Avondale, PA, United States
Avondale, PA, United States

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GLOBAL CHANGE | Award Amount: 1.53M | Year: 2012

The objective of the project is to develop a comprehensive, integrated data management system for the NSF-funded Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) program, called CZOData. The overall goal for CZOData is to support, empower, and broaden the impact of CZO science and maximize the return on investment of the CZO program by transforming capabilities to easily share, integrate, analyze and preserve the wide range of multi-disciplinary data generated within and across CZOs.

The CZOData design is based on the experience of the collaborative project team in building the current CZOData prototype and on other foundational cyber-infrastructure systems. The principal investigators at the University of Boulder and the Stroud Water Research Center are Earth surface scientists who provided high-level oversight of the CZOData prototype and provide a direct link to the scientific community collecting and using CZO data. Team members at San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) and Utah State University (USU) are primary developers of the Hydrological Information System (HIS) developed by the Consortium for the Advancement of Hydrological Sciences, Inc. (CUAHSI). Team members at Columbia University developed and lead the Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA), Geoinformatics for Geochemistry (GfG), EarthChem and the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR) projects. Team members at the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington developed and maintain the Northwest Association for Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) Visualization System (NVS).

This project combines state-of-the-art computer science and cyber-infrastructure technologies and international metadata standards with a strong effort to engage the science community in the process of developing and testing the CZOData system. This collaborative, community-based approach to developing scientific cyber-infrastructure has been actively encouraged by the NSF-supported EarthCube initiative and thus complements those goals (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/earthcube/). The approach with CZOData is based on integrating site-based data with system capabilities such as consistent data publication, cataloguing, discovery and access infrastructure. These new capabilities will strongly leverage other CI efforts described above. The resulting system will support new CZO research that was not possible before while easing the data management burden on CZO scientists.

The vision is that the proposed CZOData will serve as a model for the greater Earth surface science community. The CZOData project is a collaborative, community-guided cyber-infrastructure project for integrating multi-disciplinary data and providing interoperability with other systems. Thus, CZOData will inform the development of other large geoinformatics initiatives, such a the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Long-Term Environmental Research (LTER) observatories, DataOne, OpenTopography, the Implementing Organization of the International Geosample Number (IGSN e.v.), and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Also, by incorporating system research and development with graduate education, we will move towards cultivating a new generation of researchers skilled in both different facets of environmental research and in advanced information management and computing.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FIELD STATIONS | Award Amount: 54.74K | Year: 2015

A significant challenge for independent biological field stations, such as Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC; http://www.stroudcenter.org/), is maintaining advanced facilities equivalent to the unique, innovative work those facilities support. This NSF-funded project allows SWRC to address a crucial aspect of maintaining this high level of support through a comprehensive upgrade of its network infrastructure. The improvements will dramatically increase SWRCs data storage capacity, data backup and recovery equipment, and improve the wireless network system. These upgrades will not only improve the current computing environment, but also allow for future expansion to accommodate additional users and data volume. Many recent projects at SWRC, including NSF-funded projects, reflect a larger commitment to environmental monitoring and data gathering. This generates huge datasets that tax the capacity of SWRCs data and network-computing environment. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed to support these new areas of environmental research is generally not included in externally funded projects. Specific to SWRC, this project will enhance SWRCs decades ­long commitment to maintain data access and quality, while growing SWRCs historic,foundational datasets which are vital to other freshwater research organizations, and inform stream ecology education, environmental public policy and watershed restoration.

