How will species and natural systems respond to climate change? What kind of intervention will help wild species adapt? These questions are at the forefront for Dr. Kim Hall, climate change scientist for the Conservancy's Great Lakes Program. Kim's life-long devotion to wildlife and natural areas and her experience evaluating climate change impacts for a wide range of systems uniquely prepared her for these challenges.
Kim's interest in conservation started where it does for so many; in her own backyard. "I remember spending hours standing out in my backyard as child, trying to get the birds coming to our feeder to land in my hand like they did at a nearby nature center." Years later, she merged her interest in birds with training that would help her protect them through a career in conservation work. She received her masters and doctorate degrees from The School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. She was awarded a prestigious David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship in 2001, where she worked on modeling the ecological and economic impacts of various land management decisions on Great Lakes forests and their biodiversity with a team from Michigan State University (MSU), where Kim retains adjunt faculty status.
While researching ways to improve songbird monitoring and habitat management in graduate school, Kim also researched the potential effects of climate change on wild species around the world with her mentor, Dr. Terry Root. This collaboration formed the basis of the first consideration of climate change impacts on wild species to be included in the Third Assessment (2001). In her second collaboration with Dr. Root, she focused on improving the integration of climate science into management decisions, and projecting potential changes in the ranges of threatened and endangered species in response to climate change.
As a result of climate change, Kim expects to see changes in the Great Lakes region including:
- increases in temperature, especially minimum winter and maximum summer temperatures
- more severe storms and flooding, which will exacerbate threats already posed by pollution from agricultural run-off, urban storm water management, and overflows of combined storm water and sewage treatment facilities.
- shift of species northward to escape the heat, and movement of southern species into our region; and
- increased rate of extinction of species with rare habitats, and those that are unable to move as conditions change
At the Conservancy, Kim is focused on developing management plans that will preserve biodiversity in the face of climate change and to collaborate with partner organizations to implement the most effective actions. "We're not suggesting a fleet of new activities," she said. "Mostly we'll be looking at reducing the effects of things that are already stressing ecosystems, like invasives, pollution, and habitat fragmentation, and prioritizing actions for making systems more resilient so they can adapt to the changing climate . We're looking at pro-active solutions that benefit both human communities and nature, such as restoring wetlands and vegetation along rivers to help "soak up" the increasing volume of rain from storms that flood basements and bring pollution into sensitive aquatic systems. Actions like these also help species that are shifting locations by increasing connectivity of the landscape."
Dr. Kimberly Hall
Climate change scientist for the Great Lakes Program