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10/26/10 - Diverse team examining impact of climate change locally

Becky Smith and Karen McNeal

A $1 million National Science Foundation grant is helping Mississippi State researchers bring together a diverse group of educators, theologians, psychologists, geoscientists, economists, engineers, and others to provide education on the local effects of climate change.

The Climate Literacy Partnership in the Southeast project aims to gather fact-based, non-advocacy information which, according to project manager and co-principal investigator Becky Smith, will lead to a better understanding of people's views and ultimately to the creation of a strategic plan for educating the public.
"During phase one of the CLIPSE grant, we will facilitate dialogue between groups of people who do not normally interact with each other, such as climate scientists and policy makers," the MSU economics instructor said. Bringing these groups together will broaden perspectives for each and allow us to take better advantage of knowledge spillovers which should lead to better policies."

Smith said from the completed survey research, the next step will be to develop a strategic plan as a map for implementing the educational portion of the project.

"We'll be getting input from local business leaders, government officials, community groups and neighborhood citizens who can look at the research results and then decide what the best methods might be for informing the public of the possibilities associated with climate change," she said. "It's people who make up the local economy, anyone who has a stake in what the outcomes of climate change can be."

Along with the results from the climate change research, the partners involved also hope another outcome will be more insight into the science of interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.

Geosciences assistant professor Karen McNeal serves as CLIPSE's principal investigator.

"We're very excited about the possibilities of this project," said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State. "Dr. Smith and Dr. McNeal have put together an outstanding team, and we anticipate their work making a difference in communities throughout the state and region."

Other Mississippi State researchers include Valentine Aranatharaj, Geosystems Research Institute associate professor; Dwight Hare, leadership and foundations professor; Deepak Mishra, geosciences assistant professor; Joel Paz, agricultural and biological engineering assistant professor; Carrick Williams, psychology assistant professor; Bert Montgomery, sociology lecturer; and Albert Bisson, philosophy and religion instructor.

Collaborating researchers are geographer and co- principal investigator David Rutherford, University of Mississippi; biological environmental scientist Hyun Jung Cho, Jackson State University; and atmospheric scientist and co-principal investigator Udaysankar Nair, University of Alabama, Huntsville.

CLIPSE is funded through the NSF's Climate Change Education Program. Additional supporters are the MSU Extension Service, Northern Gulf Institute, Southern Rural Development Center, Social Science Research Center, John C. Stennis Institute of Government, and Research and Curriculum Unit. State agency partners are the Mississippi Council on Economic Education, Mississippi Environmental Education Alliance, Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, Mississippi Geographic Alliance, and the John C. Stennis Space Center.

Others are the National Geographic Education Foundation, Earth System Science Center, Southeast Climate Consortium, and the Technical Education Research Centers.

For more information, contact Dr. Smith at 662-325-7473 or

HARRIET LAIRD | University Relations

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