Climate change tends to pop into public conversation every few months or so, but for Ohio State's Climate Change Outreach Team, the topic has stayed relevant since the team's inception in 2008. The group focuses on localizing climate change to Ohio and the Great Lakes; by addressing the issue within a regional context, information becomes more relevant to planners, managers, and citizens, making it more likely that they will act on new knowledge.
"For many, climate change is an issue too distant to really care about,” says Jill Jentes Banicki, Ohio Sea Grant's assistant director and one of the team's coordinators.
"But the moment people hear what could happen to their health, food supply, and ecosystems -- things that will directly affect them -- climate change doesn't seem so remote."
The team's flagship project is the "Global Change, Local Impact" webinar series, which introduces its audience to a variety of climate change topics in the Great Lakes region and beyond. Now in its third year, the monthly series has reached more than 5,000 people from over 500 organizations through 23 webinars to date.
Some of the most popular presentations have included:
- "Making Climate Change Data Relevant at a Local Level" by Dan Vimont of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (375 attendees).
- "Communicating Climate Change" by Erik Nisbet of Ohio State (353 attendees).
- "Climate Change and Aquatic Invaders" by Cindy Kolar of the U.S. Geological Survey (324 attendees).
All webinars, transcripts, and supporting materials are archived here, and teachers have used the webinars as supplemental tools in middle school, high school, and college classrooms. Staff from other organizations attend the webinars for professional development.
'Timely, pertinent' information
"Here in Minnesota, we're using the webinars to provide current research updates," said Barb Liukkonen, former Extension professor at the University of Minnesota. "The information is pertinent and timely, and by using the OSU webinars for content, we can spend time working on other aspects of climate adaptation."
The Climate Change Outreach Team also creates magazine-style fact sheets, which condense complex information on different aspects of climate science into easy-to-read stories that introduce readers to the most important concepts and terms for each subject.
The primers have been used to prepare high school students for lessons, such as those in the Great Lakes Climate Change Curriculum, which expands Ohio Sea Grant's climate change education efforts. Current activities include updates to older lessons and new materials that help science teachers integrate regional climate change information into their classroom. Details are available here.
Team has many partners
The OSU Climate Change Outreach Team is a partnership among multiple departments within Ohio State, including OSU Extension; Ohio Sea Grant; the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics; and the School of Environment and Natural Resources.
All of the team's materials on climate change in the Great Lakes region, including information on upcoming webinars and Great Lakes Climate Change Curriculum activities, are available here.
-- Christina Dierkes, Ohio Sea Grant Communications