START’s Former Board Chair, Professor Gordon McBean, wins the 62nd International Meteorological Organization Prize

The World Meteorogical Organization, the United Nations system’s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water, honored Professor Gordon McBean with the sixty-second International Meteorological Organization (IMO) Prize for his outstanding work in meteorology and climatology and his leadership as a scientific researcher.

Professor Gordon McBean co-chaired the START Scientific and Development Committee until 2009 and chaired the START Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015. He is Professor at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, and has been the the President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) since 2014.

The IMO Prize is the most important award in meteorology. Established in 1955, it is awarded every year to individuals in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of meteorology, hydrology, climatology or related fields.

Read the press release on WMO’s website


Government Planners learn how to Assess Communities’ Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change

During 15-17 February 2017, the Southeast Asia START Regional Center (SEA-START) has conducted the third and final training workshop on Assessing Community Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change.

Over the past 18 months, 15 government planners from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam have learned key concepts of climate change adaptation planning, which aims at integrating climate change adaptation into community development plans.

The training program covers the following topics:

  • Assessing the current context of the sector and community
  • Assessing the current risk and vulnerability of the community to climate threats
  • Assessing the future risk of the community and the robustness of current risk management strategies and also the effectiveness of the current development/risk reduction plan in the future
  • Formulating plausible future concerns of the community
  • Formulating an adaptation strategy for each community
  • Identifying options for measuring and evaluating the strategies, and assessing enabling or critical success factors.

The training program was funded by the Core Environmental Program of the Asian Development Bank.

TEA-START and the Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) Initiative

An international research program, the Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) Initiative, was launched in Beijing in December 2016 to take advantage of Earth observation to address common issues, including climate change, food security, protection of world heritage sites, unbalanced economic and urban development, and disaster risks, in the Belt and Road Region. The Belt and Road includes 65 countries located along a land-based belt from China via Central Asia and Russia to Europe, and a maritime route through the Straight of Malacca to India, the Middle East and East Africa.

300 participants from over 40 Belt and Road countries and international organizations gathered to call for coordinated research and actions across borders to cope with common economic, developmental and environmental challenges. Participants included scientists, leaders of scientific organizations and government officials in charge of Science & Technology affairs.

DBAR contributes to sustainable development in the Belt and Road regions, by promoting:

  • earlier, deeper and broader understanding of the Belt and Road to address common challenges such as climate change, water resources, eco-environments, and food supply, in an integrated way;
  • efforts to build up a scientific community for exchanging and sharing Earth observation developments and solutions in the region, including capacity building;
  • efforts to strengthen and enhance Earth observation infrastructure; and
  • joint efforts to promote big data science methods.

DBAR established eight working groups, focused on: agriculture, big Earth data, water security, climate and environment, world heritage, disaster risks, coastal zone, and urban issues.
TEA-START (the Temperate East Asia Regional Centre for START) was actively involved in the development of the initiative. Prof. Gensuo Jia, TEA-START Director, serves as a member of the DBAR science committee and co-chair of the climate and environment working group.

Read more on the website of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.



Transdisciplinary workshops on the impacts of urbanization on the food-energy-water nexus

The Belmont Forum, START, Future Earth, and regional partners organized two workshops on conducting transdisciplinary (TD) research in the first quarter of 2017. The workshops focused on advancing principles of co-design and co-production in the natural, social, and engineering sciences that address complex sustainability challenges associated with the Belmont Challenge. The first workshop was held at the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University during 22-24 February 2017. The second workshop was held at Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex at the University of Colorado Boulder during 1-3 March 2017.

These workshops aimed to advance skill development in TD research, as well as increasing aptitude for developing proposals with strong TD elements, which is a cornerstone of all the Belmont Forum’s multi-year Collaborative Research Action (CRA), including the recently launched call on urbanization and the food-energy-water nexus. Learning activities within each workshop were organized around a regionally relevant case study on the food-energy-water nexus.

Transdisciplinary research workshop Boulder

Boulder workshop participants. Photo by: Daniel Strain

The workshops were three-day events with approximately 25 participants per workshop. Specific learning objectives included:

  • Understand TD research in the context of urbanization and the food-energy-water nexus
  • Identify opportunities and barriers related to TD research and application
  • Explore how to broaden impacts by adopting TD process design
  • Acquire usable skills and competences on TD research, including building a TD team, collaborative problem framing, TD settings and roles of researchers and practitioners, integrative approaches and methods, and evaluating TD process and scientific and societal impacts.

