Categorized | Education

National Science Foundation awards $23 million to UH for EPSCoR program


Funding for EPSCoR continues to improve Hawaii’s research infrastructure

uh-systemThe University of Hawai‘i has been awarded two grants totaling $23 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help stimulate the research enterprise in Hawaiʻi and create more educational opportunities for students throughout the state. The awards were made through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a NSF program created to strengthen research and education in science and engineering throughout the United States. Since 2003, UH has secured a number of grants that enhance the ability of Hawai‘i’s research community to compete for additional federal funding for research that continues to help diversify the economy of the state through the employment of technical staff and the spinout of new companies.

“We are grateful to have been very successful in securing these grants,” said UH President M.R.C. Greenwood. “Significant resources have been dedicated to broadening the diversity of the state’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. The overriding goal is to expand Hawaiʻi’s competitiveness in new areas of science and technology research and education and drive innovation at a time when our state desperately needs to broaden its economic foundation.”

“The receipt of such funding from the National Science Foundation helps support our efforts in the development of a much-needed Science and Technology Plan for the state,” said James Gaines, vice president for research. “In addition, investments of this nature ensure a better future for Hawai‘i by advancing opportunities to actively engage our students in scientific research while contributing on a larger scale to the efforts of the scientific community to improve global learning.”

The first grant is a 5-year, $20 million Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) cooperative agreement with UH. This is the third RII received by the Hawaiʻi NSF EPSCoR program and is part of a broader statewide EPSCoR effort to build research capacity, expand STEM education opportunities, and diversify the economy of our state by creating new industries that require a technically literate workforce that can be trained and educated here in Hawai‘i. Participating institutions include the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Kapi‘olani Community College and Chaminade University.

The Hawai‘i RII award is centered on understanding the effects of invasive species, human activities and climate change on the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Hawaiian Islands. A primary objective of the program is to develop a collaborative research network to address the environmental changes occurring throughout the Hawaiian archipelago as a result of these impacts. A second component involves studies that contribute to an understanding of tropical ecosystems world-wide based on local research results. These goals will be accomplished using a wide range of sophisticated sensors across elevations from sea level to the Mauna Kea summit and from Hawai‘i Island to the northwest Hawaiian Islands. The grant also assists with the development of high performance computing models and new 3-D visualization systems to help accomplish the program objectives.

“The development of high performance computing models and new 3-D visualization systems gives us information that can help us make informed decisions regarding public policy and land use that will benefit both the people and environment of Hawai‘i,” stated Gaines. “The innovative data analysis and decision support tools we develop here in Hawai‘i can also be used to address needs in other areas of the world.”

The second grant is a $3 million, 3-year grant supporting a collaborative research project between the University of Hawai‘i and the University of Alaska that will develop the capability of a Pacific Area Climate Monitoring and Analysis Network (PACMAN) to yield a more reliable understanding of the impacts of climate change on fresh water resources.

The PACMAN’s capabilities will include real-time access to satellite data, deployment of sensor systems throughout Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands, integration of data systems drawn from sophisticated web-harvesting capabilities, real-time simulation, and a collaborative framework for visualization and multi-dimensional mapping. The results of this data-intensive research program will be used to develop a framework for assessing societal impacts and will provide accurate information on complex systems to end users.

“The research builds on, supports and integrates many disciplines and the data and visualization capabilities and will be open to researchers and policy makers in Alaska, Hawai‘i and around the world through the Internet,” said Kenneth Kaneshiro, director of the Center for Conservation Research and Training in the Pacific Biosciences Research Center and project director of the grant. “It builds upon a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring and information management system developed through the previous Hawai‘i EPSCoR grants. We are fortunate to be able to expand the use of this system with this award and increase our understanding of the dynamics of integrated climate-water-social systems from local to global scales.”

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