UMaine graduate student researchers attend GradCAP workshop

University of Maine graduate students whose research focuses on climate change effects and adaptation in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture attended a workshop at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine on March 19, capping a yearlong project offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Northeast Climate Hub network.

The project, Northeast Graduate Student Climate Adaptation Partners (GradCAP), has involved 15 master’s and doctoral students from six USDA Northeast Climate Hub partner institutions from West Virginia to Maine. GradCAP is designed to build a digital library of information and a webinar series based on their research.

The UMaine graduate students in the cohort this past year who attended the workshop are Ruth Sexton, master’s student in ecology and environmental sciences; Sonja Birthisel, a recent Ph.D. graduate in ecology and environmental sciences, now a postdoc and co-coordinator on GradCAP; Alyssa Soucy, master’s student in forestry; and Longhuan Zhu, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering. Also in the cohort from UMaine is Brogan Tooley, master’s student in plant, soil and environmental sciences.

At the GradCAP workshop, the students heard from speakers who included Andrew Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Nathan Robbins, Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Jennifer Shakun, Manomet; Jason Lilley, UMaine Cooperative Extension; and Erin Lane and David Hollinger, Northeast Climate Hub.

USDA Northeast GradCAP scholars was developed by Ivan Fernandez, Distinguished Maine Professor in the School of Forest Resources and Climate Change Institute and the UMaine representative to the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and Erin Lane, coordinator of the USDA Northeast Climate Hub.

The project offers a template for future support — training, experiential learning and opportunities to gain field experience — of early career professionals across the spectrum of initiatives led by the USDA and other agencies.

In 2014, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, a collaboration of USDA agencies, announced partnerships with UMaine and 15 other land grant universities in the Northeast to give the region’s farmers, foresters and land managers better access to information and tools for adapting to climate and weather variability.

Based in Durham, New Hampshire, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub is one of seven regional hubs nationwide formed to address increasing climate and weather-related risks to agriculture, broadly defined to include farms, forests and aquaculture. The partnership is focused on creating a network of information sharing designed to provide stakeholders with resources to both mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the challenges of a changing climate. The universities are active partners in developing, implementing and evaluating materials that describe how to best cope with increasing weather variability and longer-term trajectories of change in the climate system.

Fernandez is UMaine’s point of contact for the USDA Northeast Climate Hub.