2015: Terrestrial Ecosystems, Land Surface, and Climate Change

Led by Abby Swann, UW Atmospheric Sciences, Biology

65 attendees from a wide range of disciplines representing 11 different units on campus covering physical, biological and social science disciplines converged on Friday Harbor for three days of scientific talks and discussion.  The focus this year was on how we understand, measure, and model interactions between terrestrial ecosystems, land surface processes, and climate.  The Summer Institute was focused around three sets of questions and featured a diverse array of speakers from the UW community as well as 5 distinguished speakers from across the country with expertise covering a wide array of topics.

Gordon Bonan from the National Center for Atmospheric Research kicked off the meeting by discussing 500 years of history of people and forests as well as ways we can analyze the impacts of forests on climate using modeling tools.  Following dinner we heard from Scott Saleska from the University of Arizona who presented the challenges of interpreting the behavior of organisms from space along with exciting new field-based results on leaf properties observed through tree climbing and canopy access towers in the Amazon forest.  Our first discussion featured panel consisting of Bonan and Saleska, as well as day-2 speakers Neumann and Twine discussion focusedon the questions: how are land, atmosphere, climate, and biological systems coupled? And: how do we measure and model these systems, and what tools can we use to predict the future? We ended the first evening with “quick talks” where four graduate students, postdocs, and members of the UW research community gave 5-minute talks on their research.

Abby Swann leads 2015 PCC Summer Institu

We integrated the theme of our first session with additional questions about agriculture on day two: How do we meet the growing food demands of the next century given predictions of future agricultural productivity?  How might our decisions about agricultural or other land use feedback onto climate? Rebecca Neumann from Civil and Environmental Engineering at UW started the day off discussing how arsenic uptake by rice may be altered by climate change.  Tracy Twine from the University of Minnesota discussed the climate implications of different crop choices in the central US, integrating agricultural decisions with the how the land surface influences the atmosphere that integrated nicely with Bonan’s introductory talk. Nathan Mueller from Harvard University demonstrated how observed temperature extremes have been altered by crop management and productivity both across the US and across the globe.  We finished the morning session with four additional “quick talks”.  The afternoon was left open for attendees to explore the island and get to know one another.

Participants were treated to a reception and poster session featuring 12 posters from the UW PCC community, including a diverse cross section of research ranging from the sensitivity of ice sheets to meting, to primary production in the ocean, methane oxidation by roots, and science-management partnerships to create wildlife connectivity.

In the evening we re-convened for a lively talk by a sock-footed David Battisti from Atmospheric Sciences at UW on global food production changes under climate change.

Battisti, Twine, and Mueller then served as a panel for a discussion focused on the future of food production.

For the final morning we turned our focus to the impacts of and interactions between climate and organisms, asking the questions: What are the Implications of climate change for species across the globe?  How can we use knowledge about biological response to past and present change to inform predictions for the future? Jacquelyn Gill from the University of Maine discussed her work on evidence from paleo-proxy records suggesting that it is the effect of large herbivores rather than climate change that is responsible for creating novel ecosystems during the transition out of the last ice age.  Janneke Hille Ris Lambers from the Biology department at UW showed how tree communities in the natural climate lab of the slopes of Mt. Rainier are responding to changes in climate now.  Our final talk was by Lauren Buckley from the Biology department at UW on observing and understanding why traits of insects such as grasshoppers and butterflies have changed in response to climate change.  We finished the Summer Institute with a discussion on the impact of climate change on species featuring a panel consisting of Gill, Hille Ris Lambers, Buckley as well as Curtis Duetsch from Oceanography at UW.

Abby Swann, Atmospheric Sciences and Biology, convener of the 2015 PCC Summer Institute


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