Christopher Lepczyk, an associate professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is part of a 35-scientist team who authored and recently released the Science, Education and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources, which details six “grand challenges” facing the U.S. in the areas of sustainability, water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.
The team, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) on Grand Challenges over Next Decade, released the roadmap after receiving significant feedback from researchers at public and land-grant institutions across the country. This study is significant in that, instead of looking at resources individually or in separate categories, it treats them as part of an interrelated system.
Six grand challenges
- Sustainability: Conserving and managing natural landscapes and maintaining environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food and energy demands.
- Water: Restoring, protecting and conserving watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
- Climate Change: Understanding the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
- Agriculture: Developing a sustainable, profitable and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
- Energy: Identifying new and alternative renewable energy sources and improving the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
- Education: Maintaining and strengthening natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.
- Chart a path for natural resources research, education and outreach direction for public universities over the next 5–10 years.
- Identify major challenges, knowledge gaps and priorities.
- Provide guidance for policy makers in strategic planning and investment.
- Support natural resources agencies, professional societies and non-governmental organizations in advocating for the use of sound science in natural resources decision-making.
- Facilitate the development of interdisciplinary research, education and outreach teams focused on natural resources challenges.
“Ultimately, the challenges identified in the roadmap are critical for society to address in this decade, as a growing population coupled with climate change will put further stresses on our natural resources,” says Lepczyk, who teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in natural resources conservation and mentors students in addressing local and global environmental issues.
The roadmap is available for viewing on the APLU website.