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NC State Heads Climate Change Hub

Another federal agency is looking to NC State to manage a research partnership, this one to coordinate the efforts of more than two dozen agencies and organizations to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners adapt  to the negative impacts of climate change.

The Southeast Regional Climate Hub, or SERCH, is one of seven regional research centers announced at the White House Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Steven McNulty, a USDA ecologist at NC State, will lead the hub from headquarters on Centennial Campus.

Putting Research Into Action

McNulty says the new hub will convert basic research into applied practices. In a severe drought, such as the one that devastated ranchers in the Southeast in 2007, the hub could provide a wealth of practical, research-based information via social media, online tools and local producer meetings with Cooperative Extension experts.

“For example, we could offer information on practices to conserve water and choose more drought-tolerant livestock feed crops,” he says. “With more timely information, and better decision-making tools, ranchers would be in a better position to either draw down their herds earlier, before the market is saturated and livestock prices fall, or better supply their cattle with lower cost feed stocks.”

Climate Pioneer

The hubs were chosen through a competitive process among USDA facilities. McNulty notes that NC State has extensive infrastructure and experience related to climate issues. The university been home to a USDA research center on the ecological effects of climate change for more than 20 years.

The Southeast leads the nation in the production of cotton, tobacco, rice, fruit, vegetables and broiler chickens. More than half the nation’s timber is harvested in the region.

SERCH will serve producers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It includes a tropical research subsidiary hub in Puerto Rico.

SERCH is just the latest in a series of high-profile federal partnerships celebrated at NC State in recent months. In January, President Obama visited campus to announce the creation of an advanced manufacturing center with funding from the Department of Energy. Department of Interior officials helped cut the ribbon on the official opening of the Southeast Climate Science Center two weeks ago. Last August, the National Security Agency selected NC State to partner in the creation of a data analysis lab.