Science to Action Fellowship

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The Science to Action Fellowship program supports graduate students in developing a product that puts science into action, directly applying scientific research related to climate change impacts on fish, wildlife, or ecosystems to decision making about natural resources.

Current Opportunities

The application portal for the 2022 Science to Action Fellowship will open on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021.

About the Fellowship

> About
The Science to Action Fellowship was developed to:

  • Expose graduate students to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through the USGS National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC), whose mission is to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques to help natural and cultural resource managers anticipate and adapt to the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and ecosystems.
  • Support graduate students in developing a policy-relevant product related to the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, their habitats, and users. This product should put science into action, applying scientific research directly to decision making about natural resources. It may be related to the graduate student’s own research, and if so, may present a unique opportunity to enhance and share research with a broader community of decision makers. 
  • Provide students the opportunity to interact with the USGS community and others outside of academia.

During the fellowship year and beyond, fellows benefit from collaborations with university and USGS mentors, from interactions with other colleagues and partners of USGS, and from exposure to high priority, real-world challenges in the natural resources policy arena. Preference will be given to applicants with a clear research - management/policy link.  

> Eligibility
This opportunity is open to graduate students at Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) Consortium Institutions who are students for the entire fellowship year (special circumstances otherwise considered). To view the list of consortium institutions for each CASC, please check out our CASC pages and the CASC Network map.  *Note there is an open competition for a Midwest CASC.  Once that process is finalized students at the associated institution(s) will be eligible.  Fellows may also be paired with Midwest CASC mentors.

> Financial Award
Up to two fellows will be selected, annually, to receive a financial award of $10,000* each. The financial award is intended to support the additional efforts undertaken by the Fellow for the NCASC project, not as a graduate stipend.

> Mentorship Experience
Each Fellow will work closely with his/her university mentor (typically, the applicant’s graduate program advisor) and a mentor from NCASC (matched to applicants by the CASCs after the Statement of Interest stage; see application guidance for more information). 

> Fellowship Duration and Location
The fellowship experience will last one year (start date is flexible within funded year, starting May at the earliest). During this time, the Fellow will be expected to work at NCASC or a CASC with a CASC mentor for two months (typically summer; specific dates are flexible; virtual options considered as appropriate) but may remain at his/her host institution for the rest of the term.

> Questions? Please direct questions about the fellowship program to Dr. Abigail Lynch, NCASC Research Fish Biologist,

Learn more about the 2022 Fellowship application requirements >>


Current Fellows

Photograph of Megan Johnson leaning around a red brick wall

Megan Johnson, North Carolina State University, Fellowship Year: 2021

Shifting impacts of wildland fire smoke and land management practices in the Southeast under climate change

Fire is historically important in Southeastern landscapes. In this region, prescribed fire (or controlled burning) is often used to reduce wildfire risk, maintain wildlife habitat, and support fire-dependent species. However, smoke from prescribed fire is a significant source of particulate air pollution in the region, so managers who use it are required to minimize smoke impacts to protect public health. This requirement is often seen as a barrier to using the technique, and climate change is expected to pose further barriers as days with acceptable burning conditions are expected to decrease. With expected increases in wildfire risk and human populations who are particularly vulnerable to health impacts from smoke, balancing the social impacts with the ecological benefits of prescribed fire in the Southeast will become increasingly difficult. This project will describe Southeastern managers’ concerns and needs regarding the future of prescribed fire use, while also comparing future wildfire and prescribed fire smoke contributions to air pollution in the Southeast based on projected changes in fire activity. Sharing managers’ concerns and needs with science and policymaking communities, alongside estimates of possible future smoke impacts, will be essential to effectively addressing the future of prescribed fire in the Southeast.


Photo of Anthony Ciocco wearing red short sleeved polo shirt

Anthony Ciocco, Oregon State University, Fellowship Year: 2021

Structured decision making for Navajo rangelands through co-produced computer simulation state and transition modeling

This project will work with local managers to co-produce a scientific analysis of management strategies for rangelands in the Navajo Partitioned Lands.  Final products will include a small field guide for tribal ranchers, a computer simulation model of management scenarios for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Navajo Nation natural resource managers, and a policy analysis for the Navajo Nation Council. The field guide will provide tribal grazing permit holders with a conceptual framework for identifying rangelands states and stewarding their lands to avoid undesirable transitions.  The computer simulation will be modeled in the ST-sim software.  This model will draw from existing data and local knowledge on historical and current ecological states and transitions.  Scenarios including climate change, wild horse round-ups, livestock reductions, livestock rest, and water infrastructure development will be modeled.  Simulation outcomes will be assessed for multiple objectives including livestock production, wildlife habitat, and cultural uses.  The results will inform a structured decision making approach utilizing a Bayesian decision network that will convey social and ecological tradeoffs to decision makers, presented in the form of a policy analysis.



