snowy river

Project Description

"Adaptation to change in water resources: science to inform decision-making across disciplines, cultures and scales."


Climate change and human population dynamics now alter water resource systems throughout the world. Their combined effects are unlike any the human race has experienced in recent history. These two complex stressors are so interrelated, and their effects so wide-ranging, that we cannot consider them, or address the related problems in disciplinary isolation.

In the face of such evidence, the critical importance of climate-related adaptation is recognized by researchers worldwide and at many levels of the US government. Adaptation planning is beginning to take hold in some areas; however, academic research and education have lagged behind the increasingly urgent calls for greater rigor, new innovative methods, and strategies for adaptation, and as a result, a critical remaining need is to understand what changes need to be made and how to make them. Human societies have largely responded to demographic and environmental changes by reactive adaptation, an approach that is no longer sufficient to cope with the rate, magnitude, and complexity of escalating water resource challenges. Proactive adaptation is specifically needed to ensure the sustainability of water resources and associated ecosystem goods and services. The University of Idaho IGERT “Adaptation to change in water resources” will span disciplines and spatiotemporal scales to improve understanding of human impacts and adaptation capacity, integrated within the social contexts in which adaptation must take place.

The challenge for the water resources community that this IGERT directly addresses is the ability to effectively integrate knowledge across disciplines, and to extend knowledge beyond the academic setting to policy makers and stakeholders, a process known as “research integration.”


Our vision is to accomplish both of the following:

  1. prepare students in graduate programs to be effective at research integration, and, 

  2. to enter the workforce trained in attendant skills such as professionalism and work ethic, oral and written communication, collaboration and teamwork, and critical thinking and problem-solving. 

Thus, our overarching goal is to address system-wide gaps currently existing for both aspects of this vision. We will train future scientists to address complex interactions and feedbacks in physical, ecological, and social systems resulting from the combined impacts of climate change and human population dynamics, and to develop collaborative skills to develop adaptation strategies.