Highlights from FY2021

Woodwell science:

  • Is a trusted source—for policymakers, the private sector, and the public

  • Supports implementing climate solutions we already have, and developing new ones

  • Is rooted in meaningful partnerships with deep community ties, and

  • Ultimately, is for the global good

Soil sampling at a Montana ranch
Collecting data to create a flood model

Left: Rangeland soil analysis field work at a Montana ranch.

photo by Dr. Jennifer Watts

Right: Dominick Dusseau collects measurement data to be used in a flood model showing the interaction between stormwater and tide/storm surge.

photo by Domick Dusseau

Is a trusted source—for policymakers, the private sector, and the public

Reliable, rigorous science is critical for decision-makers at every level.

  • Our work has even made it to the White House with the recent, one-year appointment of Dr. Phil Duffy, Woodwell’s President and Executive Director, to Senior Advisor on Climate Change in the Biden Administration. It is a reflection of the unique and valuable contributions Woodwell Climate makes by working at the intersection of science, policy and society, and an opportunity in the coming year for urgently-needed progress on climate policy.
  • Additionally, policymakers have looked to Woodwell science for reliable information on the climate crisis. This past year our External Affairs team provided briefings for 10 congressional offices and the House Science Committee Staff. Dr. Bob Litterman, a member of Woodwell’s Board of Directors, testified on a panel of experts about the cost of inaction on climate change before the US Senate Committee on the Budget.
  • Woodwell is making a difference in the private sector, too. Our partnership with Wellington Management has influenced recent decisions, including becoming a founding member of the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative and committing to carbon neutral operations by 2022. They also launched a Climate 101 video series featuring Woodwell science and explaining how climate change will impact capital markets.
  • Top-tier journalists rely on our experts to explain climate science. When a disastrous deep freeze hit Texas this February, and again when a deadly heat wave struck the Pacific Northwest this summer, top outlets including AP and New York Times turned to Senior Scientist Dr. Jen Francis for her expertise on how climate change is affecting the jet stream and extreme weather. In each case, she was quoted in hundreds of print, broadcast, and online news stories, putting climate science in the spotlight.
Dr. Marcia field testing a gas collection chamber at Howland Forest in Maine
Monitoring methane collection chambers in the DRC. / photo by Joseph Zambo and Matti Barthel

Left: Dr. Marcia Macedo field tests a gas collection chamber at Howland Forest in Maine.

photo by Kathleen Savage

Right: Monitoring methane collection chambers in the DRC.

photo by Joseph Zambo and Matti Barthel

Supports implementing climate solutions we already have, and developing new ones

Climate change demands focus both on what we already know, and what we need to find out.

  • Woodwell and IPAM Amazônia have launched CONSERV, an innovative program that compensates farmers in the Brazilian Amazon for their forest conservation efforts. Rather than planting trees, CONSERV focuses on protecting existing primary forests that already absorb and store large amounts of carbon, but could legally be deforested. With over 16,000 acres of forest already under contract, the program has a potential to scale up to 197,000 km², avoiding the emissions of over 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Associate Scientist Dr. Brendan Rogers helped develop an algorithm to map the occurrence of “zombie fires” in Northwest Canada and Alaska. The model successfully confirmed overwintering fires flagged by fire managers, and identified ones that had been smoldering unnoticed. Warming is anticipated to increase the frequency of these fires, which are burning carbon-rich soil litter and organic matter, so managing them is becoming an important tool for climate mitigation.
Worcester, MA map showing types of land use.

Above: A land use land cover map shown during a walking tour of Worcester, MA to experience how land cover affects air temperature.

photo by Sarah Ruiz

Is rooted in meaningful partnerships with deep community ties

Our collaborative relationships with communities provide a strong foundation for impact.

  • Although pandemic restrictions prevented Woodwell scientists from traveling, our science didn’t stop. Projet Équateur’s Forest and Climate Change Coordinator Joseph Zambo worked in the DRC with local entrepreneur Mr. Jean Bangi to set up experimental rice plots. Zambo collaborated virtually with Woodwell scientists in the US to set up and monitor methane collection chambers in the fields, providing data that Research Associate Kathleen Savage is analyzing to find out if the system of rice intensification they are studying produces more rice with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Science on the Fly expanded during the pandemic, and now coordinates a group of volunteers sampling more than 300 sites across 39 states and 6 countries. Acting President Dr. Max Holmes noted that thanks to these dedicated citizen scientists, “we’re already learning a tremendous amount about rivers around the world.”
  • After a keen-eyed local artist spotted an unstable slope in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, community members, government agencies, and academic scientists including Woodwell’s Dr. Anna Liljedahl came together to understand the emerging risk of a landslide-induced tsunami. Dr. Liljedahl added her voice to a letter from 20 scientists warning of the tsunami threat, a letter which moved the Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources to issue a warning to the public to stay out of the area.
  • Senior Scientists Drs. Linda Deegan and Christopher Neill were able to continue their field work through the pandemic thanks to connections with local volunteers. The data they gathered will help evaluate the effectiveness of various methods of commercial cranberry bog restoration in Massachusetts.

Left: A volunteer and Dr. Max Holmes collect a water sample.

photo by John Land Le Coq

Right: Colleen Smith uses a spectroscopy to collect data on a soil sample.

Ultimately, is for the global good

With our focus on maximizing societal impact, we know that cutting-edge climate science needs to be available to everyone.

  • In collaboration with ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability, Woodwell has partnered with multiple under-resourced communities to deliver climate risk analyses. Combining local knowledge with technical expertise creates a more complete climate risk profile, and helps partner municipalities incorporate research into policy.
  • This April, Woodwell scientists provided data and maps to support Indigenous leader Tuntiak Katan’s participation in the Biden administration’s Leaders Summit on Climate. As General Coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC), Katan presented on a panel discussion moderated by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and highlighted the importance of strengthening Indigenous territorial rights in mitigating climate change with nature-based solutions.
  • Soil Spectroscopy for the Global Good, a platform developed in collaboration with Woodwell scientists this past year, has launched a website and plans to create an open-source web platform that will allow stakeholders like farmers, government agencies, and soil laboratories to predict soil properties quickly and affordably using soil spectroscopy.
  • When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a request for public input on potential regulation of corporate climate risk disclosure, Woodwell submitted comments calling for federal regulators to create a framework that ensures corporate climate risk assessments are rigorous, standardized, and based on publicly accessible data.

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