Steve Allison developed an integrative training program for climate scholars that utilizes the expertise of multi-disciplinary faculty and non-academic partners. These scholars will translate big ideas into tangible climate solutions.

Steve Allison is an Associate Professor in the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science at the UC Irvine. He holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from Stanford University and is an Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Steve maintains a vibrant research group with undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars working collaboratively to make scientific advances for climate sustainability.

To learn more about Steve and his research visit his lab website.

Steve is committed to finding ways to improve our predictions of how ecosystems will respond to global warming.

Broadly, his research focuses on ecosystem responses to climate change. Specific projects address the resilience of microbial communities to drought and the effect of climate change on carbon losses from southern California ecosystems. Steve builds new mathematical models that incorporate feedbacks among microbial communities, carbon cycling, and climate change.

Steve developed the Climate Action Training Program (CAT).

The CAT program is an integrated training program for graduate students with career interests in climate and sustainability. Graduate students are climate scholars from a variety of programs at UC Irvine with education backgrounds ranging from Anthropology to Chemistry. These scholars participate in seminars, workshops, short courses, and internships to improve their ability to communicate about climate change. In addition, the program allows students to train for climate-related careers with faculty and non-academic partners.

The non-academic partners engaged in the program are experts in environmental challenges. They include:

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
  • the Southern CA Coastal Water Research Project
  • Southern California Public Radio
  • the Cities of Irvine and Newport Beach
  • UC Irvine Sustainability Initiative.

These partners help design academic programs and provide internships for the climate scholars. In return, these partners benefit from fresh ideas and access to well-trained graduates ready to tackle climate-related problems.

Translating big ideas into tangible climate solutions

Climate scholars walk away from the CAT program with transferrable skills in data analysis, communication, and professional development. They are ready for the next steps in their careers. Ultimately, these students learn to translate big ideas into tangible climate solutions. This program builds UC Irvine’s partnerships with non-academic organizations and ability to address climate challenges.

Steve Allison’s Climate Action Training Program prepares graduate students for climate-related careers. It includes a variety of methods (i.e. short courses) and partnerships in order to reach fresh climate solutions. Credit: Steve Allison

Q&A WITH STEVE

What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?

I think the most common misunderstanding is that addressing climate change is going to be impossibly expensive. At least initially, emissions reductions can come at zero or even negative costs because of co-benefits for human health, the economy, and the environment. For example, efficiency upgrades require capital, but that initial investment is more than paid off in the long term.

What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?

It’s really rewarding to be in a role where I can emphasize action. I love my scientific research, but it’s more directed at the response to climate change rather than fixing the underlying causes. As Climate Action Champion, I get to work with a great group of graduate students and collaborators who can actually solve the problem. My CAT students have some fantastic perspectives that I don’t get to hear inside my discipline.

What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?

UCOP has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 for the UC campuses. I think that’s a useful concrete goal, and I hope to help with that, but my hopes for the CAT program go even further. I really want to change the way we educate graduate students so that they are well-equipped with the skills to solve the grand challenges we face. I’m including climate change, but there are other environmental issues that should benefit as well. If we can show the benefits of solutions-focused training and partnerships at UCI, then we could be an example for graduate programs elsewhere.

What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?

Previously I would have emphasized the rigor of the science and given a warning about the risks of climate change. But, I no longer think that facts and figures alone are sufficient to convince people to take action. Instead, I want to make a moral argument. I think that causing climate change is unfair to my children and future generations. Especially in wealthy, developed countries like ours, we have a moral obligation to invest in solving the problem. Although my viewpoint is informed by scientific knowledge, I’m not speaking as a scientist here, but rather as a very concerned citizen.

ACHIEVEMENTS

• Trained 18 Graduate Students in climate communications

• Developed internship opportunities with major organizations including Southern California Public Radio and Caltrans

• Created a short course in climate data science with the UCI Data Science Initiative
 

Steve Allison smiles and looks off to the side on a pier
"I no longer think that facts and
figures alone are sufficient to convince
people to take action. Instead,
I want to make a moral argument.
I think that causing climate change is unfair
to my children and future generations."
Steve Allison smiles and looks off to the side on a pier
"I want to change
the way we educate graduate
students so they are well-equipped
with the skills to solve the
grand challenges we face."
To get involved, contact us

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THE PROGRAM IN ACTION

Climate Action students developed a web app that shows the number of google searches for drought terms and water usage after Governor Brown’s declaration of a drought-related State of Emergency (Click to see interactive app).

 

Shiny app developed by CAT fellows on drought awareness in California.