Gregg Elliott's Posts (149)

If you are trying to build a nest egg, you need to know two things: how to eliminate losses in your portfolio and the predicted rate of return on your investments.  This is not unlike planning for the future of Southern forests.  We need to know both how to slow down the rate at which forests are being lost from the landscape as well as where and how much protected forest acreage is likely to be added in coming decades.  The latter issue is the focus of the GCPO LCC’s latest project, “Mapping the South's Protected Forests of the Future.”  

This project is different from most LCC projects, however, in that the GCPO LCC is working in close partnership with Mississippi State University (MSU) under a grant co-sponsored by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).  The grantors liked the original proposal so much that they requested the focal area be expanded to include the entire Southeast region encompassed within the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS).

The U.S. Endowment is an 11-year-old public charity created to benefit the North American forest industry.  The organization focuses on three areas:

  • Forest health
  • New income streams for forest landowners
  • Revitalizing forest-rich communities

The USFS, of course, is the nation’s agency that manages more than 193 million acres of national forest lands.  The State and Private Forestry program of the USFS also cooperates closely with state forestry agencies to deliver numerous forestry programs aimed at over 5 million private forestland landowners.

History of the thought process behind mapping “future forests”

Peter Stangel, Senior Vice President for the U.S. Endowment, explained that about a decade ago, the Endowment, USFS, and the Department of Defense (DOD) recognized vast changes occurring on the southern landscape, as traditional forest products companies were divesting their forestland, transferring ownership in many cases to Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  

“Many folks interested in forests (feds, universities, conservation groups) didn’t understand TIMOs and REITs or their priorities,” explained Stangel.  “So we created a forum to bring together people with interests in forests to help them get to know one another and learn how to work together.  In particular, the group focused on how to retain large contiguous blocks of working forest land in the South, which have great economic, cultural and environmental values.”

This Partnership for Southern Forestland Conservation, as it was called, eventually evolved into the U.S. Forest Service program known as “Keeping Forests as Forests.”  Daniel McInnis, an Environmental Issues and Policy Analyst with the USFS State & Private Forestry program in the Southern region, is helping coordinate this program along with several diverse partners.  McInnis is also liaison to the Southern Group of State Foresters Water Resources Committee, as well as the EPA Region 4 Regional Office.  Through funding and grants to state forestry agencies, his program leverages state and local resources for a variety of purposes related to forest health and sustainability.

A lot of information is now available on how economic and climatic trends will affect southern forests, most notably through the USFS Southern Forest Futures Project.  “The missing piece of information has been future projected conservation,” said McInnis.

Dr. Kristine Evans, formerly the GCPO LCC’s Geomatics Coordinator, is the MSU principal investigator in the College of Forest Resources, and Rachel Greene, who previously led LCC-sponsored research on open pine benefits for wildlife, will be Project Coordinator.  Evans said she felt a deciding factor in the grant award was “the capacity to build on over a million dollars of previous work by the SECAS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in compiling and prioritizing spatial information on the best areas for forest retention and conservation in the Southeast.”  

This project ties together the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service to predict the extent of the South’s future forests and the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy in identifying areas across the entire Southeast U.S. landscape that maximize ecosystem integrity.  It will be guided by a steering committee of representatives from state and federal agencies, forest products companies or trusts, and non-profit conservation organizations.

The where and why of tracking forest expansion

The Southern Forest Futures Report predicts up to 23 million acres of forest could be lost in the Southern U.S. by 2060.  Loss will be driven primarily by four interacting factors: population growth, climate change, timber markets, and invasive species.  

However, a variety of entities also have plans to expand protected forest areas in the future, for example:

  • The DOD’s Army Compatible Use Buffer Program seeks to reduce noncompatible uses at the edges of military installations; it recognizes that keeping working forests is best for the military.
  • The State of Georgia’s Gopher Tortoise Initiative seeks to avoid the listing of this species as endangered to prevent regulatory impacts on private landowners.  Their initiative is seeking to protect upwards of 132,000 acres of pine forest.  
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife initiative seeks to promote voluntary conservation on private lands, focusing on gopher tortoise (open pine) habitat in the South.
  • Many other entities and watershed protection efforts are also focusing on forest protection.   

“Our primary purpose in developing this future protected forest data layer is to help visualize what the Southeast landscape will look like if conservation groups are successful,” explained Stangel.  “We can not only identify gaps in protection, but also look at potential centers of sustainable forestry, priority habitat for at-risk species, important recreation areas, and many other key values.”

McInnis agreed, adding “As we move Keeping Forests as Forests toward our goal of conserving 70% of historic forestland cover across the region, all the data layers at our disposal - including those underlying the LCC Conservation Blueprints - will be important.  I do envision that this product, combined with the SECAS Blueprint and other work that’s been done, will help inform decisions on where to focus our efforts and where points of leverage exist.  This particular future protected forest layer will be critical because we could potentially leverage USFS authorities and Keeping Forests as Forests partners’ intersecting priorities alongside these areas slated for protection.”

Both Stangel and McInnis anticipate the added potential for identifying areas throughout the Southeast that may not currently be planned for protection but could be priority candidates for some form of conservation.  “We will get the LCC to produce preliminary maps, have our committee of expert advisors evaluate these maps and recommend changes if necessary, and see what we can we do from there,” said McInnis.

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The GCPO LCC Steering Committee spring meeting dates are May 17-18, with Tuesday and Friday, May 16 & 19, as travel dates. We will be meeting jointly with the EGCP JV on Thursday, May 18 (the EGCP JV will continue their meeting on the morning of Friday, May 19). 

We have secured a hotel room block for our GCPO LCC and EGCP JV meetings in Panama City, FL. The Sheraton Bay Point Resort is about 15 minutes from our meeting venue, Gulf Coast State College, and offers rooms at the federal government per diem rate of $115.00 (single/double occupancy). The cutoff date for our Room Block is April 24, 2017.