This project seeks to transition SWRCs current digital data storage away from an ad hoc and reactive solution to a proactive approach that includes creating a 12 terabyte (TB) Storage Area Network (SAN) array that is easily expandable to 60 TB. The second part of the project is an upgrade of the existing tape backup system (single tape drive, 800 GB individual tape capacity, manual intervention to switch tapes) to a system that has much greater capacity (multiple tape drive; 2.5 TB individual tape capacity) and is automated. The third leg of the project includes an upgrade of the wireless communication network that currently cannot meet increasing user demands. This upgrade involves a new controller that will double the number of wireless access points, will allow for increased connection speeds, and will greatly enhance the ability of both staff and guests to wirelessly connect to internal and/or external networks. The wireless upgrade also includes an outdoor­compatible access point to allow wireless coverage well beyond indoor facilities and into the SWRC experimental watershed. Outdoor wireless connections are critical to support the increasing number of outdoor education and outreach events held at SWRC and the rapidly expanding use of wireless environmental sensor arrays that SWRC is deploying throughout the experimental watershed.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: GEOBIOLOGY & LOW TEMP GEOCHEM | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

Organic molecules dissolved in aquatic ecosystems represent the largest pool of organic matter transported through river networks and one of the most complex mixtures on Earth. The processing of these organic molecules by microorganisms resulting in their conversion to CO2 contributes to the large exchange of CO2 between the aquatic environment and the atmosphere with implications for global climate change. Despite the importance of this phenomenon, as much as 80% of the organic carbon susceptible to microbial metabolism remains unidentified. The goals of this study are to use recent advances in low through-put, ultra-high resolution analytical organic chemistry to identify and characterize the pool of biologically reactive molecules and to extend the ability of commonly used high through-put, low-resolution optical techniques to provide information about the temporal dynamics of these molecules in river networks. The outcomes of this research could advance the understanding of the link between the composition of organic molecules in a river network and the evasion of CO2 to the atmosphere, answering the question of what makes an organic molecule biodegradable. The researchers will work with educators who teach K-12 students in making processes that are invisible to the naked eye accessible and compelling as the educators develop curricula that depict the influence of molecular geochemistry and microbial geobiology to life on Earth.

The researchers hypothesize that: (1) biologically reactive but molecularly uncharacterized humic molecules account for the majority of dissolved organic matter that bacteria respire to CO2; (2) the constituents of colored or fluorescent dissolved organic matter can be associated with groups of individual molecular formulas through the use of advanced statistical analyses, including Spearman Rank and 2-D correlation analyses; and (3) dissolved organic matter molecules that are ubiquitous across distant watersheds span the biological reactivity spectrum, while molecules unique to a watershed are predominantly reactive and readily converted to CO2. The research will be performed in streams within 2 well characterized river basins, one in the temperate forests of Pennsylvania and one in the tropical evergreen forests of Costa Rica. Water samples will be collected under baseflow and storm flow conditions, across stream orders and seasons, and separated into biological reactivity classes using stream water-fed plug flow bioreactors. The samples will be molecularly characterized using Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry as well as UV-visible absorbance and fluorescence spectra with excitation emission matrices. The successful completion of the research should advance the ability to use optical sensors to understand carbon flow through river networks and advance the understanding of the molecular nature of the dissolved organic matter that fuels the evasion of CO2 from streams and rivers to the atmosphere.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GEOBIOLOGY & LOW TEMP GEOCHEM | Award Amount: 1.37M | Year: 2013

The Critical Zone (CZ) science community takes as its charge the effort to integrate theory, models and data from the multitude of disciplines collectively studying processes on the Earths surface. The Critical Zone is Earths permeable near-surface layer - from the atmosphere at the vegetations canopy to the lower boundary of actively circulating groundwaters. The Critical Zone was a term coined by the National Research Councils Basic Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences (BROES) Report (2001) to highlight the imperative for a new approach to thoroughly multi-disciplinary research on the zone of the Earth?s surface that is critical to sustaining terrestrial life on our planet. In January 2013, 103 members of the CZ community met for the CZ-EarthCube Domain Workshop (NSF Award #1252238) to prioritize the CZ communitys key science drivers, key computational and information technology (cyber) challenges and key cyber needs. They identified that the central scientific challenge of the critical zone science community is to develop a grand unifying theory of the critical zone through a theory-model-data fusion approach. Work participants unanimously described that the key missing need of this approach was a future cyberinfrastructure for seamless 4D visual exploration of the integrated knowledge (data, model outputs and interpolations) from all the bio and geoscience disciplines relevant to critical zone structure and function, similar to today?s ability to easily explore historical satellite imagery and photographs of the earths surface using Google Earth. This project takes the first BiG steps toward answering that need.

The overall goal of this project is to co-develop with the CZ science and broader community, including natural resource managers and stakeholders, a web-based integration and visualization environment for joint analysis of cross-scale bio and geoscience processes in the critical zone (BiG CZ), spanning experimental and observational designs. Our Project Objectives are to: (1) Engage the CZ and broader community to co-develop and deploy the BiG CZ software stack; (2) Develop the BiG CZ Portal web application for intuitive, high-performance map-based discovery, visualization, access and publication of data by scientists, resource managers, educators and the general public; (3) Develop the BiG CZ Toolbox to enable cyber-savvy CZ scientists to access BiG CZ Application Programming Interfaces (APIs); and (4) Develop the BiG CZ Central software stack to bridge data systems developed for multiple critical zone domains into a single metadata catalog. The entire BiG CZ Software system will be developed on public repositories as a modular suite of fully open source software projects. It will be built around a new Observations Data Model Version 2.0 (ODM2) that is being developed by members of the BiG CZ project team, with community input, under separate funding (NSF Award #1224638).

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 99.92K | Year: 2012

Critical Zone (CZ) scientists take as their charge the effort to integrate theory, models and data from the multitude of disciplines studying processes on the Earths surface - from the atmosphere at the vegetations canopy to the lower boundary of actively cycling ground waters. As such, critical zone scientists and their data managers are at the front line of efforts to effectively compile and use the dark data in the Long Tail of earth science and integrate that data with the Big Data produced by hydrologists, atmospheric scientists, geospatial modelers and molecular biologists.

The NSF EarthCube initiative recently solicited proposals for domain workshops designed to listen to the needs of the end-user groups that make up the geosciences and to understand better how data-enabled science can help them achieve their scientific goals. The proponents will convene a workshop to bring together critical zone domain scientists with computer scientists active in EarthCube.

This workshop would thus serve two objectives: (1) engage approximately 45 cyber-literate critical zone scientists in the EarthCube process; and (2) inform about 20 of EarthCubes cyberscientists of the diversity needs of CZ science. The overall goal of the workshop would be to develop a set of unifying requirements for the integration of long tail data and big data and to develop an interactive community of domain and cyber scientists to pursue solutions.

There are many examples of how cyber-infrastructure developed for geoscientists have broader impacts to the public. The national weather service data and model forecasts are highlighted on television and other media outlets. Fishermen, rafters and canoeists rely on USGS gauging data for their recreational activities. The Model My Watershed platform is harnessing GIS and hydrological modeling for educational purposes in classrooms and informal settings and also by citizen scientists.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2014

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. It will teach a systems approach to problem solving through hands-on activities based on local data and issues. This will provide an opportunity for students to act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting, and require synthesis of prior learning. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education. It will also integrate new low-cost environmental sensors that allow students to collect and upload their own data and compare them to data visualized on the new MMW v2. This project will transform the ability of teachers throughout the nation to introduce hands-on geospatial analysis activities in the classroom, to explore a wide range of geographic, social, political and environmental concepts and problems beyond the projects specific curricular focus.

