Climate Change and its Impacts: Regional Coupled Human-Natural Systems and Evidence-Based Policy Making

About the Institute

To understand and predict the interacting effects of increased global greenhouse gas concentrations, climate and economic teleconnections, and regional scale changes in economic development and land use, interdisciplinary approaches are vital. This Institute will bring together scholars from social, physical and life sciences to focus on the study of coupled human-natural systems at the regional level; and the ways in which such study generates templates for adaptation at local, national and regional levels, and key inputs for government and other decision-makers.

Major themes will include predicted changes in regional hydrologic cycles; resilience of existing social, economic, civil, ecological, and agricultural systems to likely changes; the potential of local, national or multinational institutions to increase the resilience of these systems; and what can be learned from one region to inform science and governance in other regions. Throughout the Institute, participants will develop interdisciplinary approaches through project-based collaboration and proposal writing. Applications are especially welcome from scholars interested in evidence-based policy making.

Convening Faculty

Leah Vanwey
Associate Professor of Sociology

Amanda Lynch
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Visiting Faculty

Timmons Roberts
Director, Center for Environmental Studies and Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies

Paul Block
Assistant Professor, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Paul Block, an assistant professor in Drexel’s Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department, specializes in hydroclimatology and water resources management.  His specific areas of focus include climate risk management, effects of climate variability and change on water systems, hydrologic forecasting and uncertainty, and policies and mechanisms designed to increase reliability and reduce vulnerability.  

His primary region of focus is Ethiopia and the larger Nile basin, teaming with user groups that have a stake in water availability, spanning from official government ministries and basin authorities to farmers, to guide decision-making through proper inclusion of advance climate information.  This may be a prediction of future streamflow for a reservoir manager tasked with efficient allocation, or precipitation for a farmer looking to make a wise crop choice for the coming season.  Communication of these predictions, specifically extreme events, and incorporation into user models and practice is also explored to form a holistic risk management approach.

Ron Brunner, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

A native of Colorado, Ron Brunner was educated at Yale University where he received a B.A. in 1964 and a Ph.D. in 1971. He became professor of political science at the University of Colorado in 1981, and professor emeritus in 2007. Before returning to Colorado, he was a research associate at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, a research assistant on energy policy for a member of Congress, and a tenured member of the faculty at the University of Michigan with appointments in political science and public policy. He has participated in studies by the National Research Council and the Office of Technology Assessment. In collaboration with policymakers at various levels of government, he has applied policy theory to specific problems in energy, social  welfare, space, education, natural resources, and climate policy. His research focuses on symbolic politics, context-sensitive methods, and the epistemological foundations of policy research and practice.

Michael Coe
Senior Scientist and Coordinator of the Amazon Group, Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA

Michael Coe is a senior scientist and leader of the Amazon Group at the Woods Hole Research Center(WHRC).  He received his PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of WisconsinMadison in 1997.  Prior to joining WHRC, Coe worked as a scientist at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment within the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of WisconsinMadison.  His research interests center on understanding the feedbacks between climate variability and change, land management, and water resources using numerical models and data analysis.  Areas of particular interest are the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest and Cerrado environments.

Bruce Hewitson
Professor, Department of Environmental & Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Bruce Hewitson is a self-described climatologist with a hatred of labels, and insists that his interests are eclectic. He has been a resident at the University of Cape Town in Rondebosch, South Africa, since 1992. He currently works with the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) research group in the ENGEO department. His research interests include climate modeling, climate change, and interesting analysis methodologies. Extended interests in appropriate technology for Africa and scientific capacity building.

Valerie Mueller
Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC

Valerie Mueller is the co-leader of the Development Strategy and Governance Division's research under the Rural-Urban Linkages for Development Program. Prior to joining IFPRI, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. She is interested in research topics covering migration and poverty dynamics and the consequences of climate variability on household welfare in developing countries.Dr. Mueller earned her B.S. in Environmental Economics and Policy from the University of California, Berkeley (1998), and both her M.S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park (2001 and 2005, respectively).

Jessica Weir
Senior Research Fellow, Bushfire CRC, University of Canberra, Australia

Jessica Weir’s research focuses on cultural and environmental issues with native title lands and waters, and the interlinking debates of ecological and social justice. Her research is supported by research agreements and research action partnerships with Indigenous people in southeast Australia and the Kimberley. Jessica is the author of Murray River Country: An Ecological Dialogue with Traditional Owners published by Aboriginal Studies Press, 2009. In 2011 Jessica convened the program for the National Native Title Conference and established the AIATSIS Centre for Land and Water Research (ACLWR).

Please send questions to: