From the START Secretariat

Updates from the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) Project

Mary Thompson-Hall (photo: second from left) attended the Second Annual Learning Review of the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) 14-16 May 2016 as part START's work on the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project. The three day workshop centered on finding common research themes and emerging synthesis issues from across the four CARIAA consortia (ASSAR, PRISE, HiAWARE, and DECCMA) and on finding innovative ways of putting the collective expertise of the consortia into action. Mary was joined by other ASSAR West Africa team members from the University of Ghana Dr. Adelina Mensah and Rahina Sidiki Alare, and from ICRISAT Mali Dr. Edmond Totin along with other ASSAR members from East and Southern Africa and India.

The month of June was a busy one for START and the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, which held Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) workshops in both Mali and Ghana. Facilitated in Ghana by Reos Partners from South Africa and by our partners at ICRISAT in Mali, the workshops brought together a range of different stakeholders from the ASSAR study-sites and different levels of government. The aim was to build relevant, challenging, plausible and clear stories around what the future of adaptation may look like through the year 2035. Read more about the TSP workshops here.

PROVIA Fellows Attend Adaptation Futures Conference and Workshop in Rotterdam

In May 2016, fellows from the Global Program of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) attended the "Adaptation Futures" conference along with PROVIA program leader, Niki West, from START. The event was a full house with over 1,600 people participating from more than 100 countries: people from the business community, from governments and non-governmental organisations, scientists and practitioners. Read more about the conference and view presentations here.

Following the Adaptation Futures conference START led the design and facilitation of a workshop for the PROVIA Fellows in Rotterdam, 14-15 May.  Dr. Saleemul Huq, Dr. Emma Porio, and Ms. Saskia Harmsen participated as guest facilitators, along with the four fellows from Nepal, Malawi, and Kenya. The fellows had recently completed a one-month stay at their respective host institutions and prepared draft proposals for their PROVIA Fellowship research projects. Read more about the PROVIA workshop here.

The Adaptation Futures conference and START-organized workshop provided a well-timed opportunity for the fellows to meet each other and refine their research proposals before embarking on implementation.

Earth Observation Across the Globe

START participated at the 12th International Workshop on Greenhouse Gas Measurements from Space (IWGGMS-12), which took place in Kyoto University, Japan, 7-9 June 2016. The goal of the workshop was to review the state of the art in remote sensing of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 from space. Read more about the GHG workshop and START's presentation here.

Three visiting scientists from Vietnam and Thailand are currently visiting the International START Secretariat and The University of Maryland (UMD) in July with the Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) program (photo: right).  These scientists will be working with START and UMD staff on upcoming GOFC-GOLD events including the South East Asia Regional Informational Network (SEARRIN) meeting that is planned for 17-19 October 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the upcoming Data Initiative Advanced Training which will take place at Geo-Informatics & Space Technology Development Agency in Bangkok, Thailand, 10-14 October 2016. The GOFC GOLD Visiting Scientist Program aims to cater for specialists with advanced degrees in engineering, remote sensing, GIS, physical sciences, natural sciences or resource management, and helps foster and advance collaborations and knowledge-exchange among GOFC-GOLD regional networks and US institutions.

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS - GOFC-GOLD will host the fifth Data Initiative, an advanced training on access, management, use and application of earth observation data, tools and methods in Bangkok, Thailand 10-14 October 2016. This training program is designed for young scientists who are associated with the GOFC-GOLD regional networks. Read more and learn how to apply here.

START and Future Earth Collaboration

START is pleased to announce stronger collaboration with Future Earth. Dr. Jon Padgham, Deputy Director of the International START Secretariat, has moved from Washington DC to Boulder, Colorado to assume a shared position between START and the Future Earth hub at the University of Colorado. In this new position, Jon will lead the development of capacity building collaborations between the two organizations. The effort began with a capacity building strategy that he recently co-developed with Future Earth. Jon is currently leading efforts on START-Future Earth joint work on the food-energy-water nexus in Africa.

New Board Members and Staff Updates

Our Board of Directors is growing with the addition of three new members:

  • Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation;
  • Dr. Fatima Denton, Executive Director of the African Climate Policy Center; and
  • Dr. Dong-Pil Min, Scientific Advisory Board Member to the UN Secretary General.
This month the START Secretariat is transitioning Executive Directors from retiring Hassan Virji (photo: right) to new Director, Cheikh Mbow (photo: left). Cheikh has been in Washington DC since the latter part of July and looks forward to implementing his vision for START as a leader in capacity building world-wide.

Other changes at the Secretariat include a west-ward migration with Jon Padgham and Sarah Schweizer moving to Colorado. Sarah will be shifting to a part-time role at START as she completes and defends her PhD dissertation at University of Colorado.

