MSU part of new center leading climate change research in Midwest

MSU researchers are lending their expertise on a variety of topics, from fisheries management to forest ecology.

MSU professors Dana Infante, Gary Roloff and Richard Kobe (from left to right) are on the leadership team for the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University researchers are teaming with eight partner institutions to advance climate science across the Midwest. The new center, hosted by the University of Minnesota, is the ninth regional U.S. Geological Survey Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC).

These teams of world-renowned scientists are strategically located, lending expertise on a variety of natural resources topics to specific regions of the country. CASCs are studying widespread challenges, from conservation and invasive species to wildfire and drought. The goal is to conduct leading research that yields actionable results, and to communicate those findings with governments and natural resources agencies.

The Midwest CASC covers the Great Lakes — the world’s largest freshwater system — the upper basin of the Mississippi River — the country’s largest river system — and an array of forests and grasslands. Urban and rural areas dot the Midwest, as well as a variety of cultures and traditions.

While MSU has three scientists on the Midwest CASC leadership team, other MSU researchers will have the opportunity to submit project proposals in the future.

The MSU leaders are:

Infante, who is also the assistant director for natural resources for MSU AgBioResearch, conducts research that uses landscape ecology, conservation biology and fisheries management approaches to better understand aquatic habitats and the organisms they support.

Her position is supported, in part, by the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM), an initiative uniting MSU with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and other fisheries and wildlife management agencies.

“The Midwest is home to a diverse set of ecosystems that are all subject to the negative effects of climate change,” Infante said. “That’s why we’re excited to join this great network of scientists. MSU researchers bring expertise in landscape ecology, fisheries and wildlife management, quantitative modeling and a host of other research areas.”

Alongside research, outreach is a foundational element to the center, including fostering relationships with private landowners and local, state, federal and tribal governments. The Midwest CASC places emphasis on working with tribal organizations, ensuring their voices are heard.

At MSU, Roloff collaborates with tribal partners in the Center for Cooperative Ecological Resilience. The program unites MSU with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to train tribal members to join the fisheries and wildlife management field through a graduate program.

Roloff also leads a research group that examines wildlife ecology and understanding the interactions between wildlife and forest management. Like Infante, Roloff works closely with the MDNR and other management organizations, and his position is partially supported by PERM.

“The Midwest CASC consortium brings tremendous intellectual and operational capabilities to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: the effects of rapid climate change on our livelihoods and the environment,” Roloff said. “I am particularly excited about working with multiple universities and our state, federal, non-governmental and tribal partners to collectively turn science into practical solutions that honor all peoples’ values, beliefs and cultures.”

The third MSU member of the CASC leadership team, Kobe brings leadership experience and a research program on forest ecology. His area of study focuses on tree communities in temperate and tropical climates, with an interest in how drought and other environmental factors influence the species composition of forests.

Additionally, Kobe represents MSU on the MDNR Forest Management Advisory Committee and with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science.

“The Midwest CASC provides a powerful link between scientific research in natural resources and adapting to climate change in the region,” Kobe said. “Without adaptation, the great benefits that we get from forests and other ecosystems could be diminished — wildlife habitat, recreation, important products that support jobs, and the critical ability to store carbon to fight further climate change. CASC-supported research and partnerships will help us figure this out.”  

Joining MSU in the Midwest CASC are the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, the College of Menominee Nation, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Nature Conservancy.

This article was published in In the Field, a yearly magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. To view past issues of In the Field, visit For more information, email Holly Whetstone, editor, at or call 517-355-0123.

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