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The USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers are thrilled to announce that Dr. Suzanne Van Cooten will be the new Regional Administrator of the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center. In this position (formerly known as “Director”), Suzanne is looking forward to working with Tribal Nations and climate experts in the four-state region to make climate adaptation science accessible to all.

Smiling woman with blond, shoulder-length hair wearing a collared shirt.
Suzanne Van Cooten

Suzanne joins the CASC network from the National Weather Service Office of Organizational Excellence, where she led recruitment, retention, and engagement with Native American Tribes and their citizens. She previously served as a hydrologist in the Lower Mississippi Forecast Center. 

As a former weather and water forecaster, she brings years of experience communicating climate change information and risks to the South Central U.S.  

“This role brings together everything that I've worked with in my over 32-year federal career,” she says. “The CASCs do the next step of making climate science actionable, making it accessible for people and reaching underrepresented and marginalized communities.”  

“Communicating science in an actionable way is something that I'm really excited about.” 

An enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, she is particularly interested in strengthening Tribal engagement within the center. In fact, her first experience with the CASC network was in helping the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations join the University of Oklahoma’s first consortium bid back in 2012, becoming the first Tribal Nations to join CASC consortiums. 

“The CASCs bring Tribes scientific opportunities where their views are respected and there is a co-production of knowledge,” she says. 

Suzanne has lived and worked in the South Central region her entire life. Growing up in Oklahoma with family who were farmers, she has observed the effects drought and climate change are having on people’s livelihoods firsthand. Her desire to preserve the communities she loves drives her passion for climate work. 

“How are we going to be able to have people still live in these areas where they've grown up, and for the Native American tribes where they were settled to, so that they can live where they need to live?” 

When she isn’t working, Suzanne is an avid golfer – she tries to walk nine holes every other day, when it’s not too hot. She also enjoys tending to her vegetable and flower gardens. She sees parallels between life and her garden.  

“I can put this tomato plant in the worst possible location and for some reason it still thrives. I look at that, and I'm like, ‘If that tomato plant can do it, so can I.’” 

Map showing the South Central CASC consortium members and host university
Map of the South Central CASC showing the state footprint (New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) and consortium institutions (University of Oklahoma [host], Chickasaw Nation, Chocktaw Nation of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas Tech University, and University of New Mexico).

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