KU doctoral students blog about climate change investigation in Yucatan Peninsula

LAWRENCE — Students and professors from the University of Kansas spent 11 days in December 2011 in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, where they investigated first-hand the impact of climate change on Earth’s biology, ecology and social systems.

C-CHANGE (Climate Change, Humans, and Nature in the Global Environment) is a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program in interdisciplinary climate change studies at KU. The C-CHANGE program is for doctoral students in the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering who are interested in understanding the human causes and consequences of climate change and in developing strategies for responding to these changes. In the past year, the focus of the program has been on global environmental changes in two graduate seminars with international travel components.  

In the fall 2011, the C-CHANGE seminar, “Climates & Borders: The Effects of Sea Level Rise on the Human and Natural Systems of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula,” examined the mangrove swamps/forests on the western coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, with the goal of understanding the ecological, geographic, social and political policy factors that impact their distribution, and the effects of changes in these natural and human systems in the face of a potential sea-level rise of one or more meters, as suggested by some global climate models. In December 2011, these students traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula, where they could work with natural and social scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, EcoSur Campeche and KU s on a linked series of analyses: developing future shoreline scenarios, tracking mangrove shifts resulting from the shoreline changes, characterizing how fish populations respond to the mangrove shifts, and evaluating how all of the above could affect local human communities.

The students participating in this course were: Lindsay Campbell (ecology & evolutionary biology), Jacob Carter (ecology & evolutionary biology), Rebecca Crosthwait (anthropology), Marie-Odile Fortier (environmental engineering), Chris Hensz (ecology & evolutionary biology), Anthony Layzell (geography), Brandon Luedtke (environmental history), Joe Manthey (ecology & evolutionary biology), Michelle Mary (geology), Tony Reames (environmental policy), Brian Rumsey (environmental history), John Shreve (American studies), Paula Smith (geography), Victoria Walsey (geography), Lindsey Witthaus (environmental engineering), and Ashley Zung (geography).

The professors leading the course were A. Town Peterson (ecology & evolutionary biology), Chris Brown (geography/environmental studies), Eugene Rankey (geology) and Jorge Soberon (ecology & evolutionary biology).

Also in attendance were Joane Nagel (professor of sociology & C-CHANGE director) and Natalie Parker (C-CHANGE project coordinator).

The group blogged about their experiences here.