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Environment

NSF grant launches renewed vision for research and training to advance Earth-surface research

July 12, 2013

The University of Minnesota announced today that it has received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further the understanding of Earth-surface environments.

This funding builds upon the 10-year success of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), an NSF Science and Technology Center headquartered at the College of Science and Engineering’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL). As the first national center established to study landscape-ecosystem interactions across Earth-surface environments, NCED’s legacy of research, education and outreach has produced a network of leaders whose work advances science and informs management and restoration of watersheds, rivers and streams, deltas and other critical regions on the landscape.

"I am especially pleased that NCED2 includes major funding for expanding the ‘extended family’ model for mentoring postdoctoral researchers that we developed in NCED," said Chris Paola, director of NCED2 and University of Minnesota professor of Earth sciences. "This funding represents an important commitment on the part of NSF to supporting large-scale, collaborative, Earth-surface science."

Over the last 10 years, NCED developed an extensive collaborative network that reaches across borders and cultures and includes researchers, institutions, field sites and experimental facilities. This NSF award continues the NCED legacy of collaborative and interdisciplinary research and training under a new format highlighted by themed research on critical issues facing Earth-surface environments.

Each theme, broadly encompassing the concept of "past and future Earth," will further efforts to predict landscape-water-ecosystem interactions. Combining observations of modern and past surface systems, as well as field and laboratory experiments and theory, the themed research agenda will catalyze advances in predictive understanding of natural and human-induced changes in the landscape over time.

Also developed around the annually selected themes, focused programs of the renewed center will include researcher workshops, post-doctoral research and young researcher mentoring opportunities, visitor programs for a range of groups—from undergraduate students to faculty members, informal education and Native American community partnerships. The newly renovated facilities at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory will provide unique virtual collaboration opportunities for the network of researchers, allowing, among other things, remote participation in real-time experiments.

"Essentially, this funding allows us to establish an international community of current and future leaders in Earth science research," said Vaughan Voller, NCED2 co-director and professor of civil engineering.

Led by Chris Paola (Earth sciences), and co-directors Efi Foufoula-Georgiou (civil engineering) and Vaughan Voller (civil engineering), NCED2 will be guided by an advisory board of experts from institutions and research facilities across the globe.

"The legacy of NCED lives on", said NCED director Efi Foufoula-Georgiou.  "As NCED officially ends this year as a Science and Technology Center, NCED2 is a testament to the outstanding work of NCED over the past ten years in all aspects of a center: research, education, diversity and public outreach."

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