People of the SW CASC is a series of profiles that highlight the important work and unique life experiences of staff members of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.
The Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center welcomed Jia Hu as the new Host Institution Director in January, 2023. In this role, Jia will lead the operation and governance of the SW CASC university consortium, the integration of science, outreach and communications to ensure the consortium’s work fulfills the mission of the SW CASC and supports the implementation of education, training, and capacity building programs. The Director also convenes and travels to meetings with regional science and outreach partners, working with scientists and partners to ensure that the SW CASC develops scientific data, analyses and products to meet partners’ emerging needs. In addition to her role with the SW CASC, Jia serves as an Associate Professor and Associate Director in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and Affiliate Faculty with the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, at the University of Arizona. She is also the Principal Investigator for the Hu Lab, where she and other researchers study global ecosystems and relationships between plants, water, soil, and climate.
Jia is originally from Palo Alto, California where she grew up academically driven. Later, Jia earned her B.A. in Integrative Biology from University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Colorado. Prior to coming to the University of Arizona five years ago, Jia held positions at Montana State University, University of Sydney, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Colorado State University.
Jia is excited to take on her new position with the SW CASC and to step into a more public role. “Up until now academically, my work has always been really research focused,” she said. “I’ve been a research professor for over 10 years now and I’ve been doing research for over 20 years. I’m definitely at the point in my career where it’s not a matter of not having enough data to make action. I’m recognizing that there’s a pretty big gap between what we know and what actually gets done in terms of, not just policy, but also management decisions.”
The opportunity to step into the Host Institution Director role with the SW CASC was perfectly timed for Jia and aligned with where she wanted to go next in her career. “I wanted to transition to something where there is more of a direct impact or I have the ability to talk to more people about the research,” she said. “As the Host Institution Director of the SW CASC there is an expectation that I have a more public role and that means talking to people who are not academics, and not involved with the university.”
Jia is excited to play a role in connecting managers and scientists to promote actionable science. “I know there’s no magic bullet that’s going to solve everything, but I do know there’s a lot of good science and amazing data products,” she said. “People who need [the science] I don’t think always recognize what’s out there and how to use it. And scientists don’t necessarily understand who’s using their data and what might be helpful for those individuals. There is a clear need for someone to bridge that middle and consider both. I think that’s where the SW CASC comes in.”
Motivated to advance climate adaptation efforts because of her own two young children, Jia also finds the students she interacts with as a professor inspiring for her work. “This current generation is highly motivated and they’re not afraid to ruffle some feathers,” she said. “We really need to break some rules in order to get things done. I’m learning from young people what that looks like and I want to be supportive of that movement.”
Jia describes herself as hopeful, patient, and kind; traits that she is intentional about displaying in her work and personal life. Outside of her career, Jia loves to cook and travel with her family as a way to expose her children to diverse cultures and lifestyles. Making time for quiet, restful moments is also very important to Jia as she recognizes the necessity of a healthy work-life balance.
As Jia smoothly transitions into her new role with the SW CASC, thanks to expert guidance from Dr. Gregg Garfin who has served as the Host Institution Director since 2017, the SW CASC wants to thank Gregg for his 5+ years of significant contributions and leadership. The SW CASC is excited to support Jia as she moves into this new position!