MU part of new five-year study on effects of climate change

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | 4:54 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU will provide expertise from science and engineering disciplines as part of a five-year study of climate change and its potential effects on agriculture, ecology and the community.

"We have people from a lot of different areas of expertise and a lot of different institutions throughout the state," said John Walker, director of MU's Division of Biological Sciences and principal investigator of the project, "The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community."

The project is being funded by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation, according to an MU news release. The nine participating institutions include all four campuses in the University of Missouri System.

The funding is coming from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, started by Congress to support basic research, STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — education and workforce development, according to the release.

Other participating institutions are: the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center, Washington University, Lincoln University, the St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis University.

The institutions will provide expertise in plant sciences, atmospheric and environmental sciences, social sciences, science outreach and education or bioinformatics engineering, which combines mathematics, science and engineering, the release said. 

Four interdisciplinary teams make up the project: climate, plant biology, community resilience and education and outreach. MU will have people involved in each team, Walker said.

The interdisciplinary approach is important for the study because climate changes can impact communities on many levels, he said. For example, one approach is to study how plant systems are affected by variability in the climate; another approach is to understand how drought or flood may affect a community and how to plan and adapt.

According to the release, the project will support workforce development in three areas: undergraduate and graduate education; bioinformatics training for women, minorities and people with disabilities; and job training.

A related goal is to increase the state's research competitiveness by promoting STEM training and developing collaborations among institutions throughout the state as well as among the disciplines within the institutions, Walker said.

"I'm excited by getting to interact with areas I've never really studied myself," he said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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