June 10, 2013 — Vol. 29 No. 21
Idaho researchers will study the ways that society and landscapes are interconnected thanks to a new $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation, or NSF.
Over the course of five years, the grant will fund a project that aims to help Idahoans make science-based decisions about natural resources and provide them with a better understanding of the complex relationship between people and the environment.
The researchers will investigate the patterns and effects of growth in three of Idaho's mid-sized urban areas near sagebrush, forest and agricultural landscapes - Boise/Treasure Valley, Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls and Pocatello/Idaho Falls. The researchers also will study how society perceives the benefits of our cities and landscapes. Stakeholders across the state will be involved throughout the project, which has great potential to help communities improve quality of life, sustain the environment and grow the economy.
The NSF awarded the grant to Idaho's statewide Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, which brings together Idaho State University, the University of Idaho, Boise State University, and many of the state's two- and four-year higher education institutions. This is Idaho EPSCoR's seventh major NSF grant, and the largest to date.
"This is a milestone for Idaho as it allows our best scientists to address complex ecosystems and allows the identification of 'actionable science' to sustain our valuable natural resources," said Howard Grimes, Idaho State University vice president for research and economic development.
The interdisciplinary research team will include faculty members in ecology, economics, physical and social geography, hydrology, public policy, urban planning, computer science, communication and visualization. The grant will support the addition of 11 new faculty members strategically located at the University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University.
"The project is a wonderful opportunity for students to be engaged in hands-on science with researchers across the state. In fact, students will have opportunities for mentoring and training across a variety of fields, including technology, engineering and the physical and social sciences. Ultimately our goal is to train students to think and integrate across perspectives and disciplines for the betterment of our society," said Nancy Glenn, ISU geosciences research professor and co-principal investigator on the award.
The project will fund dozens of student research projects and internships, with an emphasis on recruiting students from groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. It will also bring together college faculty, undergraduate students, journalists, and high-school teachers and students in place-based research and education at the study areas.
"A major benefit of this project will be improved public understanding of ecosystems and their public benefits," said Peter Goodwin, Idaho NSF EPSCoR project director. "A greater ability to provide science-based information to support policy and management decisions will help protect and improve quality of life and the health of our ecosystems in Idaho."
In addition, the EPSCoR grant will continue to strengthen cyber-infrastructure in Idaho as researchers and students share and analyze data gathered during this and resulting projects.
The grant's focus is aligned with Idaho's new five-year strategic research plan for higher education, which identifies important areas where Idaho's universities can work together and take advantage of their complementary research strengths. This statewide community of researchers and education also will contribute to national research priorities.
EPSCoR stimulates research in key areas that allows Idaho to become fully competitive in NSF and other agencies' research programs. EPSCoR is led by a state committee made up of 16 members with diverse professional backgrounds from the public and private sectors and from all regions of the state.
The Idaho NSF EPSCoR office and project director are located at the University of Idaho, and partner institutions are Boise State University and Idaho State University. More information about Idaho NSF EPSCoR can be found at www.idahoepscor.org.