COSAM News Articles 2022 April First 'Climate Event' shares importance of climate resiliency and NRT student research

First 'Climate Event' shares importance of climate resiliency and NRT student research

Published: 04/19/2022

By: Maria Gebhardt

Auburn University’s 'Climate Event' brought together faculty, staff and students throughout the state to discuss the importance and the impact of climate change. 

Karen McNeal, the Molette Endowed Professor in the Department of Geosciences, welcomed guests from throughout the state of Alabama to the very first “Climate Event” on March 22.

“We are here to train the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists in climate change,” McNeal said.

McNeal is the primary investigator for a $3 million National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program which prepares students at both the master and doctoral levels in climate resiliency.

2022 Climate Event

She opened this inaugural event by asking guests to participate in an interactive poll giving just one word via text about their personal goals for this meeting.

Responses included networking, advocate, education, connections, learning and many more. 

Attendees from colleges throughout Auburn University attended as well as guest from University of South Alabama, University of Alabama Huntsville, Auburn University Montgomery and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Our NSF-funded program focuses on three pillars: social systems, built environment and natural systems,” McNeal shared.

The event included a climate symposium, networking reception, student poster session, lightning talks and climate teach-in.

Mark Liles, the acting associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, shared a vision to enhance faculty research in this area that would include multiple colleges.

“Creating a new Center on Stress in Environmental Systems could bring together researchers from COSAM and other Auburn University units to better understand and mitigate the impacts of global climate change and other kinds of stressors. We need to bring together and foster the work of multi-disciplinary teams that approach these problems from many different perspectives,” Liles explained.

Mike Kensler, director of Auburn University’s Office of Sustainability, discussed how creating a culture of sustainability opens the doors to future solutions.

“If we can tackle climate we will solve every economic, social, and environmental issue we face,” he said.

Chandana Mitra, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, was the keynote speaker with a presentation on Alabama Climate – How Resilient are we to Changing Climate Impacts?

“We cannot shelter Alabama from what is happening globally,” Mitra shared.

She talked about likely impacts of climate change including warmer temperatures, more severe floods and droughts.

From temperature increases of only two degrees to all the way to eight degrees in the future, Mitra expressed how everyone can make a difference in climate change.

Mitra discussed the social and economic impacts of climate change including costs to coastal areas, impacts of heat, access to limited resources, fresh water supplies, relocation, shrinking harvests, rising costs and spreading diseases.

“This NRT cohort is looking in-depth at who and what are at risk due to climate change,” Mitra said. “Further, we are analyzing how to reduce impacts and communicate those risks to people now.”

Speakers had three minutes to discuss relevant topics and perspectives in lightning talks. Then, attendees had an opportunity to speak with students and their projects as research posters filled the back of the ballroom in the Harold D. Melton Student Center.

To conclude the event, a Climate Teach-In organized by Auburn’s Office of Sustainability offered guests the opportunity to hear about multiple topics including:


  • Public Health Speaker: Kelly Strickland, College of Nursing 
  • Environmental Justice: Ryan Thomson, College of Agriculture 
  • Solar in Alabama: Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama 
  • Movement Building: Mark Wilson, College of Liberal Arts 


To learn more about Auburn University’s NRT program, please visit the website.

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