Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC GLACIOLOGY | Award Amount: 205.00K | Year: 2016
Antarctic ice cores offer unparalleled records of earth?s climate back to almost one million years and perhaps beyond. Layers of volcanic ash (tephra) embedded in glacial ice can be used to establish an accurate ice core chronology. In order to use a visible or ultrafine volcanic ash layer as a time-stratigraphic marker, a unique geochemical fingerprint must be established, and this forms the basis of our research. This award will investigate the volcanic record in the 1751 m ice core that was completed at the South Pole during the 2015/16 field season. The core is in an ideal location to link the existing, established, volcanic records in East and West Antarctica, and therefore to connect and integrate those records, allowing the climate records of ice cores to be directly compared, as well as to focus research on the most widespread and significant volcanic eruptions from West Antarctica. Tephra derived from well-dated, large, tropical volcanic eruptions that may have had an impact on climate will also be studied. Recent success in identifying and analyzing very fine ash particles from these types of eruptions makes it likely that we will be able to pinpoint some of these eruptions, which will allow the sulfate peaks associated with these layers to be positively identified and dated. Volcanic forcing time series developed from earlier South Pole ice cores based on preserved sulfate were crucial for testing climate models, but without tephra analysis, the origin of these layers remains uncertain.
Work on the tephra layers in the South Pole ice core has a number of significant specific objectives, some with practical applications to the basic science goals of Antarctic ice coring, and others that represent independent scientific contributions in their own right. These include: (1) providing independently dated time-intervals in the core, particularly for the deepest ice, (2) quantitatively linking tephra records across Antarctica with the goal of allowing direct and robust climate comparisons between these different parts of the continent, (3) providing information for large local eruptions, that will lead to direct estimates of eruption magnitude and dispersal patterns of Antarctic volcanoes, several of which will likely erupt again. The initial stages of the work will be carried out by identifying silicate-bearing horizons in the ice core, using several methods. Once found, silicate particles will be imaged so that morphological characteristics of the particles can be used to identify volcanic origin. Particles identified as tephra will then be chemically analyzed using electron microprobe and laser ablation ICP-MS. Samples that yield a robust chemical fingerprint will be statistically correlated to known eruptions, and this will be used to address the goals described above. Broader impacts of this project fall into the areas of education of future generation of researchers, outreach and international cooperation. These activities will continue to promote forward progress in integrating the Antarctic tephra record and more broadly tying it to the global volcanic record.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 1.95M | Year: 2016
This Noyce Teaching Fellows project will provide teacher certification for 22 recent STEM degree recipients and STEM professionals. The project will implement and test a model for recruitment, preparation, and support for new mathematics and science teachers in high-needs, rural districts and create a strong community of new and experienced teachers. In their first two years, fellows will receive individual mentoring and classroom coaching along with community-based professional development opportunities. In the last two years of the fellowship, they will begin to develop leadership skills by working with teachers in their schools and assisting in pre-service teacher preparation. A unique feature of the project is the opportunity that fellows will have to observe university faculty and then advise them on teaching strategies through the NSF-supported University Course Observation Program. This partnership between the University of Maine and school districts across that state, was established through a Noyce capacity Building award.
This project will address the mathematics and science teacher crisis faced by remote, high-needs schools in the state of Maine by training and developing new teachers through a rigorous course of study and extending some of the project activities to include mentors and content area coaches, chosen among teacher-leaders who have been recognized for their expertise. Throughout the project mentor teachers from high-needs schools will collaborate with, advise, and support the fellows. The coaches will partner with the fellows to develop strategies for teaching in the discipline and deliver professional development workshops to propagate exemplary instructional practices across the state. By the end of the induction period, the teaching fellows will have the training and experience to take on the roles of mentors and coaches themselves. Formative and summative evaluation will focus on interviews that will examine the fellows perceptions and experiences related to their engagement with teacher-leaders and their development as such. Findings from this work will be presented broadly at conferences of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, American Educational Research Association, and the National Association of Rural Education. Manuscripts will be prepared for the Journal of Chemical Education, the Journal of Science Education and Technology, CBE-Life Science Education and other STEM education publications.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 2.00M | Year: 2016
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing and studying an educational intervention for rural youth to engage with computer science and math concepts through a popular videogame. This project uses the software environment Minecraft, which has already attracted over 100 million users, as a platform for teaching middle schoolers about math and computing concepts. Curriculum and assessment badges will be developed to motivate and teach youth. Research will study how implementing the curriculum in in-school settings, and in afterschool settings through 4-H, influences youngsters knowledge of math and programming, their attitudes and inclination to STEM careers, and their standardized test scores.