Draf Agenda:

Spring 2017 Meeting

 Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC Steering Committee/
East Gulf Coastal Plains Joint Venture Management Board
Panama City, FL
May 17-19, 2017


Meeting Venue: This year’s spring retreat will be held at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, FL. We will be meeting jointly with the East Gulf Coastal Plains Joint Venture on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Tuesday, May 16, and Friday, May 19, will be travel days.


Theme:  Towards a Conservation Adaptation Strategy in the
Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks


Tuesday, May 16, 2017 – Travel Day

6:30 pm – for those interested, gather in hotel lobby to go to dinner.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Gulf Coast State College)

8:00 am - Meet in the Lobby to depart for the meeting room at Gulf Coast State College

8:30 am - 12:00 pm

Welcome to Florida – Brian Branciforte, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Introductions/Opening Comments

Aquatic Habitat Conservation Planning

12:00 – 1:30 – Lunch (tentatively at the Panama City Ecological Services Office)

1:30 – 5:00 pm           

Ecosystem Services and Human Dimensions of Conservation Planning

Communications in the GCPO LCC

5:00 pm - Adjourn

6:30 pm (dinner on your own, or meet in hotel lobby at Sheraton Bay Pointe Resort for those who want to go to dinner as a group)

Thursday, May 18, 2017 – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Gulf Coast State College)

8:00 am - Meet in the Lobby to depart for the meeting room at Gulf Coast State College

8:30 – 10:00 am

EGCP JV Management Board/GCPO LCC Steering Committee separate meetings

10:00 am – 1:30 pm (Joint Session with the East Gulf Coastal Plains Joint Venture/will include a catered lunch)

GCPO LCC and EGCP JV overviews – Greg Wathen and Catherine Rideout to give brief overviews of the 2 partnerships

EGCP JV/GCPO LCC Collaboration – discussion on potential collaboration between the two boards. We will explore current collaborative efforts between the GCPO and EGCP JV, and discuss strategies for increasing the effectiveness and conservation outcomes of those efforts.

2:00 – 6:00 pm – Field Tour, Depart for Field Trip with GCPO LCC staff and steering committee members to the Coastal Dune Lakes of Walton County. (Please wear or bring along appropriate field gear and clothing to the first day of the meeting, as we will depart Gulf Coast State College for the field trip.)

6:30 pm – Group Dinner/Social at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort

Friday, May 19, 2017 – 8:00 – Noon (Gulf Coast State College)

8:30 am – 12:00 pm

East Gulf Coastal Plains Joint Venture Management Board

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A multi-year project involving three separate research institutions, thousands of private landowners, and hundreds of conservation providers across much of the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks (GCPO) geography was completed in 2017. The components of the project include:

  • A high-level mapping of ecosystem service supply in the GCPO region conducted by Lydia Olander and Sara Mason and their team from Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions [download ES Supply Report]
  • A survey of landowners’ reasons for owning lands, concerns, interaction with conservation programs, and valuation of key ecosystem services conducted by Robert Grala and Jason Gordon of Mississippi State University [Report pending]
  • A social network analysis of conservation service providers within the region conducted by Chris Galik of Duke/NC State University [Report pending]

What are ecosystem services and what makes them tricky?

Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits people obtain from nature, both commodities with recognized monetary value and non-market benefits that are sometimes deemed priceless (such as beauty). As we continue to lose ecosystem services due to environmental fragmentation and degradation, finding new ways to sustain and support such services becomes important. One way to do this is for those who benefit from those services (e.g. downstream users of the water and the general public) to help support and pay those who produce ecosystem services (e.g. good land stewards who prevent runoff into streams and provide habitat for endangered species).

The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) commissioned this study because we recognize that in a region where landownership is largely private (~90%), successful natural resource conservation must leverage the collective efforts of private landowners. To do so, conservation practitioners must understand and appreciate what drives landowner management decisions and determine how these values can then be translated into specific results, often in the form of ecosystem goods and services.

Finding the win-win-win

Existing datasets, many of which were identified by using the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroAtlas, were used to develop a coarse-scale map of ecosystem service supply and the potential for conservation or restoration. These maps and their underlying datasets, along with the explanatory manuscript from Duke’s Nicholas Institute, are hosted in a new Ecosystem Services - Supply Gallery on the GCPO LCC Conservation Planning Atlas.

The Nicholas Institute assessed nine ecosystem services (see Table 1) in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley or MAV and East/West Gulf Coastal Plains. These maps not only paint a picture of what types of services are abundant or important and where, they also will allow LCC partners to begin identifying sites where conservation action can achieve multiple objectives, i.e. the “win-win-win.”

The Nicholas Institute provided three “Example Use-Cases” illustrating this concept. For example, datasets can show the best watersheds to target for restoration aimed at improving water quality by reducing nonpoint source runoff. Next, by combining additional layers, sites could be ranked on the basis of other “co-benefits” provided in those watersheds (e.g. infiltration capacity for replenishing groundwater, pollinator habitat, and biodiversity).

“What was nice about this study,” Olander said, “is it combines survey work with mapping of services, giving us the ability to understand what people care about and where to appropriately target programs of interest to communities.” She cautioned, however, that the coarse scale of these maps means they are only a starting point. “To better assess a project’s or program’s Return on Investment (ROI), a next step in this process could be to drill down on the landowner surveys for better targeting of conservation, combined with more in-depth ecological analyses in key areas.”

Designing incentive or ES trading programs would require much more in-depth modeling, analyses, and landowner surveys (see, for example, this Nicholas Institute modeling study on Water Quality Trading). There are a variety of programs currently in existence that address the issue of how to balance the mismatch between ES “suppliers” and “beneficiaries.” These include both voluntary and regulatory trading programs, as well as direct payment for service programs -- and many of these focus on water quality.

