Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, February 3, 2012

U-M doctoral student joins in Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill

U-M ecology graduate student Jasmine Crumsey joined with nearly 30 other scientists from across the country in Washington, D.C., this week to brief congressional staff members about climate change research.

Crumsey, a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who works at the U-M Biological Station, was one of 29 scientists who participated in the second annual Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. This year's event was sponsored by 13 scientific societies and organizations.


Jasmine Crumsey joined with nearly 30 other scientists from across the country in Washington, D.C., this week to brief congressional staff members about climate change research. (Photo by Dale Austin)


The goals were to expose members of Congress and their staffs to accurate climate science from a variety of experts, to highlight relevant impacts of climate change and to establish working relationships with the congressional offices.

In addition to studying terrestrial ecology and biochemistry at EEB, Crumsey is pursuing a graduate certificate in science technology and public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. In the Ford program, students learn, among other things, to analyze the role of science and technology in policymaking.

Crumsey says Climate Science Day provided a unique opportunity to extend what she's learned and to gain valuable new skills in communicating with policymakers.

"Communicating the impacts of large-scale environmental changes on natural resources, and the complex interactions within ecosystems, is relevant to my training as an ecologist, as well as my desire to remain active in science policy throughout my professional career," she says.

During the visit, Crumsey and a scientist from Purdue University met with staffers in the offices of seven Michigan and Indiana lawmakers, including Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich.

"It went really well," she says. "They were gracious and welcoming."

"We talked to them about the impacts of climate change that we expect to see at the state, regional and national level," Crumsey says. "For the Midwest, climate scientists expect to see increases in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, including more frequent heat waves and more intense rains.

"For agriculture in the region, one prediction is an increase in pests due to increased winter survival resulting from warmer winters. For the Great Lakes in particular, climate scientists expect to see decreases in water levels and decreases in winter ice cover."

For Climate Science Day, each of the sponsoring organizations — which included the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Geophysical Union — selected several scientists. Crumsey was picked by the National Ecological Observatory Network, known as NEON.

The scientists included researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including the atmospheric sciences, meteorology, soil science, agronomy and statistics, says Joanne Padron Carney, director of the office of Government Relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

About 100 visits were made to the offices of members of Congress and to some committee staff members during the event, Carney says.

"At the end of the day, our goal was really to establish relationships," she says. "And if policymakers and their staff members contact these scientists with questions — I've read this research or I saw this opinion, can you give me information, can you explain this to me — then I think that is a success."

Crumsey's dissertation focuses on invasive species, a topic that is strongly tied to the climate change issue. Specifically, she is studying the introduction of earthworm species into Michigan forests.

"To put it all together, the dissertation asks: What impacts do earthworm invasions have on carbon cycling in forests, and how are those impacts dependent on the diversity of earthworm communities," she says.

Crumsey received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation last spring.