Oregon Health & Science University has received a $19 million National Science Foundation grant to form a new ocean research center for studying coastal margins with a high-tech center in Portland.
The NSF Science and Technology Center for Multi-Scale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes in Boulder, Colorado, is one example of an STC.
In addition to its partnership with OHSU and UW, OSU will work with private industry on the grant, including Intel, which is helping to design the computer-based modeling systems, and Western Environmental Technology Laboratories (WET Labs) in Philomath, Ore., which will provide some of the environmental sensors.
OHSU’s OGI School of Science & Engineering and its partners, including the University of Washington and Oregon State University, are kicking in an extra $5.6 million to the effort, for a total of $24.6 million over the next five years. The NSF grant also is renewable after five years.
“CMOP is a truly unique opportunity for the Pacific Northwest, with many, many facets,” said CMOP director Antonio Baptista, Ph.D., professor and chairman of environmental and biomolecular systems at OHSU’s OGI School of Science & Engineering, where the Science and Technology Center (STC) will be based.
“We will observe, understand and predict ocean processes in exciting new ways, in particular by bringing in leading-edge advances in genomics and proteomics, said Baptista. “With companies as diverse as Intel and WET Labs, we will also explore new information-driven business opportunities”.
The 9th International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition, held August 2-6, 2006, showcased many innovative approaches. The U/Florida’s winning UAV (pdf) dragged a floating buoy with WiFi to provide engineers with real time data while it was submerged. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can relay signals to shore.
Oregon State University, the leader in MODIS chlorophyll fluorescence research, collects data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. Scientists there process the data to create chlorophyll maps along with sea surface temperature.
Fluorescence occurs when plants absorb sunlight and some of that energy is given back off again as red light. Thanks to the work at Oregon State, scientists can now determine what limits the growth of ocean algae, or phytoplankton, and how this affects Earth’s climate.
CMOP will be based at OGI’s campus in Hillsboro for the next five to seven years, after which it will move with the rest of the School of Science & Engineering to OHSU’s Schnitzer Campus located on the north edge of the South Waterfront District.
Mobile technology could make emersive experiences practical. ATI’s Radeon Xpress for Core 2 laptops, for example, can drive a couple of 24″ Dell widescreen panels or HD projectors for classroom interaction.
The backbone of CMOP is SATURN, a river-to-ocean observation network that includes boats, buoys, stationary platforms, autonomous subs, ocean gliders, bottom-crawling vehicles and other exotica.
The SATURN project will continuously collect data, in real time, on everything from water temperature, water speed and salinity to levels of oxygen, organic compounds and plankton, and microbial communities.
“SATURN represents a new wave of sophisticated ocean observation and prediction systems,” Baptista said, “which will give scientists an amazing new window into physical, chemical, biological and ecological processes–just what we need to better understand and predict how our rivers, estuaries and oceans will fare under the influence of evolving climate and anthropogenic pressures”
Education geared toward populations traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering is a major focus of CMOP. The center will offer a variety of outreach programs for K-12, undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students, including science classes, apprenticeships and internships, lab tours, field trips, and science clubs.
It may be modeled on the proposed $250 million NEPTUNE Project, a planned Regional Cabled Observatory for the West Coast. The Canadian (VENUS) and US (MARS) observatory testbeds have already been funded and are now at least partially operational.
The Neptune Project will monitor the seabed off the West Coast for earthquakes and tsunamis. It may use UCSD’s OptIPuter, a switchable fiber optic network that allows huge, high resolution volumetric data sets to be shared, much like a local hard drive.
UCSD’s Laboratory for the Ocean Observatory Knowledge INtegration Grid (LOOKING) will link, via experimental wireless, optical networks, and Grid technology, a series of facilities located off the Pacific coasts of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Perhaps grid research could be enhanced with brainpower at the Open Source Development Lab.
Of course, you could also argue that investing $250M in the Neptune Project to mitigate losses of $100B or more from a 9.0 subduction zone disaster (that WILL come), is just common sense.
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