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CASC Program Vision (FY 2023-2028)

This Network Vision articulates the values and approaches that have come to define the CASC Network and to identify areas of momentum and growth that can carry us into the future. This document will serve to inspire network staff to reach for a cohesive vision and will complement existing regional strategic planning documents. 

Table of Contents

About the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers

Purpose and Scope of Network Vision

CASC Approach to Science and Partnerships

Network Goals

Implementation and Evaluation


About the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers 

Delivering science to help fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate 

From sprawling national monuments to tiny neighborhood parks, the United States is home to breathtaking landscapes of all shapes and sizes. This grand natural heritage is a cornerstone of American life, serving as a source of beauty and spirituality while providing critical ecosystem services to diverse communities across the country. In a world altered by climate change and human development, natural and cultural resource managers from local to federal levels strive for innovative approaches to rise to never-before-seen challenges. The National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers are uniquely positioned to facilitate the Nation’s response to urgent climate-induced natural and cultural resource conservation demands. 


Our Mission 

Our mission is to deliver science to help fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate.  


Our History  

In 2008, Congress established the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (P.L. 110-161) within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide research and technical support for natural and cultural resource managers as they anticipate and respond to climate change. In recognition of the diverse ways climate change impacts different parts of the country, the program went on to establish regional centers from 2010-2012 to address distinct regional climate priorities.  

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center was renamed the National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC) and the regional Climate Science Centers were renamed Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers. Today, the network is composed of a National CASC that oversees the activities of nine regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), collectively known as the “CASC network.”  

Timeline graphic showing key events from 2008 to 2022. Events described in description.


Purpose and Scope of Network Vision 

Since its inception, the CASC network has experienced tremendous growth, expanding into new regions and settling into an actionable science model that truly strives for on-the-ground impacts. The purpose of this visioning document is to articulate the values and approaches that have come to define our work and to identify areas of momentum and growth that can carry us into the future. This document will serve to inspire network staff to reach for a cohesive vision and will complement existing regional strategic planning documents. 

This network vision contains the following key elements: 

  • CASC Approach to Science and Partnerships, defining our core values, structure, and priority users and partners, as well as the key Departmental and Bureau-level priorities our work feeds into. 
  • Network Vision outlining the specific goals and objectives the CASC network will prioritize over the next five years to fulfill its core mission. 
  • Implementation and Evaluation describing metrics of “success” for outlined activities and how goals will be put into practice. 


CASC Approach to Science and Partnerships  

Through our continued efforts in actionable science, our science happens in partnership with people on the land. This expands our capacity to protect fish and wildlife, understand and manage our natural resources, and improve our quality of life.


Our Approach 

We collaborate with natural and cultural resource managers to understand their challenges, translate information needs into research questions, and produce objective climate adaptation science that is policy relevant (but not prescriptive) to inform decision-making.  

We prioritize actionable science by engaging directly with users to develop a comprehensive understanding of climate impacts on natural and cultural resources. We ensure our science products are accessible to on-the-ground users through data management, science synthesis, and science translation efforts.  

We build federal-consortium partnerships to expand our capacity and access the best climate adaptation expertise for the benefit of resource managers and the public.  

We prepare the next generation of scientists to address future conservation and resource management challenges through fellowships, career development opportunities, pipeline support, and workforce development 

We build communities of scientists, managers, and citizens by developing and supporting professional networks, communities of practices, and forums to share the latest climate adaptation science, promote cross-discipline collaboration, and foster innovation. 

We foster equity and inclusion by implementing best practices in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in all aspects of our work, including supporting the next generation of scientists, partnering with historically underrepresented communities and scientists in our research, abiding by the data sovereignty of Tribal Nations, and supporting principles of environmental and climate justice.  


Our Values 

  1. Respect: We operate with respect for partners, cultures, traditions, and Indigenous knowledge systems.  
  2. Reciprocity: We strive to build authentic, sustained and mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships.  
  3. Recognition: We endeavor to instill justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility as central to all our work. 
  4. Resolve: We commit to seeking actionable nature-based solutions to climate adaptation challenges for the future wellbeing of our interconnected ecosystems, cultures, and communities. 


