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Students demonstrate validity of models that use free, publicly accessible climate data

October 4, 2017

By Leah Small, University Public Affairs 

(Photo: A sunrise over Crown Point at Columbia River Gorge. Students of Daniel McGarvey, Ph.D., used widely available climate data to model fish distributions in the waterway.)

As concern about the consequences of climate change grows, researchers are thinking hard about the data and models that drive their understanding of these changes.

Graduate students in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Environmental Studies recently contributed to this effort by proving that free, publicly accessible climate data can predict habitat quality within river networks with as much accuracy as data from more complex and expensive sources. Climate data includes variables such as precipitation and air temperature. Scientists place these variables into models created to make predictions regarding environmental changes such as species distributions.

Many of the data sources needed to model climate change effects are available online at no cost to both the scientists and lay users, which alleviates the financial burden associated with many scientific inquiries, said Daniel McGarvey, Ph.D., associate professor in the Center for Environmental Studies in VCU Life Sciences.

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