University of Vermont

University Communications

Invitation to Climate Conversation

Scientists seek public input on strategies for protecting water in a warmer, wetter Champlain Basin

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Since 1960, Vermont's average annual precipitation has increased almost six inches. A team of UVM scientists want you to take a survey designed to deepen the region's capacity to respond to the impacts of a changing climate—like increased rainfall.

Climate change is here. As global temperatures rise, forecasts suggest that in coming decades the Lake Champlain Basin will feel a lot like Virginia or North Carolina, but with more precipitation. The list of potential impacts is long, including increased flooding and degraded water quality.

What can be done about this?

That’s exactly what a team of scientists at the University of Vermont would like to know. And they’re reaching out across the state and region to ask people to participate in an online conversation and survey to find out more.

“We’re looking for solutions — creative new ideas from experts and from a diverse set of stakeholders and interested parties,” says UVM professor Chris Koliba, who is helping to lead the effort. “Ensuring good water quality for the Lake Champlain Basin, that's the big picture goal for this work.”

The new project opens on Monday, March 3, and the scientists are inviting the public to sign in and share their ideas and concerns. To participate in the survey, please click this link to register.

“We’re asking people to brainstorm different ways that we can, as a region, address these pressing problems,” says Koliba. “Examples could be increased use of cover crops, buffer strips in riparian zones, smarter stormwater management, green infrastructure — and other things that we haven’t thought of. That’s why we’re doing this!”

Crowdsourcing Solutions for Climate Change in the Lake Champlain Basin is part of a larger UVM initiative called Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) supported by the National Science Foundation under the Vermont EPSCoR program.

“Basically, think of this part of the RACC project as a Facebook for solutions,” says Koliba. “Someone poses a solution, describes it, and then people can rate it on a five-point scale as well as comment on it."

Each participant's responses will be anonymously shared with other users, providing an opportunity for open discussion. The survey will be open for the month of March. “You can decide to return as much as you’d like, or you can also just take one pass and wait to see how it all shakes out,” the RACC team writes.

The result will be a wide array of proposed short and long-term interventions and strategies for ensuring water quality and adapting to climate change in the Lake Champlain Basin.

Then the scientists will take all these ideas and strategies and integrate them into computer models that will assess numerous scenarios of how the lake functions and how different land use and management decisions are likely to play out. The reports from the RACC project aim to help policymakers and others as they make land use and other decisions. “These models will help build understanding and capacity in the region around the best solutions,” says Koliba.

“We’re drawing on the notion that two (or more) heads are better than one,” Koliba says, “as we seek solutions to the cascade of potential threats that climate change brings to our region’s water quality and resources.”