Going to the source: what do landowners think?    

The purpose of conducting a survey,” said Robert Grala “was to find out the attitudes and needs of landowners. Knowing what they think, what help they need, and what priorities they have will make almost any private land conservation program more effective.”

A survey of approximately 6,000 landowners owning a total of ~424,000 acres within the GCPO region assessed attitudes on a variety of issues in each of the following areas and associated habitat types:
East Gulf Coastal Plain/open pine stands
Mississippi Alluvial Valley/bottomland hardwoods
Ozark Highlands/grasslands

The top reasons cited for owning land were:   

  • long-term investment
  • family tradition
  • legacy to heirs
  • personal recreation
  • healthy soils
  • clean water
  • wildlife habitat
  • appealing visual appearance

The top concern expressed by landowners within the GCPO region -- who rated themselves on average as “extremely concerned” -- was drinking water quality.

Moderate concerns included:     

  • drinking water quantity
  • chemical drift
  • wildfires
  • insect pests
  • invasive species
  • soils erosion
  • loss of forest, farmland, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and pollinators

Landowner values extend beyond income, but some landowners are “cut off”

One striking result of the survey is the revelation that many top landowner values and concerns do not relate specifically to land-based income production. One method used in this study for determining the value of non-market ecosystem services such as aesthetic appeal or wildlife habitat is to determine an average “willingness to accept” price at which a landowner would be willing to forego property income in return for providing another service (for example, delaying harvest of trees to provide wildlife habitat).

“Monetary compensation is one aspect of conservation,” Grala said, “but not necessarily the whole. Many landowners are interested in preserving ecosystem services, so perhaps they need more technical information, help with management plans, or simply awareness that programs exist to assist landowners with these needs.”

In particular, a portion of landowners, roughly 50%, rarely interact with conservation agencies or professional organizations that have access to this kind of information. “They are cut off,” said Grala. “Extension works to reach landowners through workshops, everyone has their established methods, but we may need new media to reach out more effectively.”

Maps showing results from the surveys by zip code will be made available on the CPA in a gallery entitled "Ecosystem Services - Demand."

Talking to landowners and talking to ourselves

In addition to the landowner surveys, a second survey of conservation practitioners in the GCPO region (including local, state, and national NGOs, private sector organizations and consultants, state agencies, federal agencies, and extension service) provided the basis for an analysis of the relationships between conservation organizations and the attributes of the networks they comprise.

This type of network analysis can serve several purposes:

  • Identify potential “bottlenecks” in program implementation
  • Assess gaps in representation and opportunities to enhance a network of practitioners
  • Highlight opportunities to better integrate management efforts across spatial, ecological, and organization scales

The GCPO network analysis found different patterns of interaction as reported by landowners and those reported by practitioner organizations working in the region. Specifically, landowners generally reported interacting more with extension and industry organizations, while conservation practitioners interacted more with state and federal agencies. Survey results also suggest that landowner preferences may not be fully appreciated by conservation practitioner respondents. Christopher Galik, who led the analysis, noted that “conservation practitioners may be overestimating the frequency that landowners work with government agencies, while underestimating the role of private sector, extension, or industry organizations.”

Among conservation practitioners, the analysis suggests a well-connected network among the state and federal organizations critical to development and delivery of conservation programs in the GCPO LCC region. Though a well-connected network may be beneficial for the diffusion of innovative practices, they may be less suited to facilitate coordinated programming. “There is a need to continue efforts to coordinate activities at the regional scale, an important component of practice-driven, ecosystem-level management,” Galik concluded.

Read more…

Dead Zone Redemption

A great post from The Nature Conservancy's Bryan Piazza, director of freshwater and marine science for TNC's Louisiana program on working smart to address Gulf hypoxia.  Bryan cites Landscape Conservation Cooperatives as important partners to in scientific targeting to "align along our shared nutrient reduction goals to ensure that our collective efforts have maximum impact in the primary focus states and throughout the Mississippi River Basin."

Read the full Dead Zone Redemption blog post.

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The long-range vision for the GCPO LCC’s Conservation Blueprint is to develop a strategic framework for collaborative conservation. It is envisioned that the strategic framework will allow the proactive assessment of conservation or other land use change outcomes in terms of the objectives of the partnership (e.g. reversing declines of a particular species).  Currently, the GCPO LCC lacks objectives or species-habitat models for most of the species identified in its draft Integrated Science Agenda. The GCPO LCC’s Blueprint Development Team identified this need as its highest priority to address in 2017.  (The Team includes the GCPO LCC’s  Adaptation Science Management Team plus staff from Joint Ventures, the Southeastern Aquatic Resource Partnership, State Wildlife Action Plans, and the National Wildlife Refuge Inventory & Monitoring program.)

To meet this need, the GCPO LCC is soliciting Statements of Interest (SOIs) to identify potential investigators for one or more projects addressing the LCC’s need for models of species-habitat relationships. Funding for projects will be contingent upon sufficient appropriations. You can download the full request and submit an SOI at  

Read more…

What if key communities and homeowners along the Gulf Coast knew they had an opportunity to save up to 20% per year on flood insurance premiums?  And what if that opportunity translated into a decreased risk of flooding?  Would they take steps to realize those savings?

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and researchers at Texas A&M University are betting yes.  With support from a multi-LCC grant and funding from the Knobloch Foundation, their community resilience project has recently identified just such an opportunity.

Using open space protection to save on flood insurance and conserve nature

Using existing datasets, they developed a model that predicts lands with a high probability of flooding.  Next they used land cover data and maps to identify unprotected areas with high conservation value for land trusts across the region.  By combining these two sets of results, they were able to identify 421 watersheds out of ~2600 across the Gulf as the most effective for land conservation to protect communities from flooding and conserve open space for fish and wildlife.  A mapping platform that hosts these data is available at TNC’s Coastal Resilience 2.0 mapping tool

“Floods are a real and growing problem along the Gulf coast and land conservation is an effective way to reduce flood risk,” says Dr. Christine Shepard, Director of Science for the Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program. “We have an opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico to increase community resilience by preserving open spaces in areas of high flood risk.  The science shows us where we can do this in a way that also benefits fish and wildlife.”

