Thursday, November 3, 2011

GLISA Symposium 2011

On November 3, 2011, I attended the GLISA Symposium 2011 at the Palmer Commons on the campus of the University of Michigan.  The main purpose of me attending this symposium was to listen to a presentation by Kathy Jacobs, US Global Change Research Program.

GLISA is an acronym for the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center.  The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) links producers and users of scientific information, facilitating smart responses to climate variability and change.  A changing climate will have significant effects on the economic vitality, ecological health, and the well-being of residents in the Great Lakes basin.

David Bidwell, Project Director, opened the Symposium explaining that GLISA is funded through a five year grant from NOAA.  This symposium is the first annual since their funding began in October, 2010.  He introduced the website: or
He stated that their focus is on Lake Erie and Lake Huron, but also the remaining Great Lakes.  He said that they work on mitigation (causes of climate change) and adaptation (the effects of climate change and actions that can be taken) but their focus is on adaptation.  He also noted that the symposium is the culmination of a two day series of meetings that GLISA has been holding with stake holders.  He then introduced three sessions (20 minutes each) that are sharing research from the GLISA Core Team.

These presentations included:

GLISA funds different projects. There are 5 - GLISA-Funded Assessment Projects, that can be found at:  They are:

  • An assessment of the implications of climate variability and changes for Michigan's Tourism Industry (Don Holecek and Sarah Nichols, MSU).    Their research is looking primarily at winter sports.
  • Modeling framework for informing decision maker response to extreme heat events in  Michigan under climate change (Laura Schmitt Olabisi, MSU).  Most of her work is to examine heat event deaths.
  • Assessing the impacts of climate variability and change on Great Lakes evaporation: Implications for decision making, adaptation, and water resource management (John Lenters, University of Nebraska-Lincoln).  They are actually measuring direct evaporation using the "eddy covariance" method.  The study is mostly taking place on Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
  • Predicting the impacts of climate change on agricultural yields and water resources in the Maumee River Watershed (David Hyndman, MSU).  The interesting aspect of this project what our growing season will look like in the year 2100 -- comparable to Kansas, 2011.  This project utilizes GIS and remote sensing.
  • Designing a decision support system for harvest management of Great Lakes lake whitefish in a changing climate (Abigail Lynch, MSU)  Lake Whitefish is the most economically valuable fishery in the Upper Great Lakes.  Question--What happens with climate change?  Their model contains climatic conditions; population dynamics; management strategies and fishing management.
The keynote presentation is being given by Katharine Jabos, Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Her topic is "Building a Foundation for Adaption Through the National Climate Assessment."  More can be found at:

Her focus is helping people make better decision and taking action based on information.  The US Strategic plan is at  The goals are to: advance science; inform decisions; sustained assessments; communicate and educate.  She spoke about the "New" National Climate Assessment.  This new Assessment will be "web-based" not "paper-based."  She is speaking about the complexity of putting a team together to write the assessment.  It took 14 months just to put the team together.  She shared an interesting point that this assessment will use the study of severe weather as part of the science of climate change.

She spent a lot of time talking about the new climate assessment, but now is talking about her experiences that have brought her to where she is today.  Her background was in Arizona where she worked on water resources and the impacts of climate change.  Her experiences showed her that management between scientists and stakeholders is very important.   She is now sharing her experience in enhancing water supply reliability in the Grand Canyon.  Here are the lessons she has learned:

  • Asking and Answering the right questions
  • Actively managing the interface between scientists and decision-makers
  • Problem-solving focus, focusing on outcomes and best professional judgment
  • Reframing -- for example water conservation through major energy-intensive technologies is not a meaningful solution
  • Reinventing/repurposing existing capacity
  • Building "knowledge networks" or networks that connect users and producers of information.
  • Being focused on adaptive management
  • Investing in capacity building
  • Using trusted intermediaries
  • Products tailored for specific audiences instead of one size fites all
  • Engagement events designed to suit specific audiences and outcomes with local sponsors; working through professional societies at their own meetings
  • Symmetry of interests--information empowers people to truly participate
  • Science as a "boundary object" (A boundary object is a concept in sociology to describe information used in different ways by different communities) - coproduction
  • Patience
What doesn't work:
  • Excessive focus on downscaling techniques as the approach to decision-scale support
  • Excessive focus on reducing uncertainly as opposed to focusing on using what we already do know
  • Shared assets are more vulnerable: the case of the Arizona Water Institute.