Faces of Adaptation: Meet Jessica Halofsky

Jessica Halofsky is the director of the USDA Northwest Climate Hub and the Forest Service Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC). In her role, Jessica promotes applied climate change science and adaptation in natural resources in the Northwest and across the West. Jessica has a background in forest ecology and fire and has been doing climate change adaptation work in the Northwest for over a decade. In her previous position, she pioneered one of the first climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation projects with Olympic National Forest and National Park. Since that initial project, Jessica has co-led eight other sub-regional to regional-scale climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation partnerships around the western US.

 

What led you to work in the field of climate adaptation?

I did my dissertation work at Oregon State University on fire and worked in the largest fire in Oregon’s recorded history — the 2002 Biscuit Fire. In doing that work, it became more and more clear to me that climate change is a vital issue of our time. So when I had the opportunity to work on one of the first climate change vulnerability assessments for a national forest and national park, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been working in climate change adaptation ever since.

What does your day-to-day work look like?

I spend a lot of my time assessing partner needs, facilitating and working with scientists and partners on projects, doing outreach (e.g., webinars and workshops), writing and editing reports, and connecting with the Northwest Climate Hub and WWETAC teams on various projects. I continue to work with national forests on climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation across the West. Right now, my days usually involve many Zoom/Teams meetings, but I’m very much looking forward to in-person meetings and workshops sometime soon!

How does your organization support climate resilience in the Northwest?

The Forest Service WWETAC staff and funded partners develop and distribute scientific information about climate change and related forest threats across the western US, including wildfire, invasive plants, insect outbreaks and drought. WWETAC scientists and collaborators develop maps of current and future vegetation and carbon content, as well as modeling tools, science syntheses and case studies. These tools and products help land managers across the West plan management activities that optimize the ability of forests to sequester carbon while facilitating forest resilience and addressing resource needs such as clean water, air, wildlife habitat and recreation.

The USDA Northwest Climate Hub works with a diverse network of partners to support science-based decision making and facilitate communication with partners about climate-related risks and vulnerabilities in natural resources. The Northwest Hub covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and offers practical, science-based information and tools that field staff and other partners can share with agricultural producers and natural resource managers to meet region-specific, climate-related needs. Through science assessments and syntheses, technology and tool development, and outreach and education, the Hubs leverage agency investments to build regional responses to climate variability and change.

What is your favorite thing about your work?

I feel lucky to work with great people, including the Hub and WWETAC teams and the broader natural resource community in the Northwest, and I really enjoy learning from partners and other scientists. I strive to do work that people find useful, so I think it’s especially rewarding when I see work that I’ve done or facilitated used by land managers on the ground.