Setting a course for a sustainable landscape
I am writing to share with you my experiences this past fall semester in working with a talented group of students at NCSU. This past fall, we (NPS Southeast Region/South Atlantic LCC) formed a partnership with the Southeast Climate Science Center and NCSU to teach a graduate level course in climate change adaptation, and develop a curriculum that would teach the process of adaptation and apply it to Parks as student case studies.
The course format was a project-based applied graduate seminar. The course included assigned readings and discussions to build a foundation of climate change science knowledge, then a project to identify the impacts of climate change to an assigned ecosystem or topic (beaches, forests, agriculture, freshwater, etc…). Each student prepared a presentation for the class on their ecosystem. Then, students selected case study Parks.
For each case study Park, students identified the resources in the Park and developed a presentation style overview of climate change impacts specific to the Park. Their presentations were used to facilitate discussions with the staff at the Parks and begin a dialogue. From the Park discussions, we learned about what resources visitors most connect with and the resources they are most concerned about under a changing climate. Each student used that feedback to develop a draft public communications piece for each Park, two scenarios, and an adaptation plan for one resource. We tapped into literature like Yale’s Six Americas, the NPS Scenario Planning Handbook, and Climate Smart Adaptation as guides and instructional material and techniques to apply to our case study.
In the end, Parks appreciated the climate change discussions that were facilitated as part of the course, and students found the real-world application of an adaptation processes quite rewarding. I was impressed with how each case study unfolded and how well the techniques and tools we have at our disposal can serve as effective guides. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to work with another group of students in the fall. Wish me luck.