Why does land conservation lower insurance premiums?

As the TNC report Protecting Open Space & Ourselves states, “Open space enables the critical natural functions of wetlands to persist; the water storage capacity of the landscape is maximized and flooding beyond the extent of the actual protected area can be reduced.”  Not only that, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) voluntary Community Rating System (CRS) gives communities points for flood mitigation activities, including open space protection, which can earn their citizen’s an insurance discount of up to 20%.

These discounts are based on good science.  The 2012 study “Open space protection and flood mitigation: A national study” found that from 1999 to 2009, a point increase in the CRS system significantly decreased the observed amount of insured flood damage in floodplain areas.

To get a sense of the magnitude of the opportunity here, within (or partially within) the 421 high opportunity Gulf watersheds lie 343 municipalities, counties, and parishes.  Yet, as of 2014 only 100 of those communities were enrolled in the CRS program.  Even those 100 communities only earned an average of 131 out of a possible 2,020 points for open space preservation.  

Will communities take advantage of this new knowledge?

A hammer is only useful when someone picks it up to drive a nail.  Accordingly, the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC is providing additional support to ensure that Gulf communities can begin to use this new flood protection analysis.  The Nature Conservancy will be engaging the residents and officials of three or more localities through a series of workshops in the spring of 2017.  They are working with partners who will use the experience to engage additional communities elsewhere. (For more information or to nominate your community, email

This project will also be integrating information developed by the multi-LCC Tidal Wetland Migration project.  “Mike Osland has great information showing which open space areas are important for wetland migration as sea level rises,” says Shepard.  “We would also like to identify which watersheds are most resilient to climate change and sea level rise by incorporating information on future development and where future flood claims are likely to be, combined with Mike’s information.  Right now we have the data but not the funding to take these additional steps.”

Gray or green?

This approach to flood risk reduction is one type of “green infrastructure” that is increasingly being deployed worldwide.  Dr. Shepard explains, “Gray vs. green infrastructure choices are local decisions that must be made based on local circumstances, including the level of risk reduction desired and what is to be protected - is it critical infrastructure?  Also the amount of funding is a factor because gray infrastructure, such as a sea wall, tends to be far more resource intensive and requires maintenance.  Many solutions could be hybrid.  Green infrastructure is not a magic bullet, but it should absolutely be one of the tools to achieve flood protection.”

From 1996 to 2007, communities within the ~2,600-watershed Gulf of Mexico study area experienced the largest amount of insured property damage in the U.S.  As the first of its kind to examine undeveloped lands across these Gulf watersheds, this coastal resilience study is a great addition to the flood protection toolbox.

Up next: Read how small changes in temperature and/or rainfall along the Gulf can lead to large changes in ecosystem structure and function.

Read more…

If you somehow missed the more-than-100-dataset Blueprint gallery in Todd’s blog, check it out here.

Murrow’s black bear habitat model for AR and LA is up.


The upland hardwood assessment gallery (part of the Blueprint) also has some new data layers.

The Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative (NGOM SSC) is a partnership focused on sea-level rise and inundation in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  The NGOM SSC gallery contains the Surface Elevation Table (SET) inventory and a new dataset of “continuously operating reference stations” (CORS) for the northern Gulf.

Stay tuned for the data layers underlying the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy Blueprint 1.0, to be hosted on the Southeast Region CPA

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REGISTRATION REQUIRED: After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Please register for Mapping Ecosystem Services for the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Region on Jan 17, 2017 2:00 PM CST at:

Details: If you work with or seek to engage private landowners on conservation issues, then you will want to see the ecosystem service mapping results of a three-part project that focuses on the services (i.e. nature’s benefits) important to private landowners. Why? Because this research, conducted by Duke University's Nicholas Institute, provides coarse resolution maps showing where the provisioning of ecosystem services and possible demand for them exist in the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks region, which could be applied in a variety of ways. The data will eventually be housed on Sciencebase and made accessible through the GCPO LCC’s Conservation Planning Atlas. Additional parts of this project, focusing on a survey of landowner values and a social network analysis aimed at improving landowner engagement will be presented separately.

This project is sponsored by the four Gulf Coast Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and will also serve as the South Atlantic LCC’s Third Thursday web forum in February.

Please register for Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast on Feb 16, 2017 9:00 AM CST at:

Details: If you are a Gulf Coast researcher, conservation planner, or wildlife biologist you will be interested in the results of this collaborative project among the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and four Gulf Coast Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Why? Because in its Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed (2013), the USFWS lists an agreed set of biological objectives common to Gulf partners as foundational to achieve the Vision. The goal of this project is to develop explicit biological objectives for each of 13 Focal Areas in the Vision, along with associated conservation targets linked to specific habitat characteristics, all contained within a geospatial database. 

Please register for Understanding how river flow affects Guadalupe Bass and other species on Dec 7, 2016 12:00 PM CST at:

Details: If you are an aquatic biologist, fisheries manager, hydrologist, water manager, or conservation planner, then you'll want this update concerning a project testing assumptions about instream flow requirements of native aquatic species in one of the most rapidly developing areas of Texas. Why? Because this project, which focuses on Guadalupe Bass (an economically and ecologically important species endemic to Texas), will produce a rangewide assessment the effects of dam discharge on young Guadalupe bass, as well as recommendations on flow requirements and sampling protocols.

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Post-doctoral Research Associate - Mississippi State University (MSU) is seeking a Post-doctoral Research Associate to be located at the Coastal Research and Extension Center ( in Biloxi, MS along the beautiful coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Outstanding candidates with an excellent academic record and research interest/expertise in Structured Decision Making and Adaptive Resource Management, Avian Ecology, Wildlife Ecology, and/or Conservation Biology are encouraged to apply. The successful applicant will actively work with researchers and managers within U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network ( to apply decision analyses in identification of optimal monitoring strategies for bird populations and associated habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Post-doctoral Research Associate will identify and structure stakeholder objectives and associated monitoring value models, develop decision support tools for resource allocation and optimal monitoring investments, and build upon a monitoring information gap analysis for the Gulf of Mexico region ( In addition, the Post-doctoral Research Associate will work closely with U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center scientists to evaluate trade-offs (i.e., assess cost:benefit ratios) among monitoring efforts and perform sensitivity analyses of objective weights and other aspects of monitoring frameworks. 

Applicants are required to hold a Ph.D. degree in Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Biology, Quantitative Ecology or a closely related field and have a demonstrated familiarity with monitoring study design and survey sampling. Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated success working closely with management agencies on applied questions in wildlife conservation and a background in structured decision making and adaptive resource management. In addition, preference will be given to candidates with strong quantitative skills demonstrated through peer-reviewed publications.

The ideal candidate will be self-motivated, fit well into a multidisciplinary team environment, exhibit excellent oral and written communication skills, and have demonstrated an ability to publish in peer-reviewed literature.  This position is a full time, 12-month appointment renewable for up to two years, with an annual salary of $48,000 (plus benefits).  Review of applications will begin immediately and the position will remain open until filled.

Interested applicants should apply online at (search by PARF #493991) by submitting a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement of research, and copies of all academic transcripts. Three letters of recommendation are also required and must be sent separately by your  references to: Dr. Mark S. Woodrey, Mississippi State University – Coastal Research and Extension Center, 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 30532 or to  Mississippi State University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  

Read more about the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network

Read more…

Did you know that within the 275 million-acre Southeast region of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) which includes 10 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, only 4 million acres are owned and managed by the agency? A similar pattern holds true throughout the entire 15-state (plus Caribbean) region of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The world’s 36th recognized biodiversity “hotspot,” the North American Coastal Plain, spans 13 of the SEAFWA states and the vast majority of the entire region (90 to 95%) is in private hands.

These are just a few reasons that federal agencies from the Southeast Natural Resources Leadership Group (SENRLG) came together with state directors from many of the SEAFWA states at the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) Conservation Leadership Summit in Baton Rouge on October 17, 2016. The topic of discussion: a major milestone toward achieving one integrated system for land conservation and development across the Southeast - in the form of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint 1.0.

The value of a conservation vision

At the Summit, directors emphasized the value of having a conservation vision that can serve as an invaluable tool in conveying the shared interests of many parties. The Blueprint “connects the dots” and helps reduce redundancies across jurisdictions. They also lauded efforts by the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), the Southeast Climate Science Center, and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) to incorporate future change into the Blueprint, a process that will continue as the Blueprint is updated annually.

Susan Gibson, the Department of Defense (DOD) Southern Region Environmental Coordinator said, “I was impressed with the tremendous partnership behind SECAS, the LCCs, and the development of the Blueprint. In the Southeast, we've long known that a good map was key to conservation and natural resource planning for the region. The Blueprint provides us the tool we've needed.  The LCCs also provide an excellent forum for building relationships between agencies.  They provide a platform for building trust between partners, and that trust is manifested in the Blueprint and SECAS.”

The paradigm for large-scale landscape conservation planning and implementation is also spreading. Elsa Haubold, the LCC Network Coordinator, told the assembled partners that both the Northeast and the Midwest states are looking at SECAS as an example for similar collaborative efforts. “Within the next several years, we could have a Conservation Blueprint that covers all of the United States east of the Mississippi!” she said.

Cynthia Edwards summed up the Summit results by stating “We are on our way to realizing the vision of a connected network of landscapes and seascapes to sustain fish and wildlife and people! This was, and will continue to be, a great team effort.”  You can read Greg Wathen's views of the Summit in his SECAS blog.

Not a “one and done” effort

Cindy Dohner, USFWS Southeast Region Director cautioned that this is not a “one and done” effort. Many leaders in the room recognized that one of the biggest challenges will be how to expand SECAS collaboration to include a wide array of “nontraditional” conservation partners, such as local jurisdictions, city planning agencies, private landowners, and forest/energy/industrial partners.

Ed Carter, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director, echoed this thought saying, “Now that we have a product that’s really usable, let’s not all splinter off again. We need to continue to work together.”

“Cynthia Edwards was the tipping point for success,” Gibson added. “While Ed Carter and Cindy Dohner had the master vision and brought the partners together, she tied the pieces together. SECAS is the net result of everyone working together. We know the Blueprint will be useful to us as a planning tool and for communication. It puts resource management on a new level of accessibility.  We look forward to Cynthia and the LCC team providing more details about how to use these tools.”

A NOTE ABOUT THE BLUEPRINT 1.0 MAP:  The Blueprint shown above represents lands with high conservation value, but it is not an acquisition boundary, in fact much of the “high” priority is already in the conservation estate, while the "medium" areas are important for promoting and maintaining connectivity.  There are many potential actions embedded within the Blueprint; if you look at any one action, e.g., prescribed burning or reforestation, a much smaller subset of the Blueprint is relevant.  Erring on the side of inclusivity is always wise at the outset; the Blueprint will be updated and refined on an iterative basis.

Read more…

Do you know individuals or organizations that are making a difference to increase understanding of climate impacts on natural resources and/or providing innovative approaches to reducing impacts, improving response capabilities, and increasing resilience in a changing climate? 

Nominate them today for the 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources and help us recognize their outstanding efforts to increase awareness and safeguard U.S. natural resources from climate change.  

The deadline to submit nominations is 

November 18, 2016. Learn more here.


