National Science Foundation awards major grant to Cary Institute

December 19th, 2011
The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies has received a $1.6 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop an innovative graduate training program. The multi-year project builds on the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), an international, grassroots collaborative of more than 300 scientists, technology experts, engineers, and citizens using environmental monitoring to understand how human actions and extreme weather impact lakes.

The GLEON Graduate Fellows Program will help train the next generation of scientists in the leadership, research, and communication skills needed to preserve and protect freshwater quality in the face of mounting pressure from population growth and climate change.

Dr. Kathleen C. Weathers, a Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute and a co-chair of GLEON, will lead the new Fellowship program. She notes, "We depend on lakes and reservoirs for drinking water, recreation, and other services—yet we are degrading them by activities that result in pollution, watershed development, and the introduction of invasive species. At the same time, these ecosystems are also vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as tropical storms and hurricanes."

GLEON participants employ high-tech monitoring buoys to record real-time conditions in lakes. Their data can help pinpoint human and climate driven problems, as well as assess the effectiveness of existing management practices. Student training will help bring the powerful insights provided by GLEON into broader practice.

Weathers says, "Our experience with GLEON has shown us that scientific advances require not only creative use of technology and new data analysis techniques but, perhaps more importantly, scientists trained to collaborate and to communicate their findings broadly with the scientific community and the public."

Fellows, along with their advisors, will participate in a series of projects that ask and answer large-scale questions focused on lakes. Additional students will engage in shorter-term training, and findings will be communicated through social networking, academic journals, graduate curricula, public engagement, and professional workshops.

NSF Program Officer Dr. Elizabeth Blood comments, "The GLEON Graduate Fellows Program is one of the most innovative training programs developed to date that will enable large-scale, collaborative science. This program will build the analytical, synthesis, and human network skills needed for macrosystem science."

The GLEON Graduate Fellows Program extends the work conducted by scientists at the Cary Institute in tackling critical research needs in air and water pollution. As Cary Institute President William H. Schlesinger comments, "The reach and rigor of the GLEON network is vastly improving our knowledge of how lake ecosystems function. I am pleased that we will be bringing graduate training into an effort focused on improving lake stewardship in the face of an ever growing human population."

Provided by Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

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