Developing a Decision-Making and Climate Adaptation Framework for National Wildlife Refuge Systems in the Midwest

Project Summary

Photo of Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Courtesy of Joe Passe

Climate change presents new and compounding challenges to natural resource management. With changing climate patterns, managers are confronted with difficult decisions on how to minimize climate impacts to habitats, infrastructure, and wildlife populations. Furthermore, managers lack support and guidance to make proactive management decisions. To address this problem, our project team will develop a decision and adaptation framework to support thoughtful integration of climate change information into formal natural resource management and planning processes.

In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), we will help natural resource managers integrate refuge management objectives and available climate science to consider and assess a range of management alternatives. The approach will be piloted at multi-day workshops at three National Wildlife Refuges including the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, and Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex in Illinois.

Team members at the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) will lead work to compile meaningful and usable climate information for the refuge managers that are relevant to each geography and will help managers explore different climate scenarios and future conditions. The workshops will be designed to translate climate projections into refuge management impacts, identify adaptation strategies that range from resisting change to directing change, and evaluate these strategies for meeting the suite of refuge management objectives.

The project will lead to an approach to help resource managers make informed decisions on how to best prepare for the future. We will document the developed frameworks and their utility based on our piloted efforts in a peer‐reviewed report or manuscript. We will also develop an instructional workbook targeted for the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. Results will be presented to refuge managers and biologists, as well as refuge leadership in the Midwest. While this project is focused on workflows for stations in the Midwest, results will be shared nationally as the ultimate aim is for the USFWS to adopt this approach and standardize a means of addressing climate change across the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Learn more on the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Center Project Explorer website

Project Team

Suzi Clark

Suzi Clark
PostDoctoral Associate

Amanda Farris headshot

Amanda Farris 
Senior Program Manager

Heidi Roop

Heidi Roop 

Kristen Bouska

Kristen Bouska
Research Ecologist
U.S. Geological Survey


Joshua Booker

Joshua Booker
Zone Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo of John Delaney

John Delaney
USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center 

Core work areas


USGS Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center