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Posted: January 01, 2011

State of the state: science

Colorado State University to become Western region hub for climate-change research

Rob Reuteman

stateofstate_csu_water_jan11.jpg

In October, the U.S. Department of the Interior selected CSU as home to one of eight new Climate Science Centers designed to put research in the hands of public and private resource managers so they can better mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

In early November, CSU was named by the National Science Foundation as the leader of a new research and education program to train the next generation of water scientists, granting $2.75 million over five years to the effort.

In mid-November, United Nations
officials traveled to the Fort Collins campus for the North American launch of its Decade for Deserts, designed to focus attention
on how worsening drought patterns and human impacts turn productive acreage into barren dryland.

With its new Climate Science Center, CSU will lead a consortium of nine universities in the north-central region of the country: 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 center, expected to be operating by 2011, will be housed in CSU's $13 million Science and Technology Center, which opened in April 2009. The climate center will host up to eight federal scientists as well as post-doctoral fellows who will work with regional land, water, fish and wildlife managers, providing them with the latest tools to adapt their work to the findings of climate science.

"We'll look at the impacts of climate in the north-central part of the U.S., to help understand how changing patterns affect snow and rainfall in the region," said Dennis Ojima, director of the new center and a professor in CSU's Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship.

Colorado State University was the first university in the world to host one of the U.N.'s "decade of the desert" announcements, and the first North American site. CSU and U.N. officials signed a letter of intent to explore how they can work together on desertification research.

While natural deserts make up an important part of the Earth's ecosystems, desertification occurs when healthy landscapes in dryland areas such as Colorado turn barren from human impacts and worsening drought. Colorado and 16 other Western states are classified as drylands.

Desertified land can be restored, and the U.N. has launched a worldwide effort focused on such research.

"The strength of the U.S. interdisciplinary approach is very important, and it is not universal," said Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification. "Extension services in the United States may be a model that could work elsewhere."

The NSF grant program to train water scientists will be led by Jorge A. Ramirez, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
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Rob Reuteman is a freelance journalist, former business editor of the Rocky Mountain News and immediate past president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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