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UNG joins statewide project focused on climate change

University of North Georgia became the first official academic partner in the Georgia Climate Project. The project's "Founding Partners" are the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Emory University. The second academic partner is Spelman College in Atlanta.

What started with three Research I-based universities in Georgia working on a project focusing on climate change has now expanded to include one more university: the University of North Georgia (UNG).

"UNG was invited to become an official academic partner in the Georgia Climate Project," said Dr. Jamie Mitchem, professor of geography and geographic information system in the Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA) at UNG. "I am excited that we will be one of the first academic partners in this growing statewide project."

The project's "Founding Partners" are the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Emory University.  UNG is the first university to become an official "academic partner." A second academic partner is Spelman College in Atlanta.

The Georgia Climate Project is a multiyear effort to improve understanding of climate impacts and solutions in Georgia, and lay the groundwork for the state and its residents to take effective, science-based climate action.

Being part of the project is not new to Mitchem or Dr. Melissa Hopkinson, instructor of geography, geology and earth science at UNG. Both helped develop the "Georgia Climate Research Roadmap," which is one piece of the multifaceted Georgia Climate Project.

The roadmap was devised by a consortium of more than 40 professionals from academia, government, nonprofits, and private industries who examined climate change issues specific to Georgia. The group devised a list of 40 key research questions to help policymakers and practitioners better understand and address climate change in Georgia. The questions were published in May in the journal "Environmental Management."

With the roadmap constructed, the project can turn to another facet: Georgia Climate Stories. It is an initiative to highlight the personal stories of Georgians whose lives and livelihoods are impacted by climate change and those who are taking practical steps to respond to climate change and its impacts, according to the Georgia Climate Project. Mitchem is a member of its steering committee.

Based on Mitchem and Hopkinson's knowledge of climate issues in north Georgia and the overall project, they have enlisted help from faculty members and students in UNG's Department of Communication, Media and Journalism (CMJ).

"When we, as scientists, try to tell the story of climate change, it doesn't resonate with people," Hopkinson said. "And (the CMJ faculty and its students) have a different way of expressing the same information."

CMJ faculty members Shelia Conti, a part-time instructor of broadcast journalism, and Dr. Merrill Morris, professor of journalism and media studies, have incorporated the project into their classes. In Morris' class, students will create short videos for the project. In Conti's class, students will create a broadcast news segment.

Both women said their students are looking forward to the challenge this semester, especially after UGA instructor Mark Johnson spoke about creating similar elements on the campus in Athens.

"They got excited and started throwing around ideas," Morris said.

Conti said a few of her senior students saw it as an opportunity to use the finished project in their reels, which they use for job interviews.

"They are going to do what they can to help their reel get noticed," she said.

During the process, Mitchem and Hopkinson will act as advisers to the projects to ensure the science information is accurate. Mitchem said the students' finished projects also have a shot of being shared on the Georgia Climate Project website.

Morris and Conti said the experience of working on this project gives students real-world experience and a chance to shine.

"I'm looking forward to seeing their competitive nature as they compete with each other and the other universities involved in the project," Conti said. "But I am also looking forward to seeing some of the award-winning pieces that they generate."

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