The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for NaturalResources (Award) was established to recognize exemplaryleadership by federal, state, tribal, local, and non-governmentalentities to reduce climate-related threats and enhance the resilience of the nation's living natural resources (fish, wildlife and plants) and the communities  that depend on them. 

The Award recognizes outstanding leadership by organizations and/or individuals to advance the resilienceof living natural resources in a changing climateby helping address the goals of the National Fish,Wildlife, andPlants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

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The following two webinars culminate more than two years of research work supported by the GCPO LCC.  The two projects fill important data gaps identified in the Integrated Science Agenda.  The Society of American Foresters has approved continuing forestry education (CFE) credit for the first webinar, and an application is pending for the second.

1. Desired Ecological States for Wildlife Provided by Open Pine in Managed Forests

If you are a forester, private landowner, or state/federal agency habitat manager, then you will want to learn the results of this project assessing "Desired Ecological States Provided by Open Pine in Managed Forests."  Why?  Because existing data was incorporated into HabPlan harvest scheduling software to simulate a variety of management options across 50 years.  The results identify options for providing open pine wildlife habitat conditions in managed forests across the region as well as biodiversity responses to those management options. The Society of American Foresters has pre-approved this webinar for one Continuing Forestry Education credit hour (category 1).

Please register for Desired Ecological States for Wildlife Provided by Open Pine in Managed Forests on Sep 29, 2016 1:00 PM CDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

2. Black Bear Habitat Assessment and Associated Landscape Conservation Endpoints

If you are a forester, an agency habitat or wildlife manager, or a private landowner, then you will want to learn the results of this project “Black Bear Habitat Assessment and Associated Landscape Conservation Endpoints."  Why?  Because a state-wide Louisiana and Arkansas black bear model including current land cover, agricultural, and urbanization data is used to identify specific forest management goals that regionally benefit this umbrella species. The final landscape-scale model identifies areas of importance for bears and specific forest management endpoints that reflect quality bear habitat in LA and AR. This webinar has been submitted for CFE hours and is pending approval from the Society of American Foresters.

Please register for Black Bear Habitat Assessment and Associated Landscape Conservation Endpoints on Oct 26, 2016 11:00 AM CDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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Please register for Desired Ecological States for Wildlife Provided by Open Pine in Managed Forests on Sep 29, 2016 1:00 PM CDT at:

If you are a forester, private landowner, or state/federal agency habitat manager, then you will want to learn the results of a project assessing "Desired Ecological States Provided by Open Pine in Managed Forests," sponsored by the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative.  Why?  Because existing data was incorporated into HabPlan harvest scheduling software to simulate a variety of management options across 50 years.  The results identify options for providing open pine wildlife habitat conditions in managed forests across the region as well as biodiversity responses to those management options.

The Society of American Foresters has pre-approved this webinar for one Continuing Forestry Education credit hour (category 1).

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

This project also evaluated biodiversity responses to management options,resulting in the following science publication: 

Rachel E. Greene, Raymond B. Iglay, Kristine O. Evans, Darren A. Miller, and T. Bently Wigley. 2016. A meta-analysis of biodiversity responses to management of southeastern pine forests--opportunities for open pine conservation. Forest Ecology and Management 360: 30-39.

And remember to sign up even if you can't attend - we'll share a recording as soon as one is available. Questions? Let us know at

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Natural and cultural areas that will remain similar to what they are today – despite climate change – need to be identified, managed and conserved as “refugia” for at-risk species, according to a study published today in PLOS One. The study sets out, for the first time, specific steps to help identify and manage these more resilient and climate-stable havens for plants, animals and fishes.

“From the mountains to the coast, the southeastern U.S. contains ecosystems that harbor incredible biodiversity. Many of those ecosystems are already highly at risk from urbanization and other human land-use change. Identifying the ecosystems at risk from climate change will help inform conservation and management to ensure we don’t lose that biodiversity.” (Jennifer Constanza, report author)

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“Rather than completing research projects without anyone at the finish line to greet us, I want a whole bunch of people standing by with their arms outstretched just waiting for the handoff to get our results.”  Those are the words of Kim Winton, Director of the South Central Climate Science Center, which is now in the midst of a significant planning effort to improve and increase what the U.S. Geological Survey calls “co-production of knowledge.”

Co-production of knowledge

Co-production is similar to what Landscape Conservation Cooperatives have been calling “science delivery.”  Both terms encompass the desirability of working with, and being responsive to the needs of end users/stakeholders when brainstorming, prioritizing, and developing natural and cultural resource science projects.  Both terms recognize the importance of incorporating communications at all stages of project (planning, designing, conducting the research and delivery).  

Climate Science Centers across the country have begun improving the co-production paradigm of developing natural resource research projects by explicitly focusing on the communications component.  Toward that end, the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), along with the Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC), the Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC), and the South Central Climate Science Center have joined forces with Climate Communication (the same organization that has played a huge role in developing the National Climate Assessments) to develop communications recommendations that will help each center achieve the high level goal of “Co-producing actionable science that is useful to stakeholders and partners.”

"Communication and coordination with our stakeholders is fundamental to making sure our science can meet the priority needs of our natural and cultural resource managers.  We are excited to engage in expanded communication and outreach across the NE CSC, and neighboring CSCs, to further those efforts,” said Mary Ratnaswamy, NE CSC Director.  

Gerard McMahon, Director of the SE CSC, added that “Communications is integral to all three of the primary objectives we are seeking to achieve relative to global change: first, convening conversations to adequately define the problem(s); second, conducting good decision-relevant science, and ultimately, using that science to make good decisions that can improve global change adaptation.  At the SE CSC, our communication strategy is a work in progress, and we welcome input from our colleagues and collaborators.”

