CALS Team Garners Honor for Climate Change, Sustainability Efforts

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sustainability in the face of climate change is a major challenge facing natural resource managers, and it's a challenge Cooperative Extension leaders at the University of Arizona are working to address. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) recently recognized the importance of efforts in this arena by 14 Extension affiliates, led by Christopher Jones and Mark Apel, by naming them as recipients of the 2012 CALS Outstanding Team Award.

An extended drought that included this state's worst pine bark beetle outbreak initiated the collaborative effort beginning in 2003 by the CALS Environment and Sustainability Extension Signature Program Team.

Members started with a series of workshops at the state and national level that addressed climate change and its impacts on natural resources. Over the years, the team evolved into a "think tank" to address adaptation to climate change for natural resource management. The team's work includes a parallel emphasis on sustainability education to support extension programming.

Since 2004, the team has garnered $372,000 from the UA Green Fund, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and other university and federal grants.

Working together with CALS and other UA researchers specializing in ecology, climatology and sustainability, and partnering with professional organizations and communities, they supported extension programming that helps mitigate climate change and its impacts, prepares society for adapting to coming changes, and promotes the sustainability credo to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Workshops. Spearheaded by Christopher Jones, the team conducted six climate and natural resource related workshops at state, regional and national levels between 2005 and 2011. As a result of strategies that include partnering with relevant professional societies, attendance at these workshops totaled 730 people, many of them managers of rangelands, deserts and forests.

Creation of interactive communities. Team members have been sharing and exchanging ideas on their efforts through various web-based projects. An eXtension Community of Practice on Climate, Forests and Woodlands, launched in 2010, serves Extension professionals, natural resource managers and family forest owners. A Climate Science Initiative, created in 2010 under the auspices of the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, seeks to facilitate a Cooperative Extension system-wide response to the pressing issue of climate change.

"Externs in Sustainability" program. Following a brainstorming session at a 2010 UA Sustainability Summit organized by the group, the team created an "extern" program that placed 12 students in six different county extension offices during the summers of 2011 and 2012. Led by Mark Apel and funded by a UA Green Fund grant, the program supports student work on community-based sustainability projects. These have included installing rainwater harvesting tanks, creating and managing local farmers' markets, and launching a community garden on tribal lands.

Scholarly publications resulted from many of these efforts, including an in-press Journal of Extension article on the extern program and a 2007 Journal of Natural Resources and Life Science Education article on some of the innovative exercises used at the workshops.

The team demonstrates to the fullest what only a land-grant institution at its best can do. Recognition of members' efforts is a fitting tribute to 150-year anniversary celebration of the Morrill Act that established land-grant colleges and the related Cooperative Extension system. The award was presented at the CALS Faculty/Staff Meeting on November 6 in Tucson.

Mark B. Apel, Area Associate Agent, Community Resource Development, Cochise County
Bill Brandau, County Extension Director, Graham County
Michael Crimmins, Climate Science Extension Associate Specialist, Soil, Water and Environmental Science
Tom DeGomez, Natural Resources Area Agent and Regional Specialist, Coconino County
Gregg Garfin, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Climate, Policy and Natural Resources, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Erik Glenn, Community Resource Development Area Assistant Agent, Yavapai County
Christopher Jones, Associate Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources Programs, Gila County
Melanie Lenart, Translational Science Extension Consultant, Soil, Water and Environmental Science
Daniel McDonald, Associate Agent, Family, Consumer and Health Sciences, Pima County
Ayman Mostafa, Agriculture Area Assistant Agent, Maricopa County
Candice Rupprecht, Coordinator of Applied Programs, Water Resources Research Center
Channah Rock, Water Quality Assistant Specialist, Maricopa Agriculture Center
Kerry Schwartz, Associate Specialist, Water Resources Research Center
Darcy Tessman, Associate Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Cochise County