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Current Activities and Future Priorities at Universities in the Northeast

A report now details the findings from the USDA Northeast Climate Hub's Capacity Discovery project.

Implemented in spring 2015, an online survey led by Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University established the current and future capacity of land-grant universities in the Northeast to address climate change research and extension work in the agriculture, natural resources, and forestry sectors. Collectively, the findings from this survey provide an overview of existing capacities and point to key next steps for the USDA Northeast Climate Hub and partners. Future strategic activities must focus on adapting climate information to local conditions and improving communication mechanisms with farmers, foresters, and other managers of natural resources to encourage adaptation and mitigation actions. The findings suggest that potential exists for building networks and collaborations among researchers and extension within universities as well as across the region. 

Report summary

Highlights of the report findings include:

  • Resource and land management, land use and natural disaster planning, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are the most common climate change adaptation issues receiving attention from research and extension in the region.
  • The climate change mitigation issues that respondents most commonly reported working on were related to farm management and socioeconomic factors.
  • Respondents were more likely to participate in trainings and workshops on climate change than they were to lead these trainings.
  • Those who teach include climate change concepts more often in undergraduate courses than in graduate courses.
  • The most common resources on climate change being developed by land-grant universities are newsletters, bulletins, factsheets, guidelines, datasets, and models. These resources primarily focus on issues related to agriculture, water, land use, and ecosystems.
  • Respondents perceived field tours, videos, and websites as the most helpful ways to disseminate information on climate change. While field tours and workshops were identified as the most useful delivery mechanisms to change practices or behaviors, they were not the most common methods that respondents used to deliver information.
  • Research faculty, extension faculty, and extension educators identify similar future priorities for climate change work. Top priorities include training extension educators on climate change, developing decision-support tools and websites, conducting cost-benefit analyses, and better understanding land managers’ attitudes and needs. 
  • For future activities, respondents are most interested in collaborating on regional research and programming initiatives, attending workshops and conferences, and developing and implementing educational programs.
  • The primary barriers identified by respondents related to their conducting climate change work were the lack of climate change options adapted to local conditions, attitudes of target audiences, and the lack of time and funding.