Enhancing the Communication in Co-Production

At a scoping meeting held in May 2016, representatives from all these centers met to discuss the issues.  They came away from that meeting with the following objectives:

  • Enhance a set of positive, dynamic interactions among CSCs, and between CSCs and the NCCWSC.
  • Improve communications skills of CSC scientists and the knowledge base of partners so that they can better interact throughout the research projects.
  • Identify, catalyze, and share efficient modes of operation to cope with limited staff time and CSC financial resources.
  • Provide early and continued communications engagement with stakeholders/partners.
  • Stress the “so what” in CSC efforts, i.e. what is the difference CSCs are making to resources and resource managers?
  • Communicate with compelling stories told in a variety of ways including text, audio, and video.
  • Develop a manageable social media strategy.

Toward this end, the South Central CSC is also working to develop its own communications strategy, which will incorporate many of these elements, while also dovetailing with the related communications efforts of some of its key partners, including university Consortium partners, USGS researchers, the LCCs, the USDA Climate Hubs, NOAA’s South Climate Impacts Planning Program, state wildlife and water agencies, and others.  The final communications strategy, along with the regional recommendations for co-production of actionable science, are scheduled for completion before the end of 2016.

What an improved Climate Science Center project cycle could look like, as envisioned by Climate Communication

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Got quail?

The USDA Farm Service Agency has just made it a little easier for farmers to provide habitat for quail and other upland birds.  

Enrollment of center pivot corners in the Continuous CRP practice CP33, Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, provides valuable food and cover for quail and upland birds on marginal cropland areas, helping re-connect bobwhites and cropland. Beginning January 26, 2015, with continuous CRP signup 47, producers were allowed to enroll pivot corners under CP33 and CP38 State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices.  The USDA has allocated 250,000 acres of CP33 to be dedicated to the center pivot corners practice (a $250 million value for bobwhite habitat).

As of 22 June 2016, only 31,000 acres are enrolled (~12%).  There is now great potential for expanding the CP33 practice!  However, to do so will require a concerted effort by wildlife agencies and conservation organizations, as well as the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service to get the word out to landowners about the many benefits of CP33 and the center pivot corner option. 

Read the full CP33 Center Pivot Corner notification letter from National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Management Board.

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Geomatics Working Group Webex Monday August 22nd 2-3:30 pm CST:
(a) review recent release of PAD-US 1.4 and opportunities for input and (b) discuss ecological assessment and GCPO conservation blueprint processes.

Managed Pine Project Webinar, Thursday September 29, 1pm CST: 
This project simulated a variety of management options across 50 years to identify options for providing open pine wildlife habitat conditions in managed forests.  The webinar was submitted to SAF for Continuing Forestry Education hours and is pending approval.  Registration available soon on

Managing for a Changing Climate, launches August 17:
Semester-long massive open online course (MOOC) available to anyone with the time and interest.  World renowned experts cover climate drivers, modeling, and impacts.

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Four GCPO LCC-sponsored projects come to a close, but what does it mean?

Here’s a rapid overview of our 4 recently completed projects in open pine and grasslands, with some counterintuitive answers to some intriguing questions.  

  1. Combined Presentation of Desired Forest Condition Metrics & Wildlife Habitat Models for Open Pine Habitat & Species

The Desired Forest Condition Metrics project used a comprehensive literature review, expert opinion, and data for a suite of indicator species to create a Field Manual for rapid assessment of wildlife value and ecological integrity of open pine ecosystems, which is available at  The protocols provide a simple, rapid approach for deriving a “stand score” for canopy, midstory, and ground layer health as well as an overall score that will indicate the value of the stand to wildlife dependent on open pine.

The second project, Wildlife Habitat Models for Open Pine, sought to use data collected over a period of up to 10 years at the Jones Ecological Research Center in Georgia to test assumptions about desired endpoint conditions presented in the LCC’s Integrated Science Agenda. They posed the question, which endpoint conditions best explain species occurrence? They found that total pine basal area, basal area of pines over 14 inches DBH, percent shrub cover, and percent canopy cover were adequate to describe desired conditions for the entire suite of indicator species and that percent sand was an important variable for burrowing species. Somewhat surprisingly, herbaceous ground cover was sufficiently correlated with other variables that it was not needed as a predictor, although herbaceous ground cover was undoubtedly important to indicator species. The investigators hypothesize that this may not hold true at sites in less frequently burned systems (i.e. > 1 to 3 year intervals) because different prescribed fire intervals could reduce the correlation between ground cover and other predictors.  The project developed a Mahalanobis Distance Tool for plot level evaluation of sites for value to open pine-dependent wildlife.

  1. Guiding Regional Conservation Planning

This project used Structured Decision Making to guide a team of conservation planners in deciding long-term habitat restoration to best sustain wildlife populations in the Ozark Highlands under global change.  In their decision making the team relied on dynamic landscape population modeling that links climate, landscape, and population models to project future impacts of climate change and urbanization on the landscape and predict how species will respond to them.  

Because the models link local habitat with regional population growth, the team was able to simulate scenarios for habitat management across the region through 2050 and evaluate their effectiveness at reducing species risk through 2100.  The team considered the effects of seven different conservation scenarios on seven different species.  They accounted for uncertainty by running models thousands of time under three possible climate change and urbanization scenarios. Their results illustrated the power of these models to inform management.  For example, the model raised a question by showing that restoration increased available habitat for the Brown-headed Nuthatch in a region outside the current extents of their range; yet, there was no corresponding increase in nuthatches.  It provided an answer by showing that the dispersal limitations of Brown-headed Nuthatch would prevent the species from using the restored habitat without reintroduction efforts.  By averaging risk across species and future climates, the team was able to make an objective and defensible decision as to future management.  Overall, the combination of using dynamic landscape models within a Structured Decision Making framework helped the team to overcome the uncertainty in predicting the effectiveness of conservation scenarios and the complexity associated with planning for multiple species.