Our Structure 

The National CASC, based at USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia, serves as the national office of the Network. NCASC provides leadership and guidance on administration, partnerships, information management, and communications. NCASC also conducts research on national science priorities.  


Federal-Consortium Partnership

Regional CASCs serve the unique climate needs of the states within their footprint. Regional CASCs are federal-consortium partnerships; each CASC is hosted by one institution within a larger consortium of universities, research entities, Tribal organizations, and/or non-governmental organizations (see network map, below). Host institutions and consortiums are chosen through a competitive process and recompete every 5 years. Regional CASCs can also host Tribal Resilience Liaisons funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Resilience Program and employed by affiliated Tribal organizations. Tribal Resilience Liaisons have a lead role in fostering dialogues, identifying needs, and ensuring strong working relationships with Tribal Nations within their region. 


Research Funding

Both the National and Regional CASCs fund research on climate change impacts and climate adaptation strategies. Part of this funding is in the form of broad internal research capacity. The CASCs employ federal scientists to engage in both rapid-needs and long-term research and partnership activities, allowing them to become trusted experts for local partner and university communities in their regions. Additionally, CASCs annually award funding to peer-reviewed projects from researchers within consortium institutions, USGS research centers, or other federal agencies. 


Stakeholder Advisory Council and Committees

Both the broader CASC network and each regional CASC have stakeholder advisory councils (a Federal Advisory Council and regional Advisory Committees, respectively). Composed of federal, state, regional, and Tribal representatives, these groups help identify research priorities and support the integration of CASC research into resource management. When active, the Federal Advisory Council advises the operations of the CASC network and makes recommendations to clarify, focus, and enhance the program's efforts. Similarly, input from Advisory Committees help regional CASCs develop 5-year Science Agendas outlining research priorities and annual Work Plans guiding resource allocation and priority research each fiscal year. 

Map showing the states in the footprint of each regional CASC
CASC Network Map, showing the state footprints of the nine regional CASCs. For a full list of the states in each CASC, go to the map image page. 


Stakeholders, Rightsholders, and Partners  

The effects of climate change are not bound by federal, state, or Tribal domains. To develop science that is useful and useable across the range of places impacted by climate change, CASC research is characterized by an emphasis on partnership engagement. CASCs support scientists in working iteratively with project stakeholders, rightsholders, and projected end users to ensure final products address salient management needs. This partnership engagement falls along a continuum depending on user needs and resources. Partners are fully engaged in the scientific process from start to finish, from simply providing partners with results (“inform”) to complete “co-production of knowledge.” The CASCs value projects supporting high levels of partner involvement, as these collaborations often generate the most actionable science.   

Our partners include:  

  • Natural & Cultural Resource Managers: Professionals charged with managing natural and/or cultural resources, from planning to implementation
  • Decision Makers: Leadership within federal, state, Tribal, and local entities seeking to make science-informed management and policy decisions
  • Agencies & Organizations: Institutions that can inform and benefit from our work, including Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, state management agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
  • Indigenous Peoples: Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other Indigenous peoples engaging in climate adaptation efforts. 
  • Scientific Community: Academic institutions and organizations that contribute to the production and delivery of climate adaptation science. 


Linkage with DOI and USGS Priorities  

As a federal entity, the CASC network strives to ensure that its research efforts align with relevant priorities of the current Administration and those of the larger entities the program sits within.  


Department of the Interior (DOI) Priorities 

The CASC network serves as a DOI asset for the federal community of resource managers and the greater public. As such, the strategic operations of the network support implementation of the Department’s priorities and the DOI Climate Action Plan. Relevant DOI priorities include: 

Supporting informed decision making for conservation. The DOI calls for conservation to protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and leverage natural climate solutions, while the DOI Climate Action Plan calls for promoting climate-resilient lands, waters and cultural resources. The CASC network works closely with DOI agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service to support climate-informed management of public lands and other natural and cultural resources across the Nation. 

