Training Extension Educators to Develop Climate Stewards to Establish Local Climate Programming
Publications: Success Stories - Extension (2023)

The 2022 cohort of Climate Stewards Extension specialists after a day of train-the-trainer activities. Credit: Katherine Bunting-Howarth/NYSG


Gwen Gallagher, Coastal Climate Specialist, New York Sea Grant, E:, P: (631) 632-8730

Kathy Bunting-Howarth, NYSG's Associate Director, E:, P: (607) 255-2832

NYSG’s Climate Stewards program is providing science-based training to equip volunteers to organize climate mitigation and resilience projects in New York

Ithaca, NY, March 23, 2023 - Climate change poses significant risks to communities across New York State. Although the State’s Climate Smart Community Certification Program (CSCCP) incentivizes local climate action by providing benefits and recognition to participating municipalities, local governments frequently cite limited staff time and funding as significant barriers to climate action. By training and empowering local volunteers to start climate-related programming, New York communities can prepare for the impacts of climate change and reduce their carbon footprints.

To build community-level capacity for climate action, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) worked with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), researchers, students, and partners through a rigorous three-year (2018-2021) process to develop a Cornell Climate Stewards Program. In 2020, NYSG extension expertise helped develop climate-focused, science-based curricula. In early 2021, NYSG held the first train-the-trainer program with CCE educators from six counties in preparation for conducting a pilot program with community participants in the fall of 2021. A second train-the-trainer program was held in the fall of 2022 for an additional seven counties, bringing the total number of county extension offices trained to deliver the program to 13. NYSG taught multiple modules, including climate science and impacts, climate mitigation, community adaptation, and science communication.

During the 2021-2022 training of Climate Stewards at the county level, 52 individuals completed the 12-week program and designed projects to support climate action in their respective communities based on interests, abilities, and community need. Volunteers from these six counties have contributed more than 550 hours towards local projects, including planting trees in Rochester, developing an illustrated booklet about trees in Western NY, creating a seed library, starting an initiative to recover refrigerants, building two pollinator gardens, and organizing four climate-focused educational events.

Through NYSG’s 2021 training, Climate Stewards has facilitated over 550 hours of local action and is continuing its work into 2023 with a second cohort.


• Cornell University 
• Cornell Cornell Cooperative Extension. 

Funding: National Institute for Food and Agriculture Planning Grant

Pilot funding: 

• Extension Smith-Lever federal funds 
• New York State Energy Research Development Agency

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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