Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Three UW professors receive new NSF grant to study water

Dr. Anne Sylvester
Water. It is a necessity for life and it’s a resource that is threatened in the west. Drought, fires, pine beetle infestations, emptying reservoirs, shrinking streams, and vanishing snow pack pose the question: how can we maintain our water supply and continue with our way of life? Wyoming EPSCoR is gearing up to help answer this question.
In July, the National Science Foundation awarded Wyoming EPSCoR with a $20 million dollar grant. NSF offers EPSCoR jurisdictions two types of grants: Track I and Track II. This year, Wyoming EPSCoR is the proud recipient of both a Track I and a Track II grant.
The grant announced in July is a Track I grant. Track I grants last 5 years and focus on improving infrastructure. The goal of the grant is to benefit the entire state, not just the university. So, while the University of Wyoming will receive new equipment among other resources, the state will receive new infrastructure.
Dr. Scott Miller
Collaboration is a key element in the projects supported by the grant. Scientists and researchers at UW will work across disciplines to better understand the relationship between ground and surface water as well as the interaction between water and other natural systems. The three principal investigators (PI) for the grant are Dr. Anne Sylvester, Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. Steve Holbrook.
The three professors are all from different departments at UW. Dr. Sylvester is a professor in microbiology and the director of Wyoming EPSCoR. Her research is primarily focused on plant development, specifically in maize, in order to understand the grass system. Dr. Miller is a professor in Ecosystem Science and Management. His research revolves around watershed hydrology, including research into links between watershed hydrology and landscape. Dr. Holbrook is a professor in Geology and Geophysics. His research is based in seismology. Together, with their combined knowledge and expertise, the professors will work together on research that will benefit the entire state.
Dr. Steve Holbrook
Additionally, UW and Wyoming EPSCoR will collaborate with community colleges around the state and several private companies. As with all of its projects, this grant provides Wyoming EPSCoR with the means for outreach programs, including workshops for high school teachers and student projects. This grant parallels another NSF grant Wyoming EPSCoR received last year in collaboration with three universities in Utah. This Track II grant, called Cyberinfrastructure Water (CI-WATER), is focused on developing computer models to understand water systems better. Over the course of three years, the four universities will work on improving computer modeling, computational resources to better understand our water systems in the west and how they interact with human activities.
Diminishing water resources are a cause for concern, but between the two NSF grants, Wyoming EPSCoR, the University of Wyoming and its collaborative partners active steps are being taken toward increasing understanding of water systems and finding answers to how we can protect them. For more information about the grant, please read UW's press release.

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming

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