Pacific Islands Climate Science Center Head to Speak at UH Hilo

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo hosts a seminar featuring David Helweg, director of the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center (PICSC), on Wednesday, April 23 at noon in Room 118 of the Science and Technology Building. The event is free and open to the public.

David Helweg

David Helweg

Helweg’s talk, entitled Vision and Framework of Science at the Department of Interior: Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, focuses on the Center and its efforts in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region. PICSC, hosted by a consortium of the University of Hawaiʻi and the University of Guam, was launched in 2012 as one of eight regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs) set up by the Department of Interior to complement and work with a national network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to address challenges of climate change.

PICSC, in partnership with the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC), works with Federal, State and other entities to deliver scientific research and interpretation to support management of natural and cultural resources. PICSC’s vision is to inform and support sustainability and climate adaptation of human and ecological communities in the Pacific.

For more information, call 933-0759 or email

Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is awarding more than $700,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

“Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,” said Secretary Jewell. “These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

Assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change in Hawai`i and other Pacific Island ecosystems by expanding and improving a novel model to identify which plants are vulnerable most to continuing change. This model, developed by federal, state and non-profit organizations, will allow project leads to respond to the needs of resource managers for such species vulnerability assessment to help inform adaptation decisions regionally and locally for some nearly 2000 plant species, and to prioritize their conservation actions.

Understanding how native and non-native Hawaiian forests will respond to climate change to help resource managers plan for and make effective adaptation and other decisions to slow the spread of invasive species and to keep Hawai`i’s native ecosystems, streams and forests healthy.

Assessing coral reef vulnerability in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to coral reefs and is expected to result in more frequent severe tropical storms and more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Coral reefs are additionally stressed by human activities, including coastal development and overfishing. This project will assess the resilience potential of coral reefs in the Commonwealth; results will help managers target actions that support and build reef resilience.

Developing a pilot decision-support tool for coral reef management that can map, assess, value and simulate changes in ecosystem services under alternative climate scenarios and adaptation strategies. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems such as coral reefs, which provide recreation and food among other benefits. This tool will help decision makers understand the social and economic tradeoffs of their management and adaptation decisions.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island coral reefs. The research team will use a system of models that will ultimately identify reef areas that are either vulnerable or resilient to the many stressors that the future may hold. Such models can identify areas that might benefit from management actions to minimize local stressors such as land-based pollution, and it will directly provide scientific knowledge to aid in planning for adaptation to climate change.

Providing the best possible projections of future climate change at a regional scale for the islands of Kaui`i and O`ahu. Although the Pacific Islands are notable in their vulnerability to climate change, they have received considerably less attention than more populated areas in climate models. This project will fill that gap in providing downscaled models that will be provided to resource managers for helping them make more effective planning and management decisions.

In Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands, changing climate already is a reality for urban and rural communities, cultural life ways and sites, watersheds, ecosystems and hundreds of imperiled species in this vast oceanic domain of island, atoll and marine ecosystems. “It is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future,” said David Helweg, director of Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. “These studies are designed for the people who need them: managers, policy makers, and community leaders already grappling with the effects of climate change.”

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, community leaders, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists and students from the universities that comprise the Pacific Islands CSC, from USGS science centers, and from other partners such as the State and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Hawai`i, Manoa, along with the University of Hawai`i, Hilo, and the University of Guam.

2013-2014 Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in CNMI; Field-based Assessments and Implications for Vulnerability and Future Management Laurie Raymundo (Marine Laboratory, University of Guam)
Jeffrey Mayndar (UNCW Center for Marine Science)
2013-2015 Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawai`i and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems Lucas Fortini (Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC))
2013-2015 Future Coral Reef Community Projections of DOI-Managed Coastal Assets in the Hawaiian Islands Erik Franklin (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Understanding the Response of Native and Non‐native Forests to Climate Variability and Change to Support Resource Management in Hawai`i Thomas Giambelluca (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2016 Valuing Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reef Ecosystem Services (Aloha InVest) Kirsten Oleson (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Very Fine Resolution Dynamical Downscaling of Past and Future Climates for Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the Islands of O`ahu and Kaua`i Yuqing Wang (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)


University of Hawaii Selected to Host Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced three universities selected to host the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) for the Northeast, South Central, and Pacific Islands regions. The three locations complete the national network of eight CSCs that will serve to provide land managers in federal, state and local agencies access to the best science available regarding climate change and other landscape-scale stressors. Secretary Salazar also announced today the permanent directors for three existing CSCs.

