The annual Fall Forum of the USDA Climate Hubs was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on 14-17 November 2016. Almost fifty attendees (Directors, Coordinators, Fellows, and Liaisons) from all ten Regional Climate Hubs and the National Office shared their successes and challenges from 2016 and their ideas for 2017.
A theme that emerged in the discussions was the fact that Climate Hubs have managed to accomplish a lot so far, but that the Hubs’ small staff and limited resources mean that we cannot promise to be everything to everybody (at least not yet). After two years of operation, the Hubs have now delineated their partners, stakeholders, and priorities, which means new strengths and opportunities ahead but also means being more selective about which projects to pursue. We will prioritize efforts that clearly support the missions of the USDA departments we serve (foremost the Forest Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service).
Another key point of discussion was the potential for cross-Hub collaboration. For example, the Northern Forests Hub has created a flexible, menu-based Forest Adaptation Workbook that has recently been modified for Midwest agriculture. Several Hubs, including California, now plan to pursue region-specific versions of this workbook. This meeting catalyzed collaboration on specific research projects as well; for example, Midwest Hub Fellow Erica Kistner is a specialist in insect population dynamics, and she invited staff from other Hubs to work with her to simulate future ranges of emerging crop pests in their regions.
The Fall Forum was hosted by the Southwest Hub based at New Mexico State University, a regional leader in agricultural and natural resources research. We got our group photo taken in front of a sheep pen and enjoyed the stunning backdrop of the Organ Mountains. Climate Hub staff left the three-day meeting with a clearer view of our challenges and renewed enthusiasm for our shared goal of helping land users adopt climate-resilient practices in 2017.