Applied Solutions Network for Actionable Science

February, 2022

Sonoma County, California and the Global Council for Science and the Environment

The Global Council for Science and the Environment (GCSE) has relaunched Applied Solutions. Started in 2008, Applied Solutions was founded to promote collaboration between scientists and local government officials to improve environmental outcomes. In 2019, Applied Solutions officially became GCSE Applied Solutions. Since then, GCSE has analyzed the assets in the GCSE Applied Solutions Network, studying ongoing examples and methods to encourage engagement between local government officials and university scientists, focused on place-based issues (e.g., energy, water, drought, fire, flooding, and other natural disasters). Now, as the planet’s natural systems show daily signs of edging closer to catastrophic changes that may prove irreversible, action by local governments is needed more and more. The relaunch of Applied Solutions includes new opportunities to facilitate action and collaboration among local government officials and university scientists to improve local capacity and solutions to respond to environmental problems.

The mission of Applied Solutions is to provide and share resources and implementation assistance to local governments to help them build a more sustainable economy. Though initially aimed at providing clear steps to implementing clean energy and water technologies, the program quickly expanded to become a trusted source of information on many environmental policy issues. By 2019, Applied Solutions had re-engaged and re-built a network of more than 150 local governments across the US. Now in 2022 – GCSE and Sonoma County, California have partnered on the relaunch of Applied Solutions. GCSE Applied Solutions

Sonoma County partners with GCSE because their experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of collaboration between local governments and scientists. In Sonoma County, California, intense rainfall events cause problems for water managers from a mixture of flooding and drought events. They discovered the phenomenon known as “atmospheric rivers” is related to water events causing an estimated $5.2 billion in damages since 1978. (Corringham) Atmospheric rivers are long, thin bands of dense water vapor in rain clouds that account for ~50% of rainfall in Sonoma County and ~85% of flooding. (Sonoma Water) Sonoma Water partnered with Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes to develop a methodology to detect and categorize atmospheric river events to improve water retention from atmospheric rivers while mitigating flood damage. This research is also helping other local governments, many of whom suffer millions of dollars in flood damage from atmospheric rivers every year. "Organizations like Applied Solutions are absolutely essential for helping local governments implement climate adaptation policies and to form partnerships with Universities, and other government partners,” said Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Vice Chancellor and Dean for Marine Sciences, University of California, San Diego.

The relaunched Applied Solutions network shares science-informed environmental solutions; facilitates engagement between scientists and decision-makers around the world; and will host topically-focused webinars to share environmental best practices that are both scalable and replicable. Applied Solutions provides local governments with easier access to research and a source of student interns for local environmental programs. As part of the re-launch, Applied Solutions has made an online Science Action Collaboration platform available to members to easily connect and exchange knowledge and opportunities. Once invited to join, a user simply registers with information about their research interests, environmental challenges they are working on, and solutions they may be exploring. Users can search the network - a database of experience and resources. People can connect directly with others, query their peers on a particular question, and share links to publications and resources. This collaboration platform provides members with the opportunity to organize specific initiatives. 

As the imperative of local climate action becomes more and more clear, and with help from Sonoma County, CA, GCSE has developed Applied Solutions 2.0 to facilitate action on local climate issues. The expanded scope afforded to Applied Solutions by the new online Science Action Collaboration platform will allow Applied Solutions to promote collaboration more effectively between local decision-makers and scientists. This collaboration has the potential to be the catalyst needed to incite effective action on environmental issues on the global scale.

Corringham, T. W., Ralph, F. M., Gershunov, A., Cayan, D. R., & Talbot, C. A. (2019). Atmospheric Rivers Drive flood damages in the Western United States. Science Advances, 5(12).

Sonoma Water. (n.d.). Atmospheric Rivers. Sonoma Water. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from


Opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the GCSE or its members.