Past Fellows

Kyle Lunneberg, University of California, Davis, Fellowship Year: 2020

Photo of Kyle Lunneberg

Developing a Fire-Risk Web Map and Monitoring Methodology for Southern California Chaparral using Multispectral Drone Imagery

Increased fire in Southern California chaparral ecosystems is a projected detriment of changing climate. Planning for increased risk to wildlands and human interfaces requires policy-relevant, understandable representations of current chaparral fuel dynamics. Kyle’s project uses drone-based multispectral cameras to characterize sub-communities of chaparral. He focuses on relating these high-resolution measurements to larger state-wide databases and communicating projections to local land managers. Through a web map, this tool assists fire-enforcement staff in selecting monitoring areas or planning future studies. The cost-effective drone methodology will also become publicly available during his Fellowship year. This methodology is intended for small reserves or students who need high-resolution multispectral measurements but cannot access aerial platforms.


Lise Montefiore, North Carolina State University, Fellowship Year: 2020

Photo of Lise Montefiore

Mapping Estuarine Vulnerability to Water Quality Change Under Future Climate and Land Use Conditions

Estuaries are bodies of water located where rivers meet the sea. These unique ecosystems are among the most productive systems on Earth and provide ecological (e.g., species habitat), cultural (e.g., recreation), and economic (e.g., fisheries, tourism) benefits. However, these systems are facing many adverse impacts. In particular, land use and climate change can alter the quantity and quality of riverine discharges to estuaries, thereby contributing to shifts in estuarine ecosystem health. For example, climate-driven shifts in precipitation patterns in agricultural watersheds can result in an abundance of fertilizer runoff being delivered to downstream estuaries, leading to eutrophication. Lise will develop a national-scale, interactive, web-based data visualization application displaying the vulnerability of U.S. estuarine systems to projected water quality change. The vulnerability map will produce critical information to identify estuarine systems at higher risk of degradation in the future. The product generated from the project and underlying dataset will be made publicly available. The work will be performed over a two-month period at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.


Lauren Hunt, Boise State University, Fellowship Year: 2019

Lauren Hunt

Mapping Climate Change Vulnerability of Rangelands in the West Using Social-Ecological Indicators

As a fellow, Lauren will develop a novel vulnerability mapping tool to inform policy and improve climate change adaptation in the West. Such a map will reveal ecosystem and community vulnerabilities to help policy-makers prioritize their efforts. Lauren will use publicly available data, social-ecological science, and data science training to develop a publicly-available, web-based, and interactive product. Lauren’s work will focus on building adaptation capacity and understanding climate vulnerability. Lauren plans to publish the products of this research, including interactive maps and datasets, on the Climate Registry for the Assessment of Vulnerability as a web-based community resource. Laruen will be in the Reston office for two months during the summer of 2019.
Read Lauren's Final Report>> 
View Slides on Lauren's Project>>



Sean Wineland, University of Oklahoma, Fellowship Year: 2019

Sean Wineland

Reaches of Opportunity: Boosting Environmental Flows and Fish Conservation at Low Societal Water Cost in the Southern Great Plains

Intensifying conflicts between societal water needs and environmental flows in drought-prone river basins highlights a need for decision-support tools to aid decision makers in choosing where and when to invest scarce resources. However, uncertainty across future climate scenarios complicates decision making processes. Sean aims to help guide decision makers through this process by identifying locations in the Red River in the southern Great Plains where environmental flows can be boosted to benefit fish populations while not impeding societal water resources. Sean’s project will gauge the perspectives of water resource and fisheries managers on the impacts of climate change on water resource and fisheries management and produce a decision-support tool that aids water resource and fisheries managers in prioritizing the best locations and times to boost environmental flows or perform fisheries management actions. Sean will be in the Reston office for two months during the summer of 2019.
Read Sean's Final Report >>
Read Sean's Journal of Environmental Management publication >>
View a webinar on Sean's project >>


