The University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa and Hilo campuses and the University of Guam will lead a new Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. The new center is one of eight regional centers being established by the Department of the Interior to provide federal, state and local land managers with the best scientific information available on climate change and related factors affecting national and cultural resources.
“The nationwide network of climate science centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States, and how the Department of the Interior, as our nation’s chief steward of natural and cultural resources, can prepare and respond,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The university consortium will be led by Kevin Hamilton, director of the International Pacific Research Center based at UH Mānoa; Donald Price, director of the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science graduate program at Hilo; and Frank Camacho, executive director of the Center for Island Sustainability at the University of Guam.
Hamilton credited work by Charles “Chip” Fletcher, associate dean of UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, UH Mānoa Professor of Geography Thomas Giambelluca and Samuel Walker, institutional researcher for renewable/alternative energy management at the University of Guam, in securing the center designation.
The consortium anticipates initial funding exceeding $3 million over five years, with potential for additional funding available to consortium researchers through competitive grants. Federal scientists will be stationed at the center along with university researchers.
In addition to serving as a public policy resource for federal agencies and other stakeholders, the center will support research and graduate student training on a variety of environmental concerns with a primary scientific focus on understanding the effects of climate change and variability on island ecosystems, Hamilton said.
UH conducts groundbreaking research in understanding the nature of climate systems and predicting climate change and variations, particularly as it affects the Asia Pacific region. (See examples of recent research findings by UH scientists in Mālamalama magazine.)
Closely linked with IPRC, which focuses principally on basic research in climate variability and change as manifested in the physical properties of the atmosphere and ocean, the new center will facilitate study of a broader range of fundamental and applied topics related to climate, said Hamilton.
The center’s ties to Hilo’s conservation biology graduate program will expand work on the impact of climate change on the unique biodiversity in the Pacific region, added Price.