The Next Generation Science Standards state that authentic research experiences are necessary to enhance STEM learning. A combination of computational modeling and data collection and analysis will be integrated into this project to address this need. Placing STEM content within a place- and problem-based framework enhances STEM learning. Students, working in groups, will not only design solutions, they will be required to defend them within the application portal through the creation of multimedia products such as videos, articles and web 2.0 presentations. The research plan tests the overall hypothesis that students are much more likely to develop an interest in careers that require systems thinking and/or spatial thinking, such as environmental sciences, if they are provided with problem-based, place-based, hands-on learning experiences using real data, authentic geospatial analysis tools and models, and opportunities to collect their own supporting data. The MMW v2 web app will include a data visualization tool that streams data related to the modeling application. This database will be modified to integrate student data so teachers and students can easily compare their data to data collected by other students and the government and research data. All data will be easily downloadable so that students can increase the use of real data to support the educational exercises. As a complement to the model-based activities, the project partners will design, manufacture, and distribute a low-cost environmental monitoring device, called the Watershed Tracker. This device will allow students to collect real-world data to enhance their understanding of watershed dynamics. Featuring temperature, light, humidity, and soil moisture sensors, the Watershed Tracker will be designed to connect to tablets and smartphones through the audio jack common to all of these devices.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Integrative Ecologi Physiology | Award Amount: 369.68K | Year: 2015

Freshwater ecosystems support a disproportionate percentage of Earths biodiversity and are among the most threatened by human activities and global climate change. Insects dominate fresh-water ecosystems in terms of animal biodiversity and ecological processes. Temperature controls insect growth, developmental timing, survival, and reproduction, which influence both the distributions of individual species and the specific set of species that occur in different freshwater ecosystems. Thus, many effects of global change and other anthropogenic activities on freshwater ecosystems will likely be manifested through their thermal effects on aquatic insects. The thermal limits of individual freshwater insect taxa and the underlying physiological mechanisms that determine those limits still remain poorly understood. This research has practical importance because resource agencies use aquatic insects and other invertebrates to make inferences about ecological health and water quality. However, these data are often difficult to interpret, because we have a poor understanding of how and why species are differentially responsive to elevated temperatures. This collaborative project links researchers with a broad range of expertise to understand how temperature affects organismal physiology, life-history outcomes, and ultimately the distribution of species across entire landscapes.

The research team will experimentally manipulate thermal regimes to quantify the effects of temperature on life-history outcomes (survival, growth rates, development times, size and fecundity) of a diversity of mayfly (Ephemeroptera) species. Laboratory experiments will identify how the specific physiological processes that affect life-history outcomes (respiration, energy allocation, the production of metabolites, and gene expression) respond to different temperatures. These laboratory studies will be used to refine ecological niche models (empirically derived relationships between environmental temperatures and species distributions in time and space) that are used in freshwater biodiversity assessment and monitoring. In particular, these studies will clarify which descriptors of environmental temperatures (e.g. mean annual temperature, mean summer temperature, the magnitude of diel thermal change, etc.) are most important to species performance. Ultimately, these studies are intended to provide a robust understanding of the linkages between thermal physiology, life-history variation, and species distributions. Robust outreach efforts will make this understanding useful to the large ecological monitoring community.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 51.29K | Year: 2016

Many of the worlds environmental problems are exacerbated by changes in both biological and physical conditions that jointly influence sediment erosion. In freshwater habitats, major progress toward clearly linking biology and geomorphology to address environmental problems includes incorporating the role of the many small animals that live in streams into our understanding of erosion. This research project investigates how bottom-dwelling invertebrates in streams influence flood disturbance by regulating the stability of the riverbed. Sediment erosion is a critical variable in freshwater ecosystems because it influences freshwater biodiversity, insect and fish egg survival, changes the composition and activity of algae, and alters carbon and nutrient cycling. An understanding of sediment erosion that includes the impacts of bottom-dwelling animals will address a range of practical problems relevant to society, including informing models to predict erosion in landscapes altered by land use, predicting the impacts of floods that are being altered worldwide as a result of changes to water levels caused by climate warming and diversion for agriculture, and protecting and restoring habitat for threatened freshwater organisms such as fish. This project will provide research opportunities for one PhD student, two Master students, and four undergraduate students, develop workshops to teach concepts related to bottom-dwelling invertebrate influences on sediment erosion to high school teachers, and produce outreach videos documenting sediment erosion.

