Janine Ybnanez/HIGHLANDER
Janine Ybnanez/HIGHLANDER

The University of California has received $1.9 million in funding to establish the Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts (ISEECI), an institute that will study the ecological effects of climate change across many kinds of ecosystems. The research will be conducted on three UCR reserves and will include biology professors Kimberly Hammond, Michael Allen and David Reznick. Researchers from the eight other undergraduate UCs will also be involved.

The project is being funded by UC President Janet Napolitano’s new President’s Research Catalyst award, an initiative that will channel $10 million over three years to projects in several areas, including sustainability and climate in addition to health care.

The UCR reserves that will be used are part of the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS), a system of over 40 reserves that make up the largest university-administered natural reserve system in the world. Reznick says that the NRS is ideal for this research because there is a large distribution of reserves at different altitudes and all reserves have been previously monitored.

The three sites were chosen to host the project because of the kinds of ecosystems they represent. Two of the reserves are in high and low desert regions, “which are arguably the best places where the effects of climate change will be seen both earliest and most acutely,” Hammond, who is also director of the Natural Reserve System, told UCR Today. The third reserve “represents one of the southernmost higher-elevation forested habitats of all the reserves in the state,” she continued.

The project aims to unify UC researchers in their study of climate change, according to Reznick. He added, “There remain many open questions about how climate change will affect natural communities.”

While research of this type has been conducted in the past, Allen explained that such projects tend to be “short-term, and widely scattered” and “suffer from different methods, goals and emphases,” making it difficult to get a comprehensive view of the state of the environment. This project will unify different research and allow UC scientists to share their resources, according to Reznick.

Led by UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) researchers, the ISEECI will seek to “test the feasibility of novel approaches for discovering ecosystem-wide responses to climate change” and determine how information collected can be used to minimize the environmental impact of climate change, according to the ISEECI website, demonstrating the relevance of this project on a global scale.

“A new approach to research is needed to … advise policymakers and the public on how to adapt to and mitigate potential threats to natural ecosystems, agriculture, water resources, and sustainable development,” Barry Sinervo, a UCSC biology professor and leader of the ISEECI told the UCSC Newscenter.

Reznick hopes that this project will lead to more research in this area. “My hope is … that this grant will become seed money for a diversity of successful projects” that will facilitate a better understanding of the types of changes that occur as a result of climate change, Reznick expressed.