Voinovich School faculty, staff and students share experiences from climate adaptation forum

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Voinovich School faculty and staff discussed their experiences at the 2017 National Adaptation Forum and presented their latest work on how communities can adapt to climate change during a Lunch and Learn held Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

Environmental studies faculty Dr. Derek Kauneckis, research associate Jackie Kloepfer and students Jonathan Norris, Miles Gordon, and Alex Hurley were among the diverse group of climate change adaptation researchers and practitioners—ranging from farmers to government agency representatives—who met in St. Paul, MN, last May to share the latest ideas in practical solutions to climate change.

“It reminded me that regardless of what’s been happening, people really are doing adaptation in the field,” Kloepfer told the attendees.

Alex Hurley enjoyed the opportunity to meet representatives of agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA as well as professional climate change consultants.

“These consultants are focused on science-based knowledge but committed to working with stakeholders and partners where they’re at,” he said.

Elected leaders at the city or county level often lack the expertise to prepare for and adapt to climate change, Hurley said. They turn to organizations such as the USDA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the U.S. Geological Survey for knowledge and support. Hurley talked about his nationwide survey of officials to better understand how they can build networks with such organizations.

Norris presented his work on the transition of coal-dependent communities in rural Appalachia to natural gas and oil fuels and the economic impacts of the declining coal industry. Norris also discussed how the use of community-based solutions informed by the voices and opinions of local people could help facilitate smoother transitions.  His goal is to create solutions that are both environmentally sustainable and able to meet the needs of all community members equally. His work is part of the Shale Innovation Project, a collaboration among the Voinovich School, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, and the College of Arts and Sciences that studies the impacts of Ohio’s shale development on businesses and communities.

Miles Gordon explained his work on native tribal responses to climate change. Like other areas, native communities experience increasingly frequent natural hazards, such as flooding. They also face threats to traditional food crops, many of which are challenged by uneven weather patterns and shortened growing seasons.

“Native tribes are set to face the worst impacts of climate change, and yet in many ways are the least prepared for it,” he said.

Gordon’s research explores the effectiveness of adaptation programs, comparing community-led efforts with externally led ones based on key strategies such as use of traditional knowledge and community contributions. His next step is to interview selected community members about their experiences with different adaptation programs.

More Voinovich School lunch and learn events will be held throughout the year. The Friday forums include informal presentations related to significant environmental topics. The events are open to all Ohio University students, faculty and students.

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