Rachel Owen, University of Missouri - Columbia, Fellowship Year: 2018

Photo of Rachel Owen

Playa Ecosystem Vulnerability in Future Climates: Taking Science to Stakeholders in the Great Plains
Playas are shallow, rain-fed wetlands found throughout the Great Plains. When wet, playas provide crucial habitat for many wildlife species that depend on water to survive. When dry, playas also support several other Great Plains wildlife species because they are often the only natural lands in a region dominated by agricultural production. Playas also recharge water to the underlying aquifer, filter nutrients and chemicals from the surrounding watershed, and add recreational value to the region. While several conservation incentive programs are offered for landowners, playas are continually being degraded and converted to other land uses. Climate change poses an additional threat to the already vulnerable playa ecosystems. In an effort to assist existing outreach efforts in the Great Plains, the objective of this project is to develop educational materials and plan field visits in the playa region to describe playa sensitivities to climate change and suggest conservation efforts that may help to lessen further degradation.
Read Rachel's Final Report >>

Tunde Ojewola, University of Missouri - Columbia, Fellowship Year: 2017

Photo of Tunde Ojewola

Climate Change Perceptions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Employees
The impact of climate change on natural resources ranges form habitat degradation to an ongoing alteration in the structure and functioning of the ecosystems. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are responsible for the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. FWS managers play an important role in not only planning for and responding to climate change impact on these natural resources, but also providing information to private groups and other stakeholders. This project will examine FWS managers’ perceptions, knowledge of, and attitudes toward climate change in the Midwest. Understanding managers perceptions of climate change are important determinants of environmental decision-making behavior, policy formation, and communication. Tunde will also develop a decision-support tool and story maps describing climate change impacts on fish and wildlife within the region. These tools can be used by FWS managers to educate stakeholders about the changing landscape. Read Tunde's Final Report >>

Andrew Carlson, Michigan State University, Fellowship Year: 2016

Photo of Andrew Carlson

Stream Science to Action: A Decision-Support Tool for Trout Management Amidst Climate Change
Brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout are distributed throughout streams in Michigan and support valuable recreational fisheries. Streams are projected to become warmer in the future due to climate change, but the effects of warming on growth, reproduction, and survival of these trout species are largely unknown. Understanding and predicting climate change impacts is important for developing management strategies that sustain healthy, fishable trout populations. The goal of this project is to design a user-friendly, map-based decision-support tool that combines stream-specific information on resource availability (e.g., money, time, personnel), temperature patterns, and other biological conditions to assist fisheries professionals in planning management programs that promote resilient streams and fish populations. In addition, case studies will be written for the public to illustrate the actions that fisheries professionals and stakeholders can perform to protect Michigan’s streams and trout populations amidst climate change. Read Andrew's final report


Tracy Swem, Michigan State University, Fellowship Year: 2015

Photo of Tracy Swem

Climate Smart Conservation in Practice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Climate adaptation case studies can help state and federal managers understand reasonable conservation approaches and integrate climate change into existing wildlife management plans. There is a growing need for a method to evaluate and compile recent adaptation studies in a user-friendly manner. This is especially true in light of the development of recent climate and land-management tools, namely, the Climate Smart Conservation Cycle. The objective of this project was to synthesize recent case studies involving wildlife management and climate change adaptation. Project researchers (a) identified key data and current knowledge related to wildlife management adaptation strategies, (b) performed a meta-analysis on these existing strategies, (c) analyzed the results for differences and similarities to the existing framework of the “Climate Smart Conservation Cycle,” (d) produced a synthesis of adaptation strategies by region and species, and (e) produced a regional map of adaptation case studies in North America.


Ralph Tingley, Michigan State University, Fellowship Year: 2015

Photo of Ralph Tingley

Conserving Streams in a Changing Climate: Turning Ecological Stream Classifications into Actionable Science
Climate change will influence freshwater ecosystems worldwide, in many cases leading to species loss. Conservationists must proactively manage waterways to ensure species persistence. To understand the influences of climate on Hawaiian stream species, such as snails, fish and freshwater shrimp, Ralph developed a stream classification based on relationships between organisms and rainfall (along with landscape factors). This system groups streams into similar types and identifies those that may be most influenced by climate change. The goal of Ralph’s project was to incorporate the stream classification into products that facilitate proactive management and to demonstrate the potential for the application of the approach in other regions. He worked with stakeholders in Hawai’i to develop products that utilize the classification, such as identifying conservation or restoration areas based on their current ability to support species and projected changes in climate. Read Ralph's final report

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