Project Activities

Plans to address core scientific questions and achieve objectives

Question 1. What climate-related risks threaten interacting, heterogeneous hydrological, ecological, and social systems at regional scales in coming decades? 

Anticipating the climate transition, associated risks, and vulnerabilities in Wyoming requires constraining the potential characteristics of the regional climate changes and their consequences for I) physical resources such as water, II) ecological systems such as forested watersheds and alpine lakes, and III) socio-economic systems such as regional agriculture and tourism. To examine the interaction among these vulnerable systems, we combine a holistic, integrated modeling approach linking the physical (e.g., water in atmosphere, snowpack, soils, streams, and lakes), ecological (e.g., wildfire; lake productivity), and socio-economic systems. For each risk-related objective below, we pair modeling (left column) and observational tasks (right column) to characterize vulnerability and plausible futures (Coop et al., 2020) using improved quantitative projections, enhanced observational capabilities, and model validation.

Question 2. How do individuals, communities and organizations best respond to climate-induced risks (including mitigation, adaptation, and transformation)?

Adaptation research often focuses on a single approach (e.g., impact analysis or institutional analysis), providing partial insights (Hinkel & Bisaro, 2015). We plan to pair these tools to better understand the overall adaptation context, identify behavioral parameters to feed into modeling efforts and gauge the effectiveness and feasibility of potential responses. We will provide participant support, purposefully stagger activities, and recruit participants from different communities to minimize participant fatigue.

Question 3. How can the process of co-production build trust and adaptive capacity for key stakeholders and communities?

Co-production activities are integrated throughout the proposal, both as discrete activities (e.g., indicators workshops (Task 2.3b) and within the overall process of model building and iteration (Figure 3). We will provide participant support, tailor activities to community interest, and recruit participants invested in co-production outcomes to minimize stakeholder fatigue. Adaptive capacity (AC) is the “ability of actors to respond to, create and shape variability and change in the state of the system” (Folke et al., 2002). It is critical to develop in communities facing change because it allows for more responsiveness, which can lower overall risk (de Kraker, 2017). It varies in metrics across organizational and timescales, some of which (e.g., knowledge of disturbance) may change quickly, others may change at moderate rates (e.g., ability to anticipate change) and others over long periods (e.g., adaptive governance regimes) (Whitney et al., 2017).  Co-production has been affiliated with increased adaptive capacity (Menzel et al., 2013), but prior projects have not systematically measured it across activities. 

Question 4. How might societal responses interact with biophysical processes and feedbacks to alter future risks and vulnerabilities?

The recent IPCC assessment unequivocally calls for not just increased understanding, but informed and immediate adaptation and mitigation efforts (IPCC 2021). A mix of global-to-local uncertainties, stochastic processes, and instabilities must be confronted to help communities mitigate emerging threats at local scales (Figure 4). While integrated models can assist in these decisions by highlighting risks, changes in behavior are also driven by values, identity, beliefs, and level of confidence in projected outcomes. Models can demonstrate potential outcomes but may require tangible – often qualitative – confirmation to be acted upon. Willingness to act can also change rapidly as the unimaginable becomes a clear possibility or even an inevitability (Milinski et al., 2008). Emerging changes and extreme events (e.g., wildfires), for example, may alter stakeholder receptiveness to model projections. We envision a cycle of re-evaluating risks and uncertainties (Figure 1) based upon the co-production of modified scenarios and the context of recent changes. This cycle requires three steps, building upon work above: