A 3-D point cloud from an airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) dataset of the Salmon Falls landslide in Idaho. LiDAR data are available on Idaho LiDAR Consortium: http://www.idaholidar.org/
Photo Credit: Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory, Department of Geosciences, Idaho State University
Researchers from the University of Idaho and partner institutions across the state will study the ways 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 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 the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and many of the state’s two- and four-year higher education institutions. This is Idaho’s seventh consecutive NSF EPSCoR grant, and the largest to date.
“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.”
The interdisciplinary research team will include faculty members in physical and social geography, economics, sociology, ecology, 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 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. The project also will bring together college faculty, undergraduate students, journalists, and high-school teachers and students in place-based research and education at the study areas.
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.
“This grant will help the research universities collaboratively build expertise that is necessary to address some of the problems facing the state of Idaho,” said Jack McIver, University of Idaho vice president for research and economic development. “The successful funding of this proposal reflects both the quality of faculty members at Idaho universities and the ability of the universities to work together to achieve a common good.”
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 by building critical infrastructure 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.