Centering equity and environmental justice. DOI Priorities call for renewed engagement with diverse and often under-served communities at the front lines of climate impacts, and the DOI Climate Action Plan seeks to advance climate equity more generally. The CASC network supports fellowship and training programs that empower students and early-career professionals from under-served communities to become the next generation of leaders in the climate adaptation field. Through a partnership with the USGS Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (DEO), the National CASC also supports staff focused on building partnerships both within and beyond the federal government to expand the CASC network’s environmental and climate justice efforts. 

Supporting Tribal and Insular community resilience. In addition to priorities on equity expressed by the DOI, the DOI Climate Action Plan expressly calls for recommitment to Tribal and Insular communities. Through a unique collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the CASC network works closely with Tribal Nations and other Indigenous peoples across the Nation to support their climate adaptation efforts. Additionally, Insular communities are a substantial part of the partner network of the Pacific Islands and Southeast CASCs, whose footprints include U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands, Pacific U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Empowering the next generation. The DOI Climate Action Plan prioritizes empowering the next generation of conservation and resilience workers. Close partnerships with academic institutions and natural resources managers enables the CASC network to educate and advance the next generation of climate adaptation specialists. Our strong partnerships with and support of Tribal, Indigenous, and Insular communities further advances the Nation’s capacity for conservation and resilience. 


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Priorities 

The USGS is a recognized scientific leader in implementing integrated, systems-based approaches for understanding the impacts of climate change and conducting research on natural and human system interactions. Within the USGS, the CASC Network is well-positioned to remain and expand as a leader in climate science.  

The USGS Climate Science Plan released in 2023 outlines how the bureau will build new capacity by expanding on its current strengths. The CASC network supports the three outlined themes in diverse ways. 

  1. Understanding climate change impacts The CASC network supports research on diverse climate change impacts across the country and works directly with affected management communities to create scientific products useful for on-the-ground decision makers.  
  2. Assessing risk and mitigating climate change and associated hazards The CASC network produces risk assessments and other decision support tools to help managers and communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate hazards such as wildland fires, droughts, and extreme weather events. 
  3. Providing climate science tools and support The CASC network partners with resource managers and conservation practitioners to build climate data visualization platforms, decision support tools, and other products that meet specific science needs. 


Network Goals 

After 15 years, the CASC network has learned much about how to identify stakeholder, rightsholder, and projected end user needs, conduct effective engagement, lead with best practices, and ensure smooth operations. Building from these lessons, this plan provides a collective vision for the Network over the next five years. It identifies goals, objectives, and measures of success for the four pillars of our organization: partnerships, science, capacity building, and communication. 


Goal 1: Partnerships  

Our network works with users and partners to identify priority issues, develop research plans, produce useful products, and guide implementation. Our partnership engagement uses a listening-first approach, where we let our collaborators and users tell us about their needs, circumstances, and priorities without imposing our assumptions. We use many different mechanisms of engagement, including regional advisory councils, in-person listening sessions and workshops, and interactions at professional meetings, in addition to formal research collaborations. Through these efforts, we build meaningful and lasting connections across federal, state, local, regional, community, and Tribal organizations. Such collaborations are necessary to produce relevant science that meets the needs of decision-makers. With mutual understanding and respect, our new and lasting partnerships will continue to improve management of natural and cultural resources in a changing climate. 

Our partnerships program goal is to respond to high priority natural and cultural resource management challenges and foster substantive, sustained engagement between scientists and managers. 


  • Engage partners and users to identify their resource challenges and information needs. 
  • Bring together the expertise of scientists and managers to design, develop, and implement research to inform effective resource management.  
  • Coordinate with partners in the climate impacts and adaptation community to leverage resources. 
  • Strengthen partnerships with Tribal governments, Indigenous communities, and inter-Tribal organizations involved in climate adaptation.  


Goal 2: Science 

To sustain our natural and cultural resources, we must understand not only the challenges of today, but also those of tomorrow. Those challenges include but are not limited to changing climate and variability, sea-level rise, the expansion of invasive species, changes in land use, increasing wildfire, changing water availability, and loss of fish and wildlife. Over the past 15 years, the CASC network has worked with natural and cultural resource managers, conservation practitioners, and communities to help them make decisions based on reliable, valid information. Our role has been to produce and translate science for these managers to help them anticipate, plan for, and adapt to a changing environment. We integrate best practices and evaluate the actionability of our science to further advance climate-informed decision-making and bridge the gap between science and management.  

