FernLeaf Interactive and UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC)—two inaugural members of The Collider in downtown Asheville—have launched a collaborative public-private partnership this year that has produced greater climate resilience for their hometown and home state, with ongoing projects expanding their impact across the Southeast and the United States—one community at a time.
FernLeaf and NEMAC signed a cooperative agreement in 2018, establishing a public-private partnership that will leverage FernLeaf’s software and systems thinking applications and NEMAC’s applied research expertise in transferring and delivering science and processes to varied audiences. The joint activities will focus on delivering resilience decision support solutions to communities across the United States. Operations of the partnership—to be known as NEMAC+FernLeaf—will be based out of The Collider, a global innovation center for climate entrepreneurs, in downtown Asheville.
”The Collider is thrilled to support the development of the innovative public-private partnership between NEMAC and FernLeaf,” said Josh Dorfman, CEO of The Collider. “It allows UNC Asheville’s faculty, staff, and students to collaborate with community partners and entrepreneurs on the vital work that can lead to a climate-resilient future.”
The public-private partnership utilizes FernLeaf’s proprietary software—AccelAdapt—a tool that empowers local governments to assess vulnerability locally and take actions that are targeted, implementable, and equitable. NEMAC+FernLeaf is in the process of tailoring AccelAdapt to facility-scale customers, with potential projects for airports, campuses, private land developments, and other installations.
AccelAdapt was featured this past summer at the 2018 Esri Users Conference in San Diego. FernLeaf is an emerging business partner with Esri, the global market leader in GIS technology, and relies on their technology stack for much of the functionality of AccelAdapt. NEMAC+FernLeaf occupied a joint booth space in the conference’s StartUp Zone, and Esri recognized the collaborative as a leading example of what they envision their StartUp program to be.
Over the last two years, NEMAC has worked with the City of Asheville in developing the city’s climate resilience assessment, guiding municipal staff through multiple workshops using a framework it helped develop for the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit (toolkit.climate.gov). The resilience assessment was incorporated into Asheville’s Comprehensive Plan in June 2018, and work is ongoing on a campaign to communicate the results to the public.
NEMAC+FernLeaf has built on the success of the Asheville assessment, expanding into new markets throughout the southeastern United States. There are several other collaborative projects in the works, including a project that spans six local government entities in the greater Raleigh Triangle region. The Triangle Regional Resiliency Partnership (TRRP)—Cary, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Orange County, Durham, and Durham County—was formed to address the need for a regional resilience assessment. With leadership from Triangle J Council of Governments, the partnership utilized the resilience framework to assess, plan and prioritize resilience-building strategies. Other collaborative NEMAC+FernLeaf resilience assessment projects include efforts in West Palm Beach, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Tallahassee, Florida.
The partnership is actively recruiting undergraduate interns and apprentices to learn about the growing field of resilience. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was an intern at NEMAC myself, and so I am excited to be able to collaborate with them to provide real-world learning opportunities to UNC Asheville students that have real-world impacts” added Jeff Hicks, CEO of FernLeaf Interactive.
“The university is excited about the possibilities for undergraduate students to benefit from the entrepreneurial activities and mentorship opportunities in climate change and resilience that stem from this partnership,” says Edward Katz, UNC Asheville’s Associate Provost.
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About the Collaborative Partners
FernLeaf Interactive designs software for analyzing and visualizing environmental data and how climate affects assets and physical properties. CEO Jeff Hicks started his work as a student at UNC Asheville, where he interned with NEMAC and worked as a research scientist following graduation. He launched FernLeaf in 2014. For more information, visit http://fernleafinteractive.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEMAC, which stands for the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, is an applied research center at UNC Asheville specializing in the development of decision-making tools for communities, leaders, planners, and others to use in responding to climate and environmental change in ways that enhance resilience. Founded in 2004, the center is directed by Jim Fox, with this collaborative project spearheaded by Director of Operations Karin Rogers and Director of Geospatial Technology Greg Dobson. (Disclaimer: Fox also is part owner of FernLeaf and does not direct project collaborations.) A recipient of the 2016 Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri, NEMAC collaborated with NOAA’s Climate Program Office in the development and management of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, launched in 2014. For more information, visit http://nemac.unca.edu or email email@example.com.
The Collider is a global nonprofit for climate entrepreneurship and innovation. Located in the heart of downtown “Climate City,” Asheville, N.C., The Collider develops and trains entrepreneurs who use climate and environmental data for breakthrough solutions that enable humanity to adapt to a changing climate. In addition, The Collider hosts industry and educational forums, and cultivates young leaders by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and perspectives to address climate change. More info on The Collider is available at thecollider.org.
UNC Asheville is the designated liberal arts and sciences institution for the UNC system and one of the nation’s top 10 public liberal arts universities. Enrolling 3,800 students and offering more than 30 undergraduate majors and a Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree, UNC Asheville encourages students to take part in a nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program and participate in interdisciplinary learning. From internships and hands-on projects, to study abroad and community engagement, students experience an education that extends beyond campus into the vibrant City of Asheville, the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and the world. Learn more at www.unca.edu.