Colorado State University researchers will welcome fellow renowned climate-change experts from the University of Western Sydney and other institutions to campus Monday for a symposium on the “Ecological Consequences of Climate Change.”
In addition to scientists from the Australian university’s preeminent Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, speakers include representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Topics cover climate change’s effect on everything from soil to plants to vector-borne diseases, an area in which CSU conducts world-class research and which has been in the news lately due to an elevated number of plague and tularemia cases in Colorado.
The Aug. 17 event, which is open to the public, was organized by a host of CSU’s own top experts in the field, including University Distinguished Professor Diana Wall, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability; biology Professor Melinda Smith, director of the Semi-arid Grassland Research Center; and biology Professor Alan Knapp, senior ecologist in CSU’s graduate degree program in ecology.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to have a group from the University of Western Sydney and others come together to exchange information,” Wall said. “We’re hoping that from this we’ll build more bonds with other institutions that are doing climate change ecology.”
The interdisciplinary symposium is part of a burgeoning partnership between the Australian university and CSU. University Distinguished Professor Ian Orme of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology serves as CSU’s director of international programs for Australia and New Zealand and has forged partnerships between faculty at the two institutions. In spring 2014, he led a CSU delegation that included Wall, Smith, Knapp, Troy Ocheltree of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, and Jan Leach and Paul Ode of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management on a visit to the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.
While there, they saw firsthand one of the most striking elements of the HIE facility: towering steel columns that blow carbon dioxide onto the foliage of trees and other plants to measure how they respond to elevated levels of a gas associated with climate change.
For Orme, whose specialty is not climate change but tuberculosis research, seeing those towers and listening to HIE researchers was eye-opening.
“You sit in a room with these people and you get the impression that we are in trouble,” said Orme, who wrote an opinion piece about the experience for the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
“We’ll be hearing from these people who have some of the tallest CO2 towers ever built,” Wall said. “Some of their experimental methods are world-class.”
CSU Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph, whose office is sponsoring the symposium along with the Office of International Programs and the schools and colleges involved, will deliver Monday’s opening address. In addition to speakers from CSU and the HIE, Justin Derner of the USDA will talk about how to assist ranchers, farmers and forest land managers with decision-making. Ben Beard of the CDC will discuss how climate change will affect vector-borne diseases in the U.S.
The full agenda for the symposium, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 103 of the Pathology Building, is available at http://col.st/TETtP.