Tri-Agency Climate Education (TrACE) Collaborative

The Tri-Agency Climate Education (TrACE) Collaborative between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports sustained and robust education and communication initiatives to develop a climate-literate citizenry and skilled workforce.

Climate change communication and education face many challenges, and federal agencies, civil society, and individuals have invested in numerous initiatives to establish a climate-literate citizenry.  In the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) report, America’s Climate Choices, the authors find that “climate change is difficult to communicate by its very nature.”  However, “education and communication are among the most powerful tools the nation has to bring hidden hazards to public attention, understanding, and action” (NRC 2011).

The effort needed for comprehensive climate change education is far greater than any one institution, education sector, or even federal agency can handle. Throughout the United States, numerous federal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations. professional societies, and individuals are focused on developing and evolving the use of climate education tools. These entities have supported sustained and robust education and communication initiatives to develop a climate-literate citizenry and skilled workforce.  Within this diverse group, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have collaborated since 2009 to coordinate over $110 M of their investments in roughly 160 climate change education projects.  

Results of these investments include:  

  • An expanding research base on best practices in climate change education and communication;
  • An active learning community focused on developing, implementing, and evaluating climate change education activities and programs;
  • Infrastructure supporting networks of scientists, educators and others from academia, government, aquariums, museums and zoos, who are involved in improving climate literacy among a diverse range of audiences; and   
  • Numerous activities and products for use in climate change education and communication (see the Tri-Agency Climate Change Education Catalog at

The Tri-Agency Climate Education (TrACE) Catalog provides search and browse access of an online repository of educational products and resources. TrACE focuses specifically on climate education resources that have been developed by initiatives funded through NASA, NOAA, and NSF, comprising a tri-agency collaborative around climate education. Represented projects have been funded through these agencies, including NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) now ESTEEM (Earth Systems, Technology and Energy Education for Minority University Research & Education Project-MUREP), NOAA's Environmental Literacy Grants, and NSF's Climate Change Education Partnerships (CCEP Phase I and II). (Source: NASA)


TrACE Collaborative Joint Principal Investigator Meeting October 2013     Photo Credit: NOAA  

With the goal of leveraging existing resources, developing common evaluation metrics, minimizing duplication efforts, and facilitating communication among this emergent community of scientists and educators, program officers at NASA, NOAA and NSF worked to increase funding opportunities for projects focused on global climate literacy and environmental education. In so doing, efforts in both formal and informal learning environments have resulted in collaborations among awardees that create a strong national network for effectively presenting climate science to a diverse range of audiences. The TrACE Collaborative embraces the spirit of the America COMPETES Act which encourages coordination of federal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.


TrACE Collaborative Joint Principal Investigator Meeting October 2013     Photo Credit: NOAA

TrACE Collaborative Joint Principal Investigator Meeting October 2013 - Poster Session      Photo Credit: NASA

Virtual Collaboration - discussion of effective climate change communication, Photo Credit: NASA


Federal Programs

The programs that contribute to the Tri-agency Climate Education Collaborative include:

NASA Climate Change Education Related programs,

Since 2008, NASA has funded climate change education projects through a series of activities: GCCE, IGCCE, NICE, ESTEEM and MAIANSE. See the Program Website for details.

All use NASA's unique contributions to climate and Earth system science to improve STEM education

Program Website:


Contacts: Bonnie Murray, & Lin Chambers, Ph.D.,  


NSF Climate Change Education (CCE) & Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) 

Integrating research on STEM learning with climate science to advance educational practice and understanding

CCEP Alliance Website:

Program Website:

Contact: David Campbell, Ph.D., & Brandon Jones, Ph.D.,


NOAA Environmental Literacy Program (ELP) 

Providing grants and in-kind support for informal and formal K-12 programs that educate and inspire people to use Earth systems science to improve ecosystem stewardship and increase resilience to environmental hazards

Program Website:

Contacts: Carrie McDougall, Ph.D., & Sarah Schoedinger, M.S.,


Products of the Collaborative:


Common Logic Model: Tri-agency Collaborative for Climate Change Education

This Tri-Agency Collaboration for Climate Change Education common logic model is the product of a working group of evaluators and project principal investigators, created with the intention of articulating the components of a cross-agency funding portfolio of climate change education initiatives. The model defines the collective goals, outputs, and intended outcomes of the agencies’ funding and activities. 

