Spring 2022 Colloquium
Wed, March 2 | 3:30pm | Zoom only
Note: This meeting is Zoom only
From "complex" to "wicked": A complex system scientist's journey as Delta Lead Scientist
Laurel Larsen (she/her)
USGS and Delta Stewardship Council
The challenges faced in managing California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are often described as "wicked problems" because of their social, physical, and biological complexity and the high levels of uncertainty associated with the outcome of management decisions or other agents of change. The 2009 Delta Reform Act lays out a strategy for managing this complex system in the face of uncertainty, for which a cornerstone is the use of adaptive management informed by "best-available science." The Act further established the Delta Science Program, which it tasked with advancing and communicating the "best possible unbiased scientific information" through coordination with the many agencies that govern the Delta, promoting original research and adaptive management, and performing syntheses and peer review. It also established the position of Delta Lead Scientist as a term (3-year) position for an outside independent scientist to lead the Delta Science Program.
In this talk I will provide a glimpse into my recent experience in this role, which I have occupied since September 2020. Current priorities for science leadership focus on navigating three major transitions that the Delta science community is facing: 1) a transition from a focus on understanding individual species or variables (e.g., flow, water quality) at the scale of the Delta to understanding their interactions as a complex system, 2) a transition from an era of "combat science" to an era of more inclusive, collaborative science production, and 3) a climate-related transition to an era characterized by temperature and hydrologic extremes. In this talk, I will discuss the nature of these transitions, resulting priorities and challenges, and opportunities for students and faculty to get involved in research and the application of science.