A new university-led institute will address climate, ocean and coastal challenges with greater collaboration and sharing of scientific resources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has selected a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Washington and Oregon State University to lead the institute.

The Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies allows NOAA to tap the brainpower at universities in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. This will help NOAA meet its research, education and public engagement goals.

CICOES is led by UW but housed jointly with OSU and UAF’s International Arctic Research Center.

“At the University of Alaska, we have a lot of research and products that align with NOAA’s mission,” said Uma Bhatt, associate CICOES director and a climate scientist at UAF’s Geophysical Institute.

Bhatt highlighted UAF’s expertise in Arctic science and producing research with Indigenous communities, management agencies and other stakeholders. These strengths will be invaluable to NOAA as it faces pressing Arctic issues.

“I am excited about formalizing collaborations with the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the regional cooperative institute,” said John Horne, CICOES executive director at the University of Washington. “Research collaborations among NOAA, UW and UAF have a long history in the northeast Pacific. We anticipate that the consortium will expand research, education and public engagement activities in Alaska.”

CICOES may be awarded up to $300 million over the course of five years. UAF can receive up to $10 million of that annually.

“The actual amount received is contingent upon UAF researchers connecting with NOAA program managers to meet NOAA’s research needs,” explained Sarah Garcia, the UAF CICOES administrator and financial manager at the International Arctic Research Center.

CICOES is one of 17 cooperative institutes nationwide. NOAA funds cooperative institutes at universities with strong research programs to extend basic and applied research beyond NOAA’s own capacity.

Housing CICOES at UAF will also benefit future generations of students entering careers in fields ranging from fisheries to weather and climate prediction.

“The cooperative institute creates a link between the students we train and potential workplaces,” said International Arctic Research Center director Hajo Eicken, who advocated bringing the institute to UAF.

The institute will focus on nine research themes:

  1. Climate and ocean variability, change and impacts
  2. Earth systems and processes
  3. Environmental chemistry and ocean carbon
  4. Marine ecosystems: observation, analysis and forecasts
  5. Ocean and coastal observations
  6. Environmental data science
  7. Aquaculture science
  8. Human dimensions in marine systems
  9. Polar studies

The grand challenge of this new consortium is to create a research and education enterprise that is greater than the sum of its parts. CICOES aims to advance scientific knowledge and understanding of complex environmental challenges through foundational research, technological development and the integration of human dimensions, and to train the next generation of scientists.