University of California Awards Cal Poly Humboldt Researchers $2.6 in State-funded Grants to Spur Climate Action

Founders Hall from bottom of the stairs
Through a historic partnership between the University of California and the state of California, research by two Cal Poly Humboldt professors is among dozens of projects awarded a total of $80 million in climate action grants.

The California Climate Action Seed Grants and Matching Grants  are designed to spur implementation of solutions that directly address state climate priorities.

The grants will fund 38 projects, including two led by Cal Poly Humboldt professors Justin Luong (Rangeland Management) and Jose Marin Jarrin (Fisheries Biology). 

With $1.5 million in funding, Luong’s project aims to work collaboratively with land managers across the state to establish a statewide GRASS-Net (Grassland Restoration Action, Science, and Stewardship Network). The network will coordinate and share best practices for successful and climate-adaptive restoration activities. At the same time, the network will work with partners to develop climate-smart restoration protocols and tools related to drought-resilient plant selection and site assessment. The project will increase access to the best available science for restoring coastal California grassland, inform nature-based solutions, strengthen climate resiliency, and leverage existing resources.

Marin Jarrin was awarded $1.1 million to develop a group of Tribal, University, state, and federal personnel to carry out fisheries research on species designated as priorities by the Tribes, based on the species’ cultural, ecological, and/or economic importance, to improve the climate-resilience of far Northern California fisheries. 

The UC Climate Action Fund collectively involves more than 130 community, industry, Tribal, and public agencies, as well as 12 University of California (UC) locations, 11 California State University (CSU) campuses, and two private universities. Seed grants were awarded to 34 teams totaling $56.2 million. Four teams received matching grants totaling $26.9 million to support larger projects that could leverage additional funding from non-state sources. The $83 million total is part of $185 million allocated by the state for UC climate initiatives advancing progress toward California’s climate goals.

“As the state’s preeminent research institution, the University of California is proud to partner with the state to pursue our shared climate goals. The innovations catalyzed by the Climate Action awards will make all of our communities safer, more sustainable, and more resilient,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “I am grateful to the state Legislature and Governor Newsom for providing funding to support this critical research on climate change in California.

“With these investments, California is harnessing the ingenuity of our world-renowned universities and people to deliver climate action across our state,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California is leading the charge in tapping our natural resources to protect our people, our communities, and our planet.

Overall, the grants will mitigate wildfire risks, combat soil degradation and erosion, address water management in the state, and create land stewardship partnerships led by Indigenous communities. The selected projects aim to improve the health of farmworkers; increase resilience of state water and power systems; and identify innovative nature-based solutions toward biodiversity degradation, sea level rise, and wildfire risk. Other projects align with the state’s solar and conservation goals and adapt community evacuation preparations to accommodate the rising prevalence of electric vehicles. These two-year grants cover every region of the state.

Two of the largest grants were awarded to projects that aim to broaden community involvement in the management of California’s lands and waters. With a $5.5 million grant, one project will form a Wildland-Urban Interface Climate Action Network (WUICAN) of Tribes, community groups, universities, and land managers to collaborate with agencies on methods to protect landscapes from catastrophic climate events. And with a nearly $8.2 million grant, the COEQWAL (COllaboratory for EQuity in Water ALlocations) project will develop new water planning tools to advance sustainable, inclusive, and equitable water distribution for California’s nearly 40 million people.

“The scale of these grants will produce tangible improvements in the lives of Californians,” said UC Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Newman. “These awards put UC’s world-class research into action and show what we can accomplish when California’s universities and diverse communities come together.”

The grant awards align with state priorities to advance climate resilience and social equity, particularly in communities where the effects of climate change are felt most acutely. These state priorities align with UC’s long record of initiatives to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The selected projects utilize both high-tech and people-centered solutions to the climate crisis and include a broad range of community voices.

The governor and the legislature approved $185 million in funding to the University of California for climate action as part of the 2022–23 State Budget Act. The University quickly launched the initiative, issuing a request for proposals for the Seed and Matching grants in December 2022. Researchers affiliated with California-based four-year academic institutions were encouraged to apply, particularly those whose research or projects provide real-world solutions and support policies to tackle the existential threat of climate change in partnership with California communities. The application and review process was administered by the University of California Office of the President Research Grants Program Office. Awardees were chosen through rigorous peer review. Successful applications are expected to engage communities, take a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, and generate tangible outcomes.

Recognizing the historic opportunity to leverage this investment to strengthen community participation in shaping climate solutions, the state’s Strategic Growth Council is providing funds to the University to supplement the Seed and Matching Grants. The Community-Engaged S/Hero Award Supplements will provide 10 projects with $20,000 each to identify best practices for engaging communities around climate risks, and to provide leadership, resources, and counsel to all climate award teams on community engagement.

“The persistent climate challenges faced by California have put the state in ‘code red’ emergency status. Making California truly resilient requires thoughtful partnerships and full engagement of every sector of society. These awards reflect the brain trust and united voices across the state to achieve collective impact,” said Theresa Maldonado, UC Vice President for Research & Innovation.

"Once again, California and UC are leading the way in research and climate resilience. This state-funded research program is unique in its scope and scale. The deep connections between researchers and our communities will strengthen our preparations to withstand the changing climate,” said state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

More information on the University’s efforts on supporting climate action research can be found here. You can find a full list of awardees here.