From START Regions

TEA-START Updates from Beijing

The Temperate East Asia Regional Center for START (TEA-START) recently received a 5-year research grant of 28,000,000 Chinese yen (CNY) under the China Global Change Key Research Program (MOST) to lead a research project entitled “Attribution and projection of multi-scale climate change and major decadal episodes”. The project launches in late July 2016 and runs for five years. It will examine the contributions of natural variability and human activities in changes of global climate system, and investigate the uncertainties in climate modeling and projection, by highlighting the East Asia region. It is expected to enhance science understanding of human-ecosystem-climate interactions and to further reduce uncertainties in regional climate modeling upon completion.

Meanwhile, TEA-START Regional Center was just funded for 2,000,000 CNY by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) International Program to enhance regional climate change research and capacity building over Asia. The project, which runs from 2017-2020, will provide fellowships to young scholars from the region for short-term visits to TEA-START.  Fellows will develop and share spatial datasets derived from integrated satellite and in-situ observation at regional scales, and to enhance policy interpretation of science findings on climate change impacts and adaptation over the region.

TEA-START recently received support from the CAS-TWAS Scholarship to train international students in its atmospheric science PhD. program. Four young fellows currently study at TEA-START under the scholarship, including Sangeeta Sarmah from India, Sana Ilyas from Pakistan, Faustin Katchele Ogou from Benin, and Berdimbetov Timur from Uzbekistan. Visit for more updates.

New Training Workshops at SEA-START

Southeast Asia START Regional Center (SEA-START), Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, in collaboration with Environment Operation Center – Greater Mekong Subregion (EOC-GMS), and Asian Development Bank, will organize series of training workshops on “Capacity Building on Climate Change Adaptation Planning", which consists of 3 training workshops. These training workshops aim to build capacity among the planners, practitioners, and academics in the lower Mekong region to be able to conduct assessment on community vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in their countries. Selected participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam will have the chance to learn about the fundamentals of climate change and technique in climate change adaptation planning and engage in case study-based hands-on activities. The first training workshop will be held from 17 – 20 August 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand.  Workshop attendance is closed to include only pre-selected participants.

Ministry of Environment Japan

This past year, START Secretariat was pleased to host a visiting scientist from the Ministry of Environment Japan.  Takuya Nomoto (photo, left) spent his time at the Secretariat in Washington DC building partnerships between various Japanese institutions and START to strengthen our capacity building efforts in Asia.  He was instrumental in planning a seminar at the US-Japan Research Institute in February 2016 on the theme of "Establishing a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development." A report from that event is now available online. Since Takuya has returned home, he has been briefing his ministry contacts about START and representing START at various events in Japan.

Coastal Cities at Risk Outcomes in Thailand

During this past year, the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) program has been focusing on working with communities of practice to translate knowledge from  into real action. CCaR is joining the National Legislative Assembly on spatial planning and human settlement. As flood and drought are pressing issues to any urban areas, CCaR's land use policy recommendation is an example of how current urban planning process should be challenged.

Bangkok-canalCCaR knowledge has been incorporated into Bangkok’s flood drainage policy to keep canal settlements of about 6,000 households from forced eviction. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)'s flood drainage policy is to dredge the 9 major canals throughout Bangkok and the first phase is on Lad Praw and Klong Song canal (24 km-length stretching over 4 districts). This will impact low income settlements along the canal since the policy is aimed to widen the canal by 38 meters and build a concrete dike along the canal without a supporting policy to solve community relocation. CCaR knowledge on damage and loss assessment in the case of flooding and scenario based risk assessment was used along with network connections to other community organizations to convince to BMA and the central government that the cost of relocating communities elsewhere would cost the government more than the dike project itself. Hence CCaR also provided alternative solution to flood drainage and with this solution it is a win-win scenario where canal community can still settle along the canal and open the canal for public use. This has implications for land readjustment for canal settlement and secure land tenure (30-year long rent) to some of low-income communities. The construction of secure housing is on progress now.

Regarding education, BMA is showing initial interest in adopting CCaR's urban resilience game to be part of teaching at all BMA schools. There will be 3 conference papers and 2 book/book chapters out before the end of the project.

Alumni Spotlight: Sameer Deshkar

Dr. Sameer Deshkar came to START’s 2015 Advanced Institute on Disaster Risk Reduction and Loss Mitigation via a path that began in architecture. Sameer studied and taught architecture and building design in his home country of India. Through his PhD work at Nagoya University in Japan, he was introduced to START’s work in Asia and DRR issues.

“Taiwan was a great beginning for me,” says Sameer about START’s Advanced Institute. Looking at systems research was very helpful in his current work transferring planning policy knowledge from urban centers out into rural regions. The training in Taiwan and follow-on seed grant from START helped Sameer expand his research and “get out of my regional boundaries to different geographical areas with new challenges,” he says.

Since the Advanced Institute in 2015, Sameer and his cohort from Taiwan have kept in touch with a Facebook group page. Group members came from varied geographical and career backgrounds, but they share the same concerns about disaster risk reduction and are all at a similar mid-career level. This diversity in background with a shared common goal has created a strong network as they all benefit from learning how each one does disaster risk research in their own regions and sharing ideas to streamline their work.

To read more about Sameer and how he is influencing the next generation of climate change researchers, check out the full story here.

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