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New environmental research to begin at Utah State in the new year

By Bianca Pahl
biancapahl.weebly.com/

Utah State University professors will conduct new environmental research about the effects climate change will have on Utah geographically, economically — and even psychologically — starting in 2016.

Jacopo Baggio, a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at USU, and Jordan Smith, a new environmental professor starting at USU in January, are developing a model to examine the supply and demand of outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Weber and Bear River watersheds of northern Utah under future climate scenarios.

“Outdoor recreation is the largest sector of the region’s vitally important tourism industry,” Smith said.

According to Smith, with Weber and Bear River’s watersheds expected to have less consistent and lower amounts of water in the future, northern Utah’s economy and natural system will suffer.

“Changes in the spatial distribution of water can affect the ecosystem’s health,” Baggio said. “A lot of recreational activities in Utah are outdoors so the health of the ecosystem is fundamental.”

Peter Howe, a geography researcher and an assistant professor in the environment and society department, has assisted in creating a statistical model that used Yale University’s national survey data of what people in the United States think about climate change and “extrapolated it down to the local level.” The model is able to calculate what people in Utah counties think about climate change.

“When it comes to climate change a lot of the ways we are going to respond to it is by making changes at the local level,” Howe said. “So it is important to know what people at the local level think.”

Starting next year Howe and Layne Coppock, a USU professor also working on the research project, will be interviewing people from multiple counties in Utah to see how the predicted numbers from the model apply.

“Having a sense of what everyone else thinks will help us know what people might be willing to do to address climate change,” Howe said.

Both research projects aim to have results in the next year to two years.
– mdl