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Texas Tech to Help Lead New Climate Science Center

School will have leadership role in a consortium of universities, tribal nations and regional partners.

Written by Chris Cook

Texas Tech will play a significant leadership role within the consortium in addressing regional responses of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to changes in precipitation and temperatures.

Texas Tech will play a significant leadership role within the consortium in addressing regional responses of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to changes in precipitation and temperatures.

Texas Tech University will play a leadership role in a consortium of universities, tribal nations and regional partners that will make up the newly formed South-Central Climate Science Center.

The center encompasses Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico and will partner with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to address regional climate change challenges, including:

  • Climate impacts on agriculture and grazing
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Fish and wildlife response to climate change
  • Invasive species and wild land fire
  • Protection of cultural resources and trust species, including migratory fish and waterfowl
  • Water availability and water quality for humans and ecosystems

The consortium is led by the University of Oklahoma and will involve researchers at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State University, Louisiana State University, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) at Princeton University. Texas Tech will play a significant leadership role within the consortium in addressing regional responses of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to changes in precipitation and temperatures. Texas Tech began teaming with the University of Oklahoma more than a year ago to secure the funding.

“The awarding of the South-Central Climate Science Center was a highly competitive process,” said Texas Tech President Guy Bailey. “We are delighted to partner with these outstanding institutions and tribal organizations. I believe Texas Tech brings solid climate science, ecology and conservation, and atmospheric science research to the table as the consortium looks at solutions to current challenges facing our region. We already have close collaborations with the U.S. Department of the Interior, and we look forward to growing these significantly.”

“At the outset, we recognized the intrinsic diversity of the South Central Region – its climate and weather, its ecology and economy, and its many cultures – and that this diversity demanded a solid and resourceful team,” said Berrien Moore, vice president for weather and climate programs at the University of Oklahoma. “We were fortunate to have Texas Tech on that team. Texas Tech not only has deep scientific knowledge about this region and beyond, it also has the demonstrated willingness to apply this knowledge to solve real problems that confront our citizens every day as they do their jobs.”

The South-Central Climate Science Center is one of eight centers being established across the country. Texas Tech began proactively looking for partners many months before proposals were submitted to the Department of the Interior in the spring of 2011.

“This is fabulous news for Texas Tech and our partners; it reflects more than a year in planning and coordination within Texas Tech and with our external partners,” said Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research. “I especially want to recognize Reagan Hales of our Strategic Opportunities to Advance Research (SOAR) team and Dr. John Zak of the College of Arts and Sciences for their leadership in bringing our faculty and our partners together. We look forward to many fruitful collaborations such as this as Texas Tech’s research enterprise grows and matures.”

Zak, an ecosystem ecologist in the Department of Biological Sciences and associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the principal investigator for this project.

“Becoming part of the center places Texas Tech in a national network for climate science,” he said. “Through these centers we can begin to provide critical data that can be used to more effectively address water policy issues, development of conservation strategies and help formulate economic responses that are linked to projections of precipitation patterns and climate.”

Texas Tech brings a transdisciplinary approach to the project with extensive and internationally recognized experts in global climate modeling and projection, as well as expertise in water and land conservation, biodiversity, ecosystem ecology and management issues.

Partnering with the GFDL, Texas Tech produced the high-resolution climate projection dataset used for the 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program assessment. The university has long studied climate impacts in arid and semi-arid environments world-wide to understand how climate change will alter ecosystem dynamics and services. Texas Tech also is developing a climate projection database for the USGS, as well as best practices for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on applying climate projections in ecosystem impact analyses.

The university, along with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, has provided national leadership in weather and climate observations through their operational mesonet stations, which compile real-time climate data, as well as through research facilities and radar-equipped vehicles.

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