$2 million NFS grant allows ECSU to study polar ice changes

Kesha Williams
May 20, 2005The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its plans to establish a new Science and Technology Center (STC) that will study the role of polar ice sheets in global climate change and the role of melting polar ice to a rise in sea level. Elizabeth City State University's Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research (CERSER) headed by Dr. Linda Hayden is one of six universities collaborating with the University of Kansas, the lead institution, to complete that research. With a $26 million grant from the National Science Foundation distributed over five years, researchers will determine how melting polar ice sheets will affect sea level and the millions of people living along coastal areas. ECSU (CERSER), which is located on North Carolina's coast, will receive approximately $2 million for its role in the research. The science center is a partnership with several institutions including Ohio State and Penn State universities, the University of Maine, and several minority serving institutions including Haskell Indian Nations University and Elizabeth City State University (North Carolina). By using remote sensing laboratories, the researchers will measure ice thickness, map changes, and analyze and distribute data to predict future changes. The data will also be used to inspire students to pursue science careers and to educate current and future policymakers. Science and technology centers serve as critical national resources that partner teams of researchers who take on innovative scientific projects that are interdisciplinary in nature and involve pools of expertise at multiple institutions. The centers consist of a lead institution and multiple partners that may include other academic institutions, industry or national laboratories. The projects not only involve groundbreaking research, they also build into their work broad educational activities for students at various levels. Institutions partnering in the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) will develop models and technology to achieve a better understanding of the mass balance of polar ice sheets and its impact on the rising sea level glaciologists have observed in recent years. According to the proposal, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the mass balance of ice sheets is one of the largest unknown factors in the rapid change in sea level. The center, therefore, will bring in scientists and engineers from several institutions to design and create new ways to measure ice sheets as well as models to predict ice-sheet dynamics. CReSIS researchers will seek new innovations in sensors, platforms and cyberinfrastructure. Scientists and engineers will work together on new analytical models and algorithms to interpret data gathered from satellite, airborne and ground-based sources to improve the understanding of glacial dynamics. The NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987, responding to a presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research activities that also create educational opportunities. The program was designed to encourage technology transfer and provide innovative approaches to interdisciplinary research challenges. In 1997, the STC program was modified to emphasize the contributions of partnerships.