adapting to those impacts. The NCCWSC was created by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the science agency of the Department of Interior.

The USGS-sponsored report also details the purpose of the NCCWSC as a conduit between climate science and fish and wildlife management.

“Wildlife managers need information on the local scale to effectively respond to climate change. The NCCWSC can play a key role in developing and applying that information, and the visibility and credibility of the Center will be enhanced by input from the science community,” says Cliff Duke, ESA’s Director of Science Programs. “I commend USGS for partnering with ESA, The Wildlife Society and the Meridian Institute to develop these recommendations about Center priorities and operations.”

Staff from TWS, ESA and the Meridian Institute—an internationally recognized organization that provides process design and facilitation for complex issues—helped organize and facilitate a series of workshops to assist in planning the NCCWSC. The workshops were intended to help identify information gaps and research priorities, collaboration strategies and an organizational structure.

“Establishing the capacity to assess and respond to the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife is an urgent national priority,” says Timothy Mealey, Co-founder and Senior Partner at the Meridian Institute. “The USGS is to be commended for reaching out to diverse stakeholders who have both the expertise and the desire to help ensure that this priority is met in an effective manner. We are proud that we could be of assistance to USGS and our partners—TWS and ESA— in helping to bring these stakeholders together for critical input in the launch of the NCCWSC.”

As outlined in the report, stakeholders from federal and state agencies, tribal organizations, academia and non-governmental organizations, and other project team members, defined specific priorities for and objectives of the Center through a series of workshops which spanned from December 2008 to July 2009. They determined that the NCCWSC should be a conduit between science and resource management — serving as a neutral purveyor of information—and that the efforts of the Center should build upon previous research and knowledge.

They also decided it should focus on linking physical climate models with ecological and biological responses, and it should do so by forecasting potential environmental impacts and assessing the vulnerability of species and habitats to climate change using a number of DOI Regional Climate Science Centers. Finally, they recommended that the Center develop a comprehensive plan to reach policymakers and the public and to advance communication within the Center.

“Working with our partners to complete this complex and exciting project was very gratifying,” says Michael Hutchins, Executive Director and CEO of The Wildlife Society. “I will be particularly interested to see how recommendations for increased inter-agency collaboration are implemented.  Individual federal agencies are used to going it alone and sometimes even competing with one another for limited resources.  However, climate change and its potential impact on fish and wildlife resources is too big an issue for any one agency to get its arms around. It is therefore essential that everyone works together amicably and collaboratively.”

copy of the “Final Report on Outreach & Recommendations” is available at