  1. Grassland Habitat Management for Diverse Taxa and Stakeholders

This project sought to expand on the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture's existing grassland bird habitat management prioritization model to include non-avian species of conservation concern. Though an extensive field study was conducted, data on small mammal, snake and lizard occupancy were highly limited.  The second part of the project developed an analysis to incorporate multiple species and non-biological economic/cost effectiveness objectives into the habitat management decision framework.  The model assessed the marginal gain in species occupancy of a site at varying spatial scales with the goal of maximizing that gain across a specified landscape.  Somewhat counterintuitively, the approach showed that the highest marginal value of converting agriculture to grassland occurred where there was limited existing grassland in the surrounding area and with pasture in close proximity, i.e., those locations are likely to provide the greatest gain in occupancy over the whole landscape after restoration, relative to other sites.  These results, though, are dependent on the underlying occupancy data and analysis that informs the model and drives the decision analysis.

Webinar Attendance

Get a rundown of attendance stats and feedback we received from audiences at webinars for each of the above projects.

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Four projects in three webinars in 30 days!  That has got to be some kind of record for the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative, which offered three webinars (closing out 4 projects) to the public over the past month.  Judging from the significant response (a total of 244 registered and 150 attended), people and organizations may have been looking forward to these projects’ results.  The use of a new webinar platform also provided easy registration and correspondence, recording of presentations, and that most elusive of outreach goals: two-way communication with our audiences.  

The following is a rundown of attendance stats and feedback we received from audiences at each webinar, using GotoWebinar.  We found that, in general, word of mouth (including email/forwarding) was almost equally as effective as our newsletter in promoting attendance, so thank YOU for that!  

Starting in 2016, all of the GCPO LCC’s recorded webinars will be available on YouTube at

1. Combined Presentation of Desired Forest Condition Metrics & Wildlife Habitat Models for Open Pine Habitat & Species

On YouTube:

123 registered, 73 attended

We were notified after the webinar that it had qualified to count as Continuing Forest Education (CFE) credits from the Society of American Foresters!  If you attended this webinar and would like to obtain credit, contact Gregg Elliott.

Audience for this webinar:  

  • 43% conservation planner
  • 26% forester/forest manager
  • 26% other
  • 15% conservation outreach/education

Most useful feedback on project results (relative to the wildlife habitat model):  

“Of the indicator species modeled, which would you consider a priority for monitoring?” (participants allowed to select more than one answer)

  • 80% songbirds
  • 69 % Northern Bobwhite quail
  • 61% Gopher Tortoise (candidate for listing)
  • 33% snakes
  • 18% Southeastern pocket gopher

What impediments might you face in developing Mahalanobis distance model for wildlife at your site?

  • 48% presence data for indicator wildlife
  • 42% habitat condition data
  • 8% ArcGIS skills
  • 6% other
  • 27% all of the above

  1. Guiding Regional Conservation Planning

Recording on YouTube:

73 registered, 51 attended

Best insights from our audience:

What is the most likely factor that would limit your ability to apply this approach in your own Strategic Habitat Conservation?

  • Lack of data/models/expertise to produce needed data/models - 16 people
  • Difficulty setting objectives or metrics to quantify them. - 8 people
  • Inability to pull together partners & stakeholders on 1 goal. - 8 people
  • Difficulty developing realistic alternative scenarios. - 4 people

People were allowed to select all answers that applied.  In most cases, difficulty setting objectives was a problem accompanied by a lack of data, models, or expertise.  

3. Grassland Habitat Management for Diverse Taxa and Stakeholders

Recording on YouTube:

48 registered, 27 attended

Most enlightening answers to audience questions:

“How do your habitat management decisions typically incorporate cost?”

By far the most popular strategy for cost decisions was “Try to minimize annual or multi-year costs and maximize conservation benefit.” (9 out of 11 answers)

Of those 11 people who answered the first question, they also replied “To what extent do you view the marginal gain occupancy model as relevant to your conservation work?”

  • very relevant, immediately applicable - 1 person
  • very relevant, but capacity/ability to use the model is limited - 3 people
  • somewhat relevant but capacity/ability to use model is limited - 7 people


Four GCPO LCC-sponsored projects come to a close, but what does it mean?

Read more for a rapid overview of our projects in open pine and grasslands, with some counterintuitive answers to some intriguing questions.  

Read more…

On August 17th, 2016, the South Central Climate Science Center (SCCSC) will be launching a brand new free semester-long massive open online course called “Managing for a Changing Climate.”  Participants will learn about the components of the climate system, including the range of natural climate variability and external drivers of climate change, in addition to impacts of a changing climate on multiple sectors such as the economy, policy, ecosystems, and indigenous populations.

This class is for you if you are a climate scientist, an interested citizen, a college student, or a natural resources agency employee that wants to learn more about how climate change is impacting our planet, and better understand various potential management strategies. 

Hear from world renowned climate science experts such as Dr. Berrien Moore (International Panel on Climate Change author and Nobel Prize winner), Dr. Renee McPherson (author on the Great Plains Chapter of the National Climate Assessment), and Dr. Ahsha Tribble (Deputy Regional Administrator – FEMA Region 9, former member of the White House National Security Council).  You will gain an understanding of how natural processes, ecosystems, and human society are being impacted by climate change today and how adaptation and mitigation management strategies are being implemented across the individual, local, national and international scales. 

Each week, participants in the class will watch 2-4 short educational videos, read additional supplementary material, and conduct discussions online. All participants will be evaluated through regular online quizzes, while University of Oklahoma students enrolled for credit will additionally work assignments that culminate in an in-class mock United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties. 

If you miss the start date, free students should be able to enroll in the course at any time in the semester and engage with all of the material that has been released up until that point.

Development of this course was funded by the USGS through the South Central Climate Science Center on Grant #G15AP00136, NASA through the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium on Grant #NNX11AB54H, and the University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. The contents of this course are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agencies.

Registration page:

Promo video:

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