Our science program goal is to advance the understanding of the impacts of climate change and variability on fish, wildlife, water, land, and people to support sound resource management and climate adaptation. 


We will contribute to the essential knowledge of physical changes in the air, water, and on land. 

  • Improve our knowledge of climate change and variability, particularly as related to management of natural and cultural resources. 
  • Assess the hydrological implications of climate change, including improving our understanding of changes to drought, flooding, sea-level rise, and the cryosphere. 
  • Understand the effects of climate change on the frequency, severity, intensity, and extent of disturbance regimes, such as wildfires, pests, pathogens, and land use change. 
  • Further refine climate-driven response models to address data scarcity, uncertainty, and other limitations of predictive modeling. 

We will continue to assess the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, habitat, ecosystem services, and cultural resources.  

  • Invest in developing a better understanding of how high priority species, communities, and ecosystems respond to climate change. 
  • Focus resources on understanding the impacts of changing climate on inter-specific and community dynamics and the vulnerabilities of native species and ecosystems. 
  • Conduct research on transformations within the structure, function, processes, and services of ecological communities and systems. 

We will accelerate research on adaptation strategies. 

  • Advance science to design and test the efficacy of adaptation strategies. 
  • Evaluate and develop methods to monitor the effectiveness of adaptation strategies. 
  • Conduct research to identify refugia, corridors, and habitats to support adaptation of fish and wildlife.  
  • Provide information on species’ adaptive capacity to climate change and help incorporate into species management plans. 
  • Develop decision tools for climate adaptation that inform managers of risks, benefits, effectiveness, and related considerations. 


Goal 3: Capacity Building  

The CASC network has supported hundreds of students and early-career scientists and managers through fellowship and training programs across the nation. Participants conduct groundbreaking research on climate change impacts and adaptation, learn vital technical skills, and/or build networks of peers and mentors to support future career development. Our capacity building activities align with and are responsive to Administration and Departmental priorities to create a more diverse and inclusive community of scientists, students, and managers reflective of the communities that our science serves.    

Our capacity-building program goal is to build a connected community of researchers and managers and foster their leadership in science-based resource management. 


  • Support information exchange and foster professional networks of scientists, managers, and/or community organizations because knowledge sharing is essential to successful adaptation. 
  • Provide decision support and technical assistance to advance the integration of new information in resource management. 
  • Supply education, mentoring, professional development, and training for students and researchers.  
  • Develop training and educational materials to meet the priorities of fish, wildlife, and habitat managers.  
  • Ensure that our education, mentoring, professional development, and training activities serve the needs of and are accessible to traditionally underserved communities. 
  • Collaborate with Tribal and Indigenous communities and build capacity to adapt to a changing climate. 


Goal 4: Communications  

Communication is central to the CASC mission. It puts information into the hands of people who need it, strengthening our external partnerships and broadening the reach of our science. It is through this process that CASC research achieves on-the-ground impacts that can inform effective natural-resource management decisions. We translate CASC science into formats that audiences can understand and use and distribute it by using a broad suite of mechanisms, including websites, newsletters, and social media. We strive to provide information within venues and channels that serve as trusted sources of information, including by presenting at professional events that users and partners frequent. In all these endeavors, we adhere to best practices in science communication and follow all federal regulations and policies, including those requiring Plain Language and accessibility.  

Our communications program goal is to respond to information needs and support the integration of climate adaptation in resource management through usable, useful products and tools. 


  • Create communication products tailored to specific audience needs, including publications, syntheses, tools, and trainings. 
  • Provide access to climate change and adaptation information via websites, newsletters, and social media. 
  • Support capacity building and other opportunities to increase knowledge and use of communications best practices. 
  • Work with CASC-sponsored researchers and managers to promote appropriate, effective communication throughout their projects. 
  • Synthesize data and develop tools to support decision-makers to ensure that information meets the unique needs of managers. 


