Text by Paul Tumarkin, Tech Launch Arizona
Stephen Jackson Named New Southwest Climate Science Center Director
The center aims to provide federal, state and local land managers access to the best science available on climate change and other landscape-scale stressors of the nation’s natural and cultural resources.
Stephen Jackson has been selected as the center director for the Department of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center, which is headquartered at the University of Arizona.
Jackson comes to the center from the University of Wyoming, where he is a professor of botany and founding director of the doctoral program in ecology. He will assume his new post on Sept. 10.
The center is an equal partnership between the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, and a UA-based consortium of six host research universities and institutions. As director of the center’s USGS pillar, Jackson will be working closely with Jonathan Overpeck, the center’s lead investigator who is directing the consortium, to establish and oversee the center’s research goals and projects.
"Steve is an exceptional scholar in the area of understanding how climate variability and change affects vegetation and other resources,” said Overpeck, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment and a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences. “Steve will bring top-notch science capability to the Southwest and also a keen desire to ensure that resource managers have the science they need to do their jobs.”
The center is one of eight regional Climate Science Centers recently established and managed by the USGS in Reston, Va., to provide federal, state and local land managers access to the best science available on climate change and other landscape-scale stressors of the nation’s natural and cultural resources. In addition to the UA, partners of the Southwest Climate Science Center include the University of California, Davis and UCLA; the University of Colorado; the Desert Research Institute (Nevada); and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
“Our natural environment is responding to changing climate in a myriad of ways as reflected in water availability, fire frequency, rising seas, altered plant and animal communities and storm intensity,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.
“Under the leadership of Stephen Jackson, the USGS has every expectation that the Southwest Climate Science Center will achieve its goal of providing science information and tools to allow resource managers and citizens alike to anticipate, measure and appropriately adapt to these changing conditions on the local and regional scale, where decisions matter most to communities at risk,” McNutt said.
Jackson also will be adjunct professor in the UA department of geosciences and an adjunct research professor in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment, or SNRE.
“Synergies between the school’s faculty and the goals of the Southwest Climate Science Center should directly enhance our understanding of the impact of a changing climate on the resources of the region and how best to manage these resources,” said Stuart Marsh, SNRE interim director and professor.
Karl Flessa, professor of geosciences and director of the UA School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, added, “We look forward to Steve’s participation in geosciences’ research programs in climate change and its paleoenvironmental record. Steve brings great strengths to our programs, and the Southwest Climate Science Center will provide additional opportunities for our students and faculty.”
Before joining the University of Wyoming in 1995, Jackson held faculty positions at Indiana University, Idaho State University, and Northern Arizona University. He is past president of the American Quaternary Association and is on the governing board of the Ecological Society of America and the editorial boards for Ecosystems, Frontiers in Ecology & Environment, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
His own research employs tree rings, fossil rodent middens and sediments from lakes and bogs to investigate how past climatic changes and human activities have affected species distributions, biodiversity, and ecosystem properties.
Jackson received his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Indiana University and his bachelor's degree and master's in botany and geology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.