There were lots of uncertainty, way more questions than answers, and a lot of unknowns when Secretary Vilsack announced a call for USDA Climate Hubs in June of 2013. However, over time the details started coming together and, on February 5th, 2014, Secretary Vilsack officially announced the creation of the first ever Regional Hubs to help America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners adapt and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate.
As one such Hub, the USDA Southeastern Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) spans eleven states and included one of three subsidiary hubs established within the regional network — the Southeast Regional Caribbean Climate Sub Hub (CCSH).
Specifically, SERCH is here to help take decades of scientific research on natural resource disturbances and convert those studies, data, and knowledge into practical management options for use across the southeastern US and the Caribbean. Our region faces many types of disturbances, including wildfire, hurricanes, insects and diseases, and changing land use, just to name a few. All of these impacts are themselves impacted by climate change and variability. SERCH will draw on the enormous collective brain power and experience of individuals throughout the region to develop ways to adapt to these disturbances.
But having a tool and using a tool are two very different things. During my 20+ years with the Forest Service, there has always been a struggle to convert the cutting edge science developed into practical management. There has been even more of a challenge to take practical management and put it into the hands of land managers. SERCH will focus on transferring tools and knowledge to land owners, farmers, and ranchers by finding new and innovative ways of connecting practical adaptive management with the Southeast’s most pressing natural resource issues. It was rare for scientists to ask land managers what they need, and SERCH will create better mechanisms for land managers, owners, and interested citizens to communicate their questions and interests with the scientific community, which in turn will make those requests a research priority. So that’s a quick overview of SERCH. Over the next weeks, months, and years, you will be able to learn a lot more about SERCH and what it can do for YOU!
We believe that the need for providing climate change adaptation information and tools to southeast forest, agriculture, and rangeland managers and landowners is pretty clear. The key will be to deliver the most relevant materials in the best way possible. As a new kid on the block, SERCH is starting to explore its proper niche within the climate adaptation community through a series of open discussions to discuss the SERCH mission, objectives, deliverables, timelines, and opportunities through a series of hour-long calls. Each call is designed to address an important unknown area such as “who are the people who can provide assistance to working land managers? Who are the people who could use assistance in increasing the resiliency of their lands from climate variability? What kind of information and tools would be more useful to them, and what is the best way to deliver these tools? “. This is an exciting time, and I hope you can join us to provide your input and thoughts.
Finally, you may (or may not) be asking, “Who is this person?” My name is Steve McNulty. I’m a USDA ecologist, and the SERCH Director. For the 23 years since I received my Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of New Hampshire (Go Wildcats!), I have studied climate change and its impacts on southern US ecosystems with the USDA Forest Service. My area of specialty is broad scale integrated analysis and assessment, so the SERCH mission is pure brain candy to me. There will be lots of time to learn more about each other, but I can only do that if you let me know about you. The central aim of SERCH is to take climate change science to land managers and ask them to provide feedback to the scientists – so please send us any feedback regarding format, content, or communication success and failure.
Keeping on SERCHing.
Steven McNulty, Ph.D.
USDA South East Regional Climate Hub (SERCH)
920 Main Campus Dr.
Raleigh, NC 27606