The National Science Foundation has awarded a $20 million grant to fund a five-year, multi-institutional project to study climate variability and its potential agricultural, ecological and social impacts in Missouri.
“The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community” project received funding from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a program initiated by the U.S. Congress to support fundamental research; education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and workforce development in areas relevant to the economy.
“This is a unique opportunity to leverage some of our best computational and modeling assets at UMKC, in collaboration with institutions across the state of Missouri, to address pressing challenges from changing climate to food security and environmental sustainability in the Missouri River Basin,” said Jimmy Adegoke, associate professor in the University of Missouri-Kansas City Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. Adegoke, whose expertise is climate change, is one of 33 researchers on the grant.
In all, nine institutions are participating in the project, including all four University of Missouri System campuses — UMKC, University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri University of Science and Technology and University of Missouri-St. Louis — plus the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center, Washington University, Lincoln University, the St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis University.
The project will draw on each institution’s research expertise in plant sciences, atmospheric and environmental sciences, bioinformatics engineering, social sciences and science education outreach. The project is made up of four interdisciplinary teams in the areas of climate, plant biology, community resilience and education/outreach. Adegoke’s role will focus on understanding drivers of extreme rainfall and severe drought periods during the last 100 years in the Missouri River Basin. The goal is to predict precipitation at the times and locations most useful to the Missouri River Basin farming community.
“The collaboration among institutions, as well as scientific disciplines, will help drive the state’s research infrastructure and competitiveness,” said Hank Foley, executive vice president for academic affairs, research and economic development with the UM System. “It also will provide opportunities to move research from the lab to the marketplace and thus spur innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The Missouri Transect will support workforce development in three areas: undergraduate and graduate education; bioinformatics training for women, minorities and people with disabilities; and job training.
“The Missouri Transect provides groundbreaking biotechnology tools for improving crop climate resilience and educating a workforce that understands the effects of climate change on plant adaptation,” said Kelvin Chu, program director at the National Science Foundation.
The National Science Foundation also provided Research Infrastructure Improvement awards to the U.S. Virgin Islands and four other states in addition to Missouri: Kentucky, Maine, North Dakota and South Dakota. NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget was $7 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.