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In habitats that typically experience snow and ice (including those at high latitudes or elevations), winter can be the defining season for driving organismal, community, population, evolutionary and ecosystem processes throughout the year. The effects of winter are driven by complex, non-linear, interactions among physical processes, and although winter is a period of dormancy for many biological systems, there are also significant biological processes that are winter-dependent. Winter is disproportionately affected by climate change, leading to both increased mean temperatures and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, manifested in recent ‘polar vortex’ winters with accompanying record low temperatures, and historically unprecedented warm winter conditions. To understand changing winters, we need to understand winter itself to the extent that we can predict and understand the potential impacts of climate change. An important component of this understanding will be integrating across levels of organization. We expect the GRC to have three key impacts: 1) to bring together winter researchers from a range of disciplines and identify the common threads and significant divergences in winter research; 2) to consolidate and coordinate interpretation of the biological impacts of ongoing winter changes; and 3) to set an agenda for future winter research that leverages existing partnerships to include a broader array of disciplines and to foster interactions among levels of biological organization, across traditional disciplinary lines, and among taxa.