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Building Tribal Capacity to Assess Vulnerability to Climate Change

Building tribal capacity for climate change vulnerability assessment
Principal Investigator
Meade Krosby


Start Date
End Date
Release Date


Preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change are critical to the wellbeing of tribal communities that rely on natural resources to sustain their families, communities, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. Recognizing this, efforts across the country are underway to support and enhance the capacity of tribes to prepare for climate change risks. However, due to staffing, technical, and financial limitations, many tribes continue to experience difficulty initiating and completing the critical first step of the climate adaptation planning process: a “climate change vulnerability assessment”, i.e., a structured assessment of the specific potential impacts of climate change that the tribe may be exposed to, [...]

Child Items (3)


Principal Investigator :
Meade Krosby
Funding Agency :
Northwest CSC
Co-Investigator :
Lara Whitely-Binder
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

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Preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change are critical to the future well-being of tribal communities. Recognizing this, federal, academic, and tribal institutions have increased efforts to promote the capacity of tribes to manage climate change risks. However,many tribes continue to experience difficulty initiating and completing the critical first step of the adaptation planning process: a climate change vulnerability assessment. This difficulty can be attributed to real and perceived limitations in the staffing, technical, and financial capacities of many tribes—determining where to start and how to access and scale climate data and assessment approaches to fit tribal needs and capacities can quickly become major impediments to action. This project will help address limited tribal capacity for vulnerability assessment by providing guidance and data tailored to the needs and capacities of Northwest and Great Basin tribes. Specifically, the project will: • Make the vulnerability assessment process more accessible to tribal staff by providing online guidance materials targeted to tribal needs and capacities; • Address the demand for climate data at the scale of tribal decision-making by providing downscaled climate data and climate change summaries for tribes; and • Support tribal staff through the vulnerability assessment process via workshops and a webinar to provide training on the use of project resources and datasets, and by staffing a Tribal Climate Technical Support Desk to provide rapid response to relevant queries. These objectives will be accomplished in consultation with an advisory group consisting of representatives from regional tribes and tribal organizations. We will also work with existing tribal knowledge-sharing networks to connect project products and training opportunities to a broad range of tribal communities. Together, these activities will promote the ability of tribal communities to respond to climate-related threats, enhancing tribal and regional resilience to change.

Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueAccomplishments with Goals and Objective of the Award Tribal Advisory Group: We proposed to conduct our project in close consultation with a tribal advisory group that would be established in partnership with tribal members from the NW CSC Stakeholder Advisory Committee and other regional tribes and tribal organizations. Status: Complete. We successfully convened a project Tribal Advisory Group and engaged them throughout the project via group conference calls, emails, andphone calls as needed to answer questions and gather feedback on project activities.Project sponsors – the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (John Tull and Richard Kearney) and DOI Northwest Climate Science Center (Gustavo Bisbal and Nicole DeCrappeo) – were also included in group calls and emails. Objective 1: Make the Vulnerability Assessment Process More Accessible to Tribal Staff. Develop a suite of online guidance materials targeted to tribal needs and capacities. Task 1.1: Develop online resources related to the vulnerability assessment process that are designed, organized, and presented in ways that make the process more accessible to tribal staff. Status: Complete. We created and published a Tribal Vulnerability Assessment Resources website, housed within the Climate Impacts Group website and hosted and maintained by the University of Washington. The site provides a user-friendly, online gateway to resources (e.g., tools, guidebooks, example assessments) selected to orient tribal staff to the vulnerability assessment process. Relevance and utility were ensured through feedback received from the Tribal Advisory Group and at project workshops. The site can be accessed at: Objective 2: Address the Demand for Climate Data at the Scale of Tribal Decision Making. Develop climate projections and related summaries for ceded areas (or other scales, depending on tribal needs, data availability, and budget limitations) in the Northwest and Great Basin. All products will be freely available online via the CIG website. Task 2.1: Consult with tribal partners to determine the appropriate scale and variables for analysis. Status: Complete. We completed a survey in the winter of 2017 to determine the scales and climate variables desired by Northwest and Great Basin tribes. Survey responses indicated that 1) the desired scale of analysis varied by tribe, and often included more than one scale for a single tribe, and 2) a wide range of climate variables are of interest to tribes. In response, we 1) contacted each of the ~84 tribes in the Northwest and Great Basin individually to ask for up to three preferred geographies for receiving climate projections, and 2) selected ~20 climate datasets to represent the range of climate impacts of concern to tribes (as indicated by survey results). Task 2.2: Prepare a suite of downscaled climate datasets specific to tribal needs. We will evaluate projected changes in regional climate for the decision-relevant geographic areas and climate variables selected in Task 2.1. Status: Complete. We gathered a broad suite of climate datasets (e.g., MACA, NorWest, NOAA) and developed an interactive, web-based tool that summarizes projected changes in ~20 climatic variables for geographies of interest to Northwest and Great Basin tribes (up to three geographies available per tribe). The Tribal Climate Tool provides interactive, online summaries of projected changes in a wide variety of climate-related variables (e.g., snowpack, stream temperature, wildfire, vegetation). The site is accessible from the Tribal Vulnerability Assessment Resources website or the Northwest Climate Toolbox, and can be found at: o Task 2.3: Create technical summaries of projected changes in climate. In addition to the data and figures developed in Task 2.2, we will produce brief summaries of the projected changes in climate for each region assessed. These technical summaries can be used by tribes in their vulnerability assessment process as well as for general outreach activities. Status: Completed. The Tribal Climate Tool automatically generates customizable reports summarizing projected changes in ~20 climatic variables for tribal geographies of interest (as selected by the user). Objective 3: Supporting Tribal Staff on the Use of Project Resources and Datasets and the Vulnerability Assessment Process More Generally. Task 3.1: Hold two workshops in the Northwest and Great Basin area to introduce tribal staff to project resources and datasets, train staff on their use, and provide more hands-on guidance regarding the vulnerability assessment process. Status: Completed. We offered three workshops in the summer of 2018, held in Pendleton, Oregon; Olympia, Washington: and Carson City, Nevada. Workshops provided an introduction to the vulnerability assessment process, overview of the Tribal Vulnerability Assessment Resources website, and hands-on training with the Tribal Climate Tool. In total, 42 staff and tribal members from Northwest and Great Basin tribes participated. Evaluations suggested that participation significantly increased understanding of the vulnerability assessment process and available resources. Task 3.2: Hold a webinar to share online resources with a broader tribal audience. This will help ensure that tribes unable to attend a workshop are aware of the online resources and recommendations regarding their use. We propose to have this webinar included as part of TCCP’s regular webinar series. Status: Completed. We held a webinar on November 15, 2018 that described the suite of Tribal Vulnerability Assessment Resources produced by the project. The webinar included a live demonstration of the Tribal Climate Tool, as well as ample opportunity for question and answer throughout the webinar. 54 individuals attended the webinar. A recording is available at: Task 3.3: Staff a Tribal Climate Technical Support Desk. Status: Completed. We staffed the Tribal Climate Technical Support Desk throughout the duration of the project, responding to diverse queries from 12 (14%) of the ~84 tribes across the Northwest and Great Basin. Several of these tribes used the Support Desk more than once (up to three to four times). The Support Desk remains available to tribal staff and members, and can be accessed at:

Budget Extension

typeAward Type
valueInteragency Agreement
typeAward Number

Columbia River Gorge - Public domain
Columbia River Gorge - Public domain


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • Northwest CASC

Associated Items



Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 1296e9cc-b5fe-4fd9-8775-7481071bc976
StampID NCCWSC NW16-DN0679

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