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November 6, 2009 - Oklahoma Receives $6 Million Award for Research in Ecological Science

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Thanks to a $6 million EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers from Oklahoma and Kansas will be leading the effort to develop cyberCommons, an information “cafeteria” that will enable individuals to obtain electronic real-time data or forecasts similar to those produced for weather. The grant will be funded over three years, and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will provide a $100,000 match.

The NSF created a new EPSCoR program in 2009 designated as “Research Infrastructure Improvement, Track-2,” which is intended to build cyberinfrastructure to support a specific scientific discipline.

“We are proud that Oklahoma’s research institutions have been so successful when competing for EPSCoR grants,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education remain committed to research as a top priority and this grant will strengthen Oklahoma’s research efforts to broaden participation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

cyberCommons will be useful for business and policy makers and will enable students of many ages to learn from the study. Teachers and students will be able to download data, models and visuals to use in the classroom for learning about ecological processes, predictions, and the use and management of data.

The massive amounts of data available will allow ecologists to predict how changes in weather will alter the amount of carbon used by plants or how much water from leaves will be lost in the atmosphere. Researchers will also be able to see, over longer time intervals, how weather will affect the amount of nitrogen stored in plants and soil or how the diversity of grassland plants will change with drought.

The complexity of the research demands a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Oklahoma, led by University Research Cabinet Chair Paul Risser, in collaboration with researchers from Oklahoma State University, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Researchers on the project include experts on plants, animals, microorganisms, soil, water, nutrients and mathematical modeling

Computer experts will manage large data sets on supercomputers, techniques for mining data sets to reveal patterns in data, statistical models and techniques for visualizing analytical results.

EPSCoR, originally developed by the NSF 28 years ago, is designed to expand research opportunities in states that have traditionally received less funding in federal support for university research. Oklahoma EPSCoR is a partnership among colleges and universities, industry, and research institutions. Its mission is to make Oklahoma researchers more successful in competing for research funding. Specific goals, objectives and strategies are developed for each federal EPSCoR program, based on federal and state needs.