The Nevada Higher Education System (NSHE) received $20 million over five years to support a comprehensive fire science project with research involving the Desert Research Institute (DRI); University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and the University of Nevada, Reno. The project, Harnessing the Data Revolution for Fire Science, is funded by the National Science Foundation’s established Program to Boost Competitive Research (EPSCoR), whose mission is to improve the research competitiveness of states and jurisdictions. targeted by building STEM capacities and capacities.
The primary goal of the project is to increase Nevada’s capacity for wildfire research, education, and workforce development, and to demonstrate this increased capacity through fire science. enhanced by technology in the regionally significant sagebrush ecosystem.
This system-wide partnership involves the three research institutions, as well as faculty and students from NSHE’s undergraduate institutions. The project calls on researchers to explore potential new areas of economic development for Nevada, with a focus on new workforce development opportunities, diversity, hiring new faculty, and providing more scholarship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields.
The project will inform and improve land and fire management by providing scaling of the effects and impacts of fires from smallest to largest fires in four areas of fire science: ecology; hydrology between fires; fire process; and fire emissions and their atmospheric aging in fires. This will be achieved through strategic investments in expertise, facilities, cyberinfrastructure innovations, education and workforce development.
“This project will generate and leverage large amounts of data from various sensor platforms to accurately model landscapes and forest fires from the plot to the watershed scale,” said Frederick Harris, director of the Nevada National Science Foundation EPSCoR Project and Project Principal Investigator.
The award will enhance Nevada’s capabilities in wildfire science, autonomous unmanned systems, data acquisition, processing, modeling, and rapid deployment, while strengthening the network of collaborators and external stakeholders of Nevada, which already includes major fire and land management agencies in the Great Basin and Western United States.
At the University of Nevada, Reno, the project will involve the following faculty members:
- Scotty Stachan, NSHE System Computing, project co-PI, on cyberinfrastructure
- Erin Hanan, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources on ecohydrology and fire modeling
- Graham Kent, College of Science, on networks and pipelines
- Neil Lareau, College of Science, on fire weather, plume lidar
- Christos Papachristos, College of Engineering, on unmanned autonomous systems and robotics
- Alireza Tavakkoli, College of Engineering, on computer vision and artificial intelligence
- Feng Yan, College of Engineering, on machine learning and optimization
The highly competitive award is one of five 2022 “EPSCoR R11 Track-1” awards, given through the National Science Foundation to create a more adaptive and resilient research infrastructure for the development of next-generation technologies.
NSHE leaders made the following comments about this important award:
“NSF continues to be a vital partner in supporting the essential work of the NSHE EPSCoR,” said Cathy McAdoo, Chair of the NSHE Board of Trustees. “As our region currently faces extreme fire and water challenges, we appreciate this investment in fire science research and workforce development; giving NSHE institutions (DRI, UNLV, UNR) more capacity to address our most pressing environmental issues.
“This marks an important investment for Nevada and the West,” University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval said. “This project supported by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR takes a global and collaborative approach. It will build the capacity of Nevada’s public research institutions to further tackle a problem of the utmost importance and will do so by further deploying technology and cyberinfrastructure, and drawing more on the expertise and capabilities of our researchers and teachers.
“This NSF award funds critical fire science research, which continues to be a priority for Nevada,” said DRI President Kumud Acharya. “DRI has expertise in wildfire research, and we look forward to working with our fellow NSHE institutions on this important project.”
“By joining forces, UNR, DRI and UNLV are poised to unleash the power of cooperation in Nevada when it comes to addressing challenges important to the state and beyond its borders,” said Keith Whitfield, president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. the research will advance our fundamental understanding of wildfires as it strengthens the ability of our campuses to engage with each other and with students and citizens of Nevada to address today’s complex challenges. This is just one example of how research works for Nevada.