News and Notes

A Newsletter for Faculty and Staff of Idaho State University

November 16, 2009 — Vol. 25 No. 37

Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico band together to battle effects of climate change; BSU, ISU, UI will participate in EPSCoR grant

Nancy Glenn

Written by Ken Kingery, University of Idaho Communications

MOSCOW, Idaho - Today’s issues related to climate change and water resources require an abundant flow of information between scientists across the country. Because of this fact, the National Science Foundation not only is providing bigger pipes for three states, it also is making sure they fit together.

The NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) recently announced a three-year grant worth $6 million to be shared by the states of Nevada, New Mexico and Idaho. The grant will help these states address regional issues related to climate change and water resource management in three ways.

Data connections will be upgraded within each state as well as between them. The program will ensure that data storage systems, system models, computer programs and other tools developed by researchers will be able to work together seamlessly. Finally, scientists will be trained in the latest in computational technologies while K-12 students and teachers help develop educational outreach programs.

“This award will enhance the ability for the tri-state consortium to better address 21st century grand scientific and societal challenges related to climate change,” said Nevada NSF EPSCoR Project Director Gayle Dana, lead principle investigator of the project. “Through increased competitiveness for research funding and sustained partnerships among our states, we can make a big difference."

Idaho will use its share of the grant to improve connections to several of its research centers, including: the University of Idaho’s Research and Extension Center in Kimberly; the University of Idaho’s Fish Culture Experiment Station in Hagerman; and the Idaho Water Center, a center in Boise housing collaborative projects involving the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Boise State University, among others.

“This is a great opportunity for both the state of Idaho and our partners, Nevada and New Mexico,” said Von Walden, professor of geography at the University of Idaho and interim director of Idaho EPSCoR. “This grant will help researchers better connect with one another between the three states and also provide funding for better data management in the critical areas of water resources and climate change.”

The grant also will co-fund a full-time data manager and two postdoctoral associates to help facilitate data ingestion and the interoperability of information storage systems, computer programs and data models.

Graduate students, postdoctoral associates and faculty throughout Idaho will be trained in the use of computer modeling systems and scientific information systems that utilize some of the fastest supercomputers in the country. And because of the improved internet connections, the scientists will be able to utilize these tools without ever leaving the state.

One such scientist is Nancy Glenn, associate professor of geosciences research at Idaho State University, who conducts water resource research.

“As part of the tri-state initiative, ISU will lead development efforts in the national Hydrologic Information System, which is a new Web services method to better share and analyze hydrologic data,” said Glenn.

ISU also will receive funding to improve bandwidth connectivity in several buildings in Pocatello and Boise, allowing for improved sharing of data and resources for the broader hydrologic community.

Boise State University will receive funding to improve connectivity between science and engineering buildings on campus, enabling scientists to more efficiently access national supercomputing centers. Boise State also will hire a postdoctoral scientist to develop automated methods to transfer real-time hydrological field information to online databases.

“Both improvements will significantly elevate the capabilities of water researchers,” said Jim McNamara, professor of watershed hydrology at Boise State.

Finally, across the entire state, the project will create small teams including a graduate student, faculty member and a teacher from an Idaho high school or middle school to work on the development of cyber learning materials.

“We want to take advantage of all of these Internet improvements, existing internet connections, and maybe even some of the data being collected to get K-12 students excited about science and research,” said Rick Schumaker, project administrator in the Idaho EPSCoR office.