Tri-agency Climate Change Education Catalog

The Tri-Agency Climate Education (TrACE) Catalog is an online repository of climate education resources developed through initiatives funded by NASA, NOAA and NSF. The catalog provides search and browse access to these educational resources. Projects represented in the catalog have been funded at various institutions through award initiatives including NASA ESTEEM (Earth Systems, Technology and Energy Education for MUREP - Minority University Research & Education Program; previously NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) and NASA Global Climate Change Education (GCCE)), NOAA's Environmental Literacy Program, and NSF's Climate Change Education Partnerships (CCEP Phase I and II). These entities have supported sustained and robust educational and communication initiatives to develop a wide variety of products for use in climate change education and communication.

Primarily, the TrACE Catalog provides support to climate change education project Principal Investigators and staff to share their work with this community, and to connect with other projects and people who are working on similar efforts. The catalog can also be used directly by the target audiences of climate education initiatives, including K-12 school audiences. Wherever possible, the catalog therefore includes direct links to finalized educational products and resources.

The ultimate goal of the catalog, and the tri-agency collaboration, is to strengthen the climate education community's ability to leverage prior funding and results.

The TrACE Catalog is unique in that it:

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of climate education tools produced through support from federal funding; and
  • Contains information about the institution that completed the work as well as the product(s) that resulted from the work.

The TrACE Catalog was created by NASANOAA and NSF as part of their Tri-Agency Climate Education Collaboration.

In 2018, the TrACE catalog was transitioned to Science Education Resource Center, a grant-funded office at Carleton College, through a partnership with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The TrACE catalog builds on the educational infrastructure developed for the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Portal.

Tri-agency Matrix of Products and Activities

This matrix of products and activities was developed with data collected during the 2011 Joint Principal Investigators (PI) Meeting on Climate Change Education. The purpose of the matrix was to facilitate collaboration among PIs who are working on similar efforts, as well as to reduce duplication of effort. During the 2011 meeting, PIs were encouraged to populate the matrix with all of the anticipated deliverables by audience for their NOAA/NASA/NSF-funded project(s). Nearly 80% of the meeting attendees contributed at least one deliverable to the matrix (note that individual deliverables and projects may be represented more than once). This summary shows only the project numbers for each deliverable along with color coding to give a quick visual sense of the areas and audiences for which a significant number of deliverables were planned or being produced in 2011. This matrix served as the initial source of data for the TrACE catalog described above. 

Triagency Collaboration for the Advancement of Climate Change Education: Second Annual NASA, NOAA, and NSF Climate Change Education Principal Investigators Meeting; Fairfax, Virginia, 28 February to 2 March 2011, American Geophysical Union EOS, Eos, Vol. 92, No. 24, 14 June 2011


National Research Council Roundtable on Climate Change Education (CCE)

The Roundtable on Climate Change Education (CCE) was established 2009 with funding from the National Science Foundation in support of the combined federal effort to foster ongoing discussion of the challenges to and strategies for improving climate science and climate change education for the general public, and for students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

The Roundtable brought together overlapping and complementary expertise from academic and professional disciplines that commonly do not intersect when addressing climate change education: federal and state policymakers, educators, scientists and communications and learning experts, and representatives from the private sector. It also provided federal agencies with important foundational knowledge related to key aspects of CCE and learning, such as the nature and scope of existing efforts, achievable and measurable goals, challenges and opportunities inherent in developing a national level CCE initiative, and areas where investments may provide the greatest leverage.

Roundtable discussions provided useful new insights for a variety of other stakeholders who were invited to observe the open workshops of the Roundtable.  It completed its work in 2014.

Workshops and Workshop Summaries