Implementation and Evaluation 



This program vision guides the work of the entire Network. At the national level, it will inform the NCASC Science Plan and national-scale initiatives. For regional CASCs, it serves as a framework for regional science agendas. In response to variation across the nation (e.g., geography, land ownership), each CASC will emphasize priorities relevant to their region.  

To achieve this, over the next few years, each regional CASC will work with its Advisory Committee (AC) to develop or update their 5-year science agendas to address regional information needs and the priorities of end users and partners. The ACs will provide counsel to the CASCs in the implementation of the plan, including short-term science plans and strategic solicitation documents. Where centers have common research and capacity building priorities, we will develop multi-region collaborations. The Network will continue to share best practices and increase our collective strength to meet our mission of delivering science to help fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate.  



This Program Vision outlines how the CASC Network intends to meet the information needs of resource managers and partners across the nation. An evaluation component is critical to assess both the impacts of CASC activities and the ways in which the CASC demonstrates accountability to its partners and American taxpayers. Evaluation of CASC research and activities will continue to encompass three distinct types of outcomes. These diverse evaluation approaches will help the CASC Network remain nimble and responsive to Administration, Departmental, and our many partners’ climate adaptation priorities. 


Program Evaluation 

Are the CASCs operating effectively and meeting the needs of regional end users and partners? 

To evaluate the effectiveness of regional CASCs, we formally review each CASC’s hosting agreement every five years. These external reviews are conducted by an expert External Review Team and conclude with a final report made available online. Report recommendations have informed our administration, proposal evaluation processes, grant agreements, committee structures, communication efforts, and science priorities. We also hold annual cooperator’s meetings attended by consortium and federal staff to share success stories and challenges. 

The CASCs are continuously improving data and project management systems, including planning, implementation, tracking, reporting, and evaluation processes.  


Project Evaluation 

Are projects funded by the CASC network being undertaken and completed in ways that use funds effectively to achieve the best possible outcomes for researchers, resource managers, and communities on the front lines of climate change impacts? 

To ensure that our research programs generate high-quality science representative of the full footprint and priorities of our regions, we have conducted formal portfolio evaluations of projects funded by the network and within individual regions. These efforts include qualitative studies to understand the themes and scope of our current body of work, as well as quantitative analyses to help develop metrics of project “success”. As part of these efforts, we have also created a cross-CASC Evaluation Working Group. This group meets monthly to compare insights across CASCs, identify lessons learned, and generate shared literacy. The group is preparing a synthesis of case studies to provide guidance on how to approach assessment of the societal impacts of our science. We are also undertaking an evaluation of environmental justice priorities across the project portfolio and identifying additional ways to support communities on the frontlines. 


Process Evaluation 

Is the CASC Program Vision being implemented in the ways agreed to by the CASC Federal Advisory Committee and DOI and USGS leadership?  

As we await formal guidance from advisory bodies, we will continue to track the efficiency and effectiveness of all aspects of our program goals. For partnerships, we will look for meaningful stakeholder, rightsholder, and other partner engagement, sustained partner participation in research projects, and the availability of leveraged funds. For science, we will continue efforts to evaluate our portfolios for quality and productivity. For capacity building, we will look at qualitative and quantitative metrics of participant success across our programs, including self-reported narratives of experiences and outcomes after leaving the programs. We will also be open to emerging needs and opportunities to support students, early-career professionals, and communities. Finally, we will evaluate our communication efforts using formal performance analytics, including rates of web page goal completion, newsletter subscriber growth, social media engagement, and webinar attendance and feedback.  


The Future 

Moving forward, we would also like to expand into Impact Evaluation, where we seek to understand if and how the CASC network is actually making a difference to resource managers and partners across the nation. We are looking to grow our staff capacity to include formal evaluation experience and would like to eventually initiate a network-wide initiative to define and implement a long-term evaluation plan. 

We are committed to listen, learn, and innovate. We strive to adapt to the ever-changing needs of practitioners and communities to help create a better future for America’s cultural and natural heritage.