TBC3 turns 10 and goes virtual!

TBC3 turns 10 and goes virtual!

TBC3 stands for the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative – yes, it’s kind of a mouthful, we know.  But it’s an acronym that California’s climate insiders have become familiar with since its launch in 2010 thanks to a generous grant for the Pepperwood Foundation from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

TBC3 is co-chaired by Pepperwood’s Lisa Micheli and David Ackerly, who now serves as Dean of UC Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources. The TBC3 kick-off gathering of 20+ of the world’s experts on intersections between California climate and biodiversity was the first ever to be held at the brand new Dwight Center for Conservation Science back in 2010, which had opened its doors only weeks earlier! This collaboration has been going strong ever since. It is a literal “idea engine” for conservation researchers and leaders developing nature-based solutions for climate resilience.

A decade ago, researching how climate change might impact our natural resources was a pretty cutting edge field of “climate adaptation.”  Micheli had come to this research interest through the lens of studying increasing water scarcity, while Ackerly had published a seminal paper on potential climate impacts to California’s native flora. Together they teamed up to bring physical and biological scientists together to define key knowledge gaps and collaborate on applied research to fill those gaps.  TBC3 also partners with local municipal agencies, like Sonoma Water, Napa County, and OneTam to help them use the TBC3 knowledge-base to inform long-term planning for our water, wildlife, and open spaces.

A foundational tool of the TBC3 research collaborative is the USGS Basin Characterization Model created by the husband and wife hydrology team of Drs. Lorrie and Alan Flint. This model makes quantitative estimates of the relationships between temperature and rainfall across the landscape, with a focus on calculating how much more arid our western watersheds might become. Research has shown these parameters are very good predictors of where plants can grow, where animals can live, and where fires might burn. Using this model, we can fast-forward to future conditions to evaluate what plants and animals can live where and how much water will be available to feed our streams and reservoirs.

While the hallmark of our annual TBC3 retreat has been a residential camp-out at the Bechtel House, this year we held our retreat virtually, thanks to Ackerly’s skills with his new Zoom pro account. The silver lining was that we had more than double our normal number of participants, including several new members from distant campuses who might not otherwise have been able to make the trip.

We have had a lot of fun collaborating for the last 10 years, and now, we have multiple “academic generations” within TBC3.  While the Flints are officially retired – though still madly running models for collaborators – we have a new cohort of graduate students joining us from various research labs across California, including representation from UC Berkeley, Davis, Merced, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. This year Dr. Prahlada Papper, founding Pepperwood Steward who first joined TBC3 as a field volunteer and then as an Ackerly Lab graduate student, participates as an SRJC instructor, mentoring the next generation of TBC3ers.

This year’s sessions focused on the following themes:

Habitat Corridors: how to integrate wildfire resilience and species observation into corridor design and protection?

The Future of our Forests: defining climate resilient ecosystem targets and estimate tradeoffs in terms of carbon, water, and biodiversity

Where Does the Rain go?  closing the water balance in Coast Range headwaters

Real-time Hazard Assessments using Sentinel Site Data: how can we leverage weather and fire sensors to inform flood/drought/fire hazard prevention and emergency response?

As the scope of these collaborations show, TBC3 is growing more interdisciplinary, with specialists now joining us from the fields of atmospheric sciences, computer science, and even civil engineering in addition to landscape ecology, fire science, plant physiology, soil science, watershed hydrology, and wildlife ecology. By building bridges across these disciplines and leveraging Pepperwood’s Sentinel Site and conservation action partnerships, TBC3 continues to serve as a creative engine for empirical conservation research and strategic climate-smart collaborations.


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