If you would like to be part of this growing community, please register on Future Earth’s Open Network and then join the Transdisciplinary Research and Application community. You can contact Sarah Schweizer ( for further details.

Learning how to effectively convey complex research

As part of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, in January 2017 Mary Thompson-Hall attended a workshop on Experiential Learning aimed at training participants in conveying complex climate-related information to diverse audiences using participatory games.

Interactive games can increase understanding of complex issues, facilitate constructive discussion and encourage collaboration. Conveying research results and concepts in an effective, interactive way is key to ensuring that lessons learned from the project are taken up as concrete actions.

Watch the video produced by ASSAR:

The workshop was aimed at building the capacity of the ASSAR Research into Use (RiU) coordinators from the West African, East African, Southern African, and Indian ASSAR study region. It was facilitated by Bettina Koelle and Margot Steenbergen of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Read more on the ASSAR website

Learning Lab identifies potential climate change impacts for the city of Windhoek

March has been a busy month for the FRACTAL project, with a week-long training for the embedded researchers in Cape Town, and the first city learning labs for Maputo and Windhoek taking place. START traveled to Windhoek for the city learning lab, which took place March 14-15.

Over the course of two-days, FRACTAL partners worked with around 30 participants from local and national government, NGOs, the water utility company, donor organizations, and local universities to co-produce a set of burning issues related to climate change, energy, and water in Windhoek.

Windhoek skyline

Windhoek, photo copyright: jbdodane

The first day focused on introducing local participants to the FRACTAL project and brainstorming issues in the city. Through a series of highly interactive activities, a number of burning issues arose related to informal settlements, water security, and renewable energy.

After a presentation from a local climate scientist on the second day, the FRACTAL team experimented with a new approach to communicating the potential future impacts of climate change by providing three narrative scenarios of what the climate could look like in 20 years and how this may affect various sectors in the city of Windhoek.

Participants broke into groups to discuss the narratives, including critiquing them, evaluating their usefulness, and describing how the potential impacts might affect their own sectors. The afternoon was spent collaboratively mapping the institutional environment for the two priority burning issues identified (informal settlements and water security), and thinking about how everyone could contribute to FRACTAL.

In the closing reflections, everyone said they had enjoyed the learning lab, especially its novel approaches for brainstorming and facilitation. Now the hard work of maintaining the energy and engagement with FRACTAL begins!

PARR Fellowships Update

PARR has now reached its halfway point for the 2016/2017 round of fellowships.

Out of the nine fellows, six have completed their fellowship residencies at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños and the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR) in Taipei. The other three fellows are in the process of completing their residencies at Manila Observatory and NCDR.

Fellows Nurrohman Wijaya (second from left) and Amna Zaujatul (seventh from left) are in the process of completing their residencies at the Manila Observatory.

In these first six months, fellows have already managed to submit original research proposals to START for follow-on research funding, present at 3 conferences, and publish a full paper on a conference website.

To continue to build on the exciting work and enthusiasm of these fellows, START will be running a new monthly webinar series for the PARR fellows, on topics of greatest importance to them. Webinars will cover how to write and publish blogs on their research; how to prepare budgets and financial reports for proposals and projects; other types of outputs that may be produced, aside from research papers; how to engage in interdisciplinary research and with stakeholders in the research process; and how to network.

At least one fellow will also be starting her independent research project soon, where she hopes to start building a database of national losses and damages from disasters in the Philippines.

START and the Belmont Forum establish formal collaboration

START International has become a formal partner of the Belmont Forum. The Belmont Forum is a group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research. It aims at mobilizing international resources to accelerate delivery of environmental research.

START will work with the Belmont Forum to advance global environmental change research, bringing to the partnership its longstanding expertise in science capacity building and its established networks in Africa and Asia.

“We are looking forward to engaging with the Belmont Forum and contributing with our expertise and leadership to our mutual priorities on global environmental change, especially in developing countries,” said Cheikh Mbow, START International’s Executive Director.

START has a strong track record of collaboration with many Belmont Forum member countries and partners, including the National Science Foundation, Future Earth, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

Read the post by Erika Key, Executive Director of the Belmont Forum Secretariat