Auburn University team receives $3M grant to train students on climate resiliency

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A team at Auburn University has received a $3 million grant to educate students on how to study climate change. The National Science Foundation Research Traineeship, or NRT, grant was given to train the next generation of scientists and leaders to conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary and applied research, develop effective communication skills and prepare them for the workforce. The project is called “NRT: Addressing resiliency to climate-related hazards and disasters through data-informed decision making.”

“This grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Graduate Education is the first NRT-award for Auburn University and the first in the state of Alabama that will train students to make a sustainable, lasting impact increasing the climate resiliency in the southeastern United States,” explained Karen McNeal, associate professor of geosciences and the principle investigator on the project.

Nine faculty and senior administration will work with approximately 85 graduate students including 18 fully funded trainees, creating a robust Auburn interdisciplinary team.

“Over the next five years, this team will work to reform graduate education providing students with an opportunity to better understand, communicate and predict climate resiliency,” McNeal said.

Students will examine both natural systems and man-made infrastructure.

“Understanding the vulnerability, resiliency and recovery time is crucial as we continue to face more devastating and frequent natural disasters,” McNeal said.

Activities in this program include rigorous coursework, science communication training, internships with stakeholders in Auburn’s geographic area and workshops structured on the decision-making process.

Additionally, faculty from regional historically black colleges and universities will provide further research support and training opportunities for these students throughout the duration of the award.

“The graduate students will be analyzing and reviewing real-world applications during their internships,” McNeal said. “They will work with local and regional stakeholders including organizations and companies that will be directly impacted by climate change.”

Auburn’s Department of Geosciences recently began offering a doctoral program that helps students learn about factors related to climate change.

“Students in the Department of Geosciences’ earth science systems doctoral program have an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the environment and conduct research that can help find solutions to climate-based problems,” said Department of Geosciences Chair Ming-Kuo Lee.

The grant-funded program began in September and runs through 2024.

Representatives from the team include students and faculty members from the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ Department of Geosciences, Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Office of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity; the College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, Biosystems Engineering and Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology; and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.