To investigate how animals in streams influence physical resistance to flood disturbance with consequences for aquatic benthic communities and ecosystem processes, the researchers will study common aquatic ecosystem engineers, web-spinning hydropsychid caddisfly larvae (Trichoptera:Hydropsychidae). These aquatic insects build silk structures that can bind riverbed sediment together, increase the force required to move sediments, and reduce bedload flux. The researchers will quantify sediment stabilization effects by caddisfly larvae from grain to landscape scales. They will also document how changes in sediment disturbance due to caddisfly silk structures influence ecosystem productivity, nutrient cycling, and the recovery of benthic communities following floods. The researchers will use a combination of controlled laboratory experiments, caddisfly density manipulations in natural streams, field surveys, and sediment transport models to identify how caddisfly ecosystem engineering affects sediment transport regimes across landscapes. Together, the series of studies will quantify how much these abundant ecosystem engineers can regulate erosional processes in streams.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 841.80K | Year: 2011

Organic carbon, in the form of dissolved molecules transported in stream water, is processed for energy by microorganisms that live on the streambed. That processing constitutes a critical link in the global carbon cycle. The sources of much of the stream carbon are the upper layer of soils within small watersheds and algae that live in streams. Looking out over a drainage network, the investigators will explore how the quality of the organic molecules changes with distance downstream and how those changes influence the composition of the communities of streambed microbes using that food resource. To characterize the thousands of individual organic molecules dissolved in stream water and the vast diversity of microorganisms living in streams, the research team will exploit novel methods that link the new frontiers in molecular microbiology and analytical organic geochemistry. This proposal will be carried out in waters that range in size from small streams to small rivers within temperate and tropical forests. The research goals include advancing knowledge of stream ecosystems across drainage networks and forging a broad model of stream ecosystems in the global carbon cycle.

Understanding the global carbon cycle is a critical scientific need of society and recent studies suggest that freshwater streams and rivers play a significant role within it. By better understanding the relationships between stream microorganisms and the organic carbon in freshwater streams, this study will contribute to our overall understanding of a key component of the global carbon cycle. Because microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye, getting students excited about the diversity of microorganisms and organic molecules and the complexity of their ecological interactions is difficult. The research team will develop educational materials that depict the basic concepts in microbiology and organic geochemistry with an emphasis on the vital roles that microorganisms play in aquatic ecosystems. At facilities within each of the study catchments the investigators and their educator colleagues will hold two-day summer teacher workshops to expose secondary school teacher to the microbial world of streams. The workshops will be timed to allow participants to mirror the field and laboratory activities of the scientists. In addition, 1 graduate student, 1 post-doctoral scientist, and 7 undergraduates will receive training during the project.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 256.15K | Year: 2013

Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) are natural laboratories for investigating Earth surface processes mediated by fresh water in the zone extending from the top of the vegetation canopy to the base of groundwater, i.e. the Critical Zone. This award supports the participation of undergraduate students and teachers in research at two Critical Zone Observatories, the Susquehanna-Shale Hills Observatory (SSHO) in central Pennsylvania and the Christina River Basin (CRB) CZO in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Pennsylvania State University is the lead institution of the SSHO and would collaborate with the Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC), a partner in the CRB CZO. The collaborative project will fund a total of 12 undergraduate students and 4 teachers at these sites per year, providing research experiences for undergraduates primarily interested in Earth Science careers and K-12 teachers who want to increase their content knowledge and resources for the classroom. At the CRB, participants will be involved in research investigating aspects of the impact of three centuries of human habitation on the carbon and water cycles. At the SSHO, participants will be involved in research to quantitatively predict the creation, evolution and structure of regolith as a function of the geochemical, hydrologic, biologic, and geomorphological processes operating in the temperate, forested landscape. After the summer experience, participants will prepare and give presentations at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. CZOs offer a unique opportunity for training undergraduate students and teachers via research experiences because of the broad array of environmental landscapes represented by the observatories and the interdisciplinary science achieved through the observatory framework.

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