This project proposes to use LearnToMod for Minecraft to engage rural middle school learners (5th to 8th grades) in programming, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving skills. LearnToMod will be piloted with approximately 80 4-H Extension participants and 80 in-school participants, and then a larger implementation will be launched to involve a total of approximately 1000 students in urban and rural areas through five more iterations of curricular refinement. Outcomes will be examined using case studies, participation logs, teacher and student surveys, the badges and embedded assessments developed by the project, and standardized test data from the Maine Department of Educations State Longitudinal Data System. The project will use multi-level mixture modeling to identify specific school characteristics that are associated with different usage and engagement patterns by both students and teachers. Similar analyses will use school-level variables and characteristics, such as poverty, access to resources, existing STEM programs/activities, etc., as predictors of implementation and change in reported teacher attitudes and behavior, such as incorporation of computer science into STEM areas. These analyses will focus on the cross-level interaction/moderator relationships between behaviors of participating students and teachers and school-level characteristics or demographics (e.g., what types of computer programming activities or skills are associated with the greatest change specifically in low-versus-high income schools?).The partnership consists of education and computer science researchers at the University of Maine, the nonprofit ThoughtSTEM, UMaine Cooperative Extension (4-H), the Network Maine state cyberinfrastructure project and the Maine Department of Educations Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), plus K-12 partners. K-12 partners include the Western Foothills Regional School Unit, Eastern Maine AOS, Bangor School Department, Southern Maine SAD Cumberland and North Yarmouth, and the Maine Virtual Academy. Formal evaluation will be conducted by TERC, an independent research organization.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 207.42K | Year: 2016
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents, first discovered in 1977, are exemplary ecosystems where microbial chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis is the primary source of organic carbon. Chemosynthetic microorganisms use the energy generated by oxidizing reduced inorganic chemicals contained in the vent fluids, like hydrogen sulfide or hydrogen gas, to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into cell material. By doing so, they effectively transfer the energy from a geothermal source to higher trophic levels, in the process supporting the unique and fascinating ecosystems that are characterized by high productivity - oases in the otherwise barren deep ocean landscape. While the general view of the functioning of these ecosystems is established, there are still major gaps in our understanding of the microbiology and biogeochemistry of these systems. Particularly lacking are studies measuring rates of microbial activity in situ, which is ultimately needed to understand production of these ecosystems and to assess their impact on global biogeochemical cycles. This project makes use of the Vent-Submersible Incubation Device (Vent-SID), a robotic micro-laboratory that was recently developed and tested in the field. This instrument makes it possible for the first time to determine rates of carbon fixation at both in situ pressures and temperatures, revolutionizing the way we conduct microbial biogeochemical investigations at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. This is an interdisciplinary and collaborative effort between two US and foreign institutions, creating unique opportunities for networking and to foster international collaborations. This will also benefit two graduate students working in the project, who will get exposed to a wide range of instrumentation and scientific fields, facilitating their interdisciplinary education. In collaboration with Dr. Nitzan Resnick, academic dean of The Sage School, an elementary school outreach program will be developed and a long-term partnership with the school established. Further, a cruise blog site to disseminate the research to schools and the broader public will be set up. The results will be the topic of media coverage as well as be integrated into coursework and webpages existing either in the PIs labs or at the institution.
This project is using a recently developed robotic micro-laboratory, the Vent-SID, to measure rates of chemoautotrophic production and to determine the relative importance of oxygen and nitrate in driving chemosynthesis at deep-sea hydrothermal vents at in situ pressures and temperatures and to tackle the following currently unresolved science objectives: 1) obtain in situ rates of chemoautotrophic carbon fixation, 2) obtain in situ nitrate reduction rate measurements, and 3) directly correlate the measurement of these processes with the expression of key genes involved in carbon and energy metabolism. Although recent data suggests that nitrate reduction either to N2 (denitrification) or to NH4+ (dissimilatory reduction of nitrate to ammonium) might be responsible for a significant fraction of chemoautotrophic production, NO3-reduction rates have never been measured in situ at hydrothermal vents. The researchers hypothesize that chemoautrophic growth is strongly coupled to nitrate respiration in vent microbial communities. During a cruise that will take place approximately 12 months into the project (~Feb 2017), the researchers will carry out a total of 4 deployments of the Vent-SID as well as ancillary sampling collection at the 9°46N to 9°53N segment of the East Pacific Rise. They will focus efforts on two diffuse-flow vent sites, Crab Spa and Teddy Bear. Crab Spa is a diffuse flow vent site (T: 25°C) that has been used as a model system to gain insights into chemoautotrophic processes and has been frequently sampled over the last several years. This vent site has been very well characterized, both geochemically and microbiologically, providing excellent background data for the proposed process oriented studies. Teddy Bear is a diffuse-flow site that was discovered in Jan 2014, and it has a lower temperature (T: 12°C), making it a good comparative site. The researchers will perform a number of short duration time-course incubations to assess the role of different environmental parameters that have been identified as likely key variables (e.g., O2, temperature, NO3-), and to link these process rate measurements to the expression of functional genes using metatranscriptomic analyses. This study will be the first attempt to measure critical metabolic processes of hydrothermal vent microbial assemblages under critical in situ conditions and to assess the quantitative importance of electron donor and acceptor pathways in situ. In the future, it is envisioned that the Vent-SID will become a routine application by the oceanographic community for measuring time series rates of relevant metabolic processes at hydrothermal vents under in situ pressures and vent fluid temperatures.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOFTWARE & HARDWARE FOUNDATION | Award Amount: 213.57K | Year: 2016
Emerging nonvolatile memory (NVM) technologies, such as PCM, STT-RAM, and memristors, provide not only byte-addressability, low-latency reads and writes comparable to DRAM, but also persistent writes and potentially large storage capacity like an SSD. These advantages make NVM likely to be next-generation fast persistent storage for massive data, referred to as in-memory storage. Yet, NVM-based storage has two challenges: (1) Memory cells have limited write endurance (i.e., the total number of program/erase cycles per cell); (2) NVM has to remain in a consistent state in the event of a system crash or power loss. The goal of this project is to develop an efficient in-memory storage framework that addresses these two challenges. This project involves undergraduate and graduate students. All software artifacts and tools will be made available to the wider research community. The work has broader industrial and economic impact since it will help improve the reliability of data storage systems for data centers and HPC applications.
This project will take a holistic approach, spanning from low-level architecture design to high-level OS management, to optimize the reliability, performance, and manageability of in-memory storage. The technical approach will involve understanding the implication and impact of the write endurance issue when cutting-edge NVM is adopted into storage systems. The improved understanding will motivate and aid the design of cost-effective methods to improve the life-time of in-memory storage and to achieve efficient and reliable consistence maintenance.