Near-shore habitat at Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific. Low-elevation islands in the Pacific and elsewhere face particular challenges due to the sea level rise effects of climate change.

“Selecting the locations for the final three of our eight Climate Science Centers is a major milestone in our efforts to implement our department-wide climate change strategy,” Secretary Salazar said. “The nationwide network of Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States, and how the Department of the Interior, as our nation’s chief steward of natural and cultural resources, can prepare and respond.”

The three universities announced today are:

  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which will host the Northeast Climate Science Center;
  • The University of Oklahoma, which will host the South Central Climate Science Center; and
  • The University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu, which will host the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center.

Salazar noted that the CSCs will expand climate science capabilities without building new facilities or duplicating existing capabilities. Each CSC has a consortium of partners facilitating collaboration across the entire science community and expanding the expertise available to the CSC. The South Central CSC Consortium, for example, includes 30 departments within 4 universities.

Hypersaline lake and mudflats on Laysan (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). The Laysan Albatross is a sea bird that is largely restricted to breeding in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and is likely to be impacted by sea-level rise.

The CSCs announced today also have significant participation from tribal communities. The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are partners for the South Central Center, which will include support for a tribal sustainability officer, and the College of Menominee Nation is a partner for the Northeast CSC.

Secretary Salazar also announced the first permanent directors for three existing CSCs today:

  • Dr. Gerard McMahon has been selected as the Director for the Southeast Climate Science Center. McMahon served as team leader of a national study of the effects of urban development conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment Program.
  • Dr. Stephen Gray has been selected as the Director of the Alaska Climate Science Center. Gray previously served as the Director of the University of Wyoming Water Resources Data System and the Wyoming State Climatologist.
  • Dr. Gustavo Bisbal has been selected as Director of the Northwest Climate Science Center. Before this appointment he served in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science at the U.S. Department of State.

The scientific priorities and agendas of each CSC will be decided in consultation with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) in their respective regions – which are also part of the department’s coordinated climate change strategy – as well as with other scientists and land managers. The nationwide network of LCCs engages federal agencies, local and state partners, and the public in crafting practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change and other landscape-scale stressors impacting the nation’s natural and cultural resources.

Laysan teal (Anas layanensis) on Laysan, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) foraging on brine flies (Scatella sexnotata) on the mudflats of the atoll. Photo by M. Reynolds, USGS

The CSCs will serve as regional hubs of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. USGS is taking the lead on establishing the CSCs and providing initial staffing. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient.

A list of the eight regional Climate Science Centers follows:

  • The Alaska Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in Anchorage.
  • The Southeast Climate Science Center is hosted by North Carolina State University
  • The Northwest Climate Science Center is supported by a consortium of three universities–Oregon State University, University of Washington and the University of Idaho.
  • The Southwest Climate Science Center has six host organizations: 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 in San Diego.
  • The North Central Climate Science Center is headed by Colorado State University and includes the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming, Montana State University, University of Montana, Kansas State University, and Iowa State University.
  • The Northeast Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, with the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Columbia, and University of Wisconsin-Madison serving as consortium partners.
  • The South Central Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Oklahoma, with Texas Tech University, Louisiana State University, The Chickasaw Nation, The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory serve as consortium partners.
  • The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Hawaii – Manoa in Honolulu, with the University of Hawaii-Hilo and the University of Guam as consortium partners.