P2PE: Climate Science

P2PE: Climate Science

SIF176B Prominence-to-Preeminence (P2PE) STEM Targeted Initiatives Fund

Climate Science: Bridging Global and Community Scales

Project Manager: Karen McGlathery

Approved: November 2021

Project Dates: 3/01/2022 – 2/28/2027

Total Funding: $3,800,000

Executive Summary

Researchers in the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) have partnered with the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Data Science, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science on an initiative bridging global-scale climate dynamics with regional/local processes and systems to guide decision-making for equitable climate resilience and sustainability outcomes. This is a critical knowledge gap in creating actionable solutions to climate change, and one in which UVA is uniquely poised to become a preeminent leader. The initiative’s research objectives are organized around three overarching themes: utilizing downscaling and model-data fusion to make advances in climate science more actionable and equitable at the local scale; leveraging cyber-physical systems (CPS) to advance our ability to monitor energy and water flows within communities, reduce energy consumption at the building scale, and mitigate global climate change impacts to infrastructure systems; and exploring how engineering and nature-based approaches to decarbonization be realistically integrated at the regional scale to cut emissions in line with global climate goals.


The “Climate Science: Bridging Global and Community Scales” project sets out a vision to dramatically advance the University of Virginia as a world leader in climate change analysis and solutions research. The Global-to-Community (G2C) initiative focuses on bridging global-scale climate dynamics with community-scale processes and systems to guide decision-making for equitable climate resilience and sustainability outcomes. 

In the first year of this five-year initiative, we have dedicated most of our efforts to building a pipeline of postdoctoral fellows, specifically targeting traditionally underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We hired a full-time project manager in June 2022 to administer the program who works closely with the project leadership team and associated faculty. 

We began by asking some of the big-picture questions about what we mean by diversity and articulating our specific goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion within the G2C project. This led to the institute developing a Diversity Statement that now lives on our website and has been adapted to advertising and recruitment strategies. Another significant effort went into researching the ideal fellowship model the institute would develop by speaking to other leaders in the field and reviewing different postdoctoral fellowships across the United States and around the world.

The five pillars of the post-doctoral program we agreed on are: diversity, impact-oriented research, working as a cohort, mentorship, and interdisciplinarity. In this first year, we also worked with UVA faculty engaged with the G2C program and helped them to develop interdisciplinary projects that the postdoctoral fellows would join. With this in place we have recruited one postdoctoral fellow to the Regional Hydroclimatic Changes project and are currently extending an offer to another for the Downscaling Climate Models project in our first round of recruiting. 

Out of this first process we learned many lessons and have improved the program. One major lesson was that we needed to create a clear and compelling brand for the program that has broad recognition and appeal, so we now describe the opportunity as Climate Fellows. In February 2023, we released a new advertisement for the next cohort of fellows and have three additional projects that have been developed by faculty mentors: Energy Transitions; Low-Carbon Energy Sources; Internet-of-Things for Climate Action. All of the Climate Fellows on the Global-to-Community track are focused on interdisciplinary projects that bridge global and community scale climate dynamics and adaptation/mitigation processes. 

We are on track to have a cohort of 3-7 postdoctoral fellows by the end of the Spring 2023 semester. We are also collaborating with the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs to support their annual research symposium and aim to hold an “all scientist” meeting in the coming year once there is a critical mass of Postdoctoral Fellows in the G2C program.