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ISU plays key role in Idaho EPSCoR climate change grant

September 12, 2008
ISU Marketing and Communications

Idaho State University played a role in landing, and will play key role in carrying out the $15 million National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant to study climate change in Idaho announced by Lt. Gov. Jim Risch on Friday, Sept. 12.

The title of the grant is “Idaho Research Infrastructure Improvement: Water Resources in a Changing Climate” and will be funded over five years.

The University of Idaho is the lead institution for the statewide study that will be a cooperative effort between UI, Boise State University and ISU. Idaho State University officials stressed the project’s cooperative nature and outlined ISU’s role.

“It is a wonderful project in terms of the cooperation and collaboration between the three largest public universities in the state,” said Pamela Crowell, ISU vice president for research. “Receiving the EPSCoR grant attests the strength of the faculty at Idaho State, the University of Idaho and Boise State. I’m confident there will be more collaborate projects like this in the future.”

Colden Baxter, Ph.D., assistant biology professor, will be Idaho State University’s lead person on the grant.

 “The state of Idaho and the three universities involved with the project,” Baxter said, “stand to make some important contributions to the study of climate change based on the strength of people involved as well the unique characteristics of the landscape we inhabit.”

The research focus will be toward estimating impacts of future climate scenarios forecast by climate change models on water supply, biological systems, and social-economic systems of the Salmon River and Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer systems, Baxter said.

“Some parts of our state already have shown effects of changing climate, and much of our state, according to some climate models, is projected to be greatly affected by climate change,” Baxter continued. “There is a big, red bull's-eye on our area because it is expected to be strongly affected in various ways by changing climate."

The intent of the EPSCoR funding is to grow more faculty infrastructure and capacity at the three universities in the areas of research and instruction related to the topic area, while at the same time deriving meaningful research results that are of value to the local and regional resources management, academic and political communities, Baxter added.

Von Walden, Ph.D., climatologist at UI, is the lead on the study. Baxter will be the grant's team leader for the biological and ecological (including wildfire) impacts group. Rick Allen, Ph.D., of UI is the group leader on the water resources/hydrology focus; Sian Mooney of BSU is group leader for the economics and social impacts group. Among the three schools, there is a diverse team of more than 30 investigators.

Idaho State University will receive $2,856,886 from the grant over five years to support new equipment, graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral students and two new faculty hires in soil science and hydro/spatial analysis.

Other ISU faculty involved with the grant include Drs. Matt Germino, Bruce Finney and Wayne Minshall in biological sciences and Drs. Nancy Glenn, Ben Crosby and Dan Ames in geosciences.

Idaho was able to attract the grant due in part because of previous studies by ISU researchers conducted on the Salmon River Basin and on the Eastern Snake River Plain.

“Idaho has one of the largest, intact watersheds in the Lower 48, the Salmon River Basin. It provides a window into how climate change may be effecting natural ecosystems in the West,” Baxter said.  “We are particularly fortunate in that Idaho State University has decades of research that has been conducted in the Salmon River Basin that provides a long-term perspective on how it has changed and how it may be affected by climate change. “

Another geographic focal point of the study is the Eastern Snake River Plain and the Idaho National Laboratory site.

 “Again, at ISU we have a long history of carrying out research on the Eastern Snake River Plain and at the INL,” Baxter said.  “It is no accident we are playing a leadership role in aspects of this study.”

Although Baxter made clear ISU’s role in the climate change grant, he emphasized the project’s cooperative nature.

 “Overall this project is a joint effort,” Baxter said. “There are ecologists from all three universities involved in the project and there are hydrologists and geologists from all three universities involved. All three universities are acting as an integrated team.”

This collaboration has the promise to yield important discoveries on climate change.




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