The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) has been awarded $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 through the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), whose mission is to enhance research competitiveness of targeted states and jurisdictions by strengthening STEM capacity and capability.
The overarching goal of the project is to increase the capacity of Nevada for wildland fire research, education and workforce development, and to demonstrate this increased capacity through technology-enhanced fire science in the regionally important sagebrush ecosystem.
This system-wide partnership involves the three research institutions, plus further involves faculty and students from NSHE undergraduate institutions. The project calls for researchers to study potential new areas of economic development for Nevada, emphasizing new opportunities for workforce development, 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 fire effects and impacts from smaller to larger fires in four fire-science areas: ecology; hydrology between fire events; fire processes; and fire emissions and their atmospheric aging during fire events. This will be achieved through strategic investments in expertise, facilities, cyberinfrastructure innovations, and education and workforce development.
“This project will generate and harness large amounts of data from diverse sensor platforms to accurately model landscapes and wildland fires from plot to watershed scales,” said Frederick Harris, Nevada National Science Foundation EPSCoR project director and the project’s principal investigator.
The award will enhance Nevada’s capabilities in wildland fire science, unmanned autonomous systems, data acquisition, processing, modeling and rapid deployment, while strengthening Nevada’s network of external collaborators and stakeholders, who already include the 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 Strachan, NSHE System Computing, project co-PI, on cyberinfrastructure
- Erin Hanan, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources on fire ecohydrology and 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, presented through the National Science Foundation to build out a more adaptive and resilient research infrastructure for next-generation technology development.
NSHE leaders extended the following comments about the significant award:
“NSF continues to serve as an essential partner in supporting the critical work of the NSHE EPSCoR,” said NSHE Board of Regents Chair Cathy McAdoo. “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 solve our most pressing environmental issues."
“This marks an important investment for Nevada and the West,” said University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval. “This National Science Foundation EPSCoR-supported project takes a comprehensive, collaborative approach. It will enhance the capacity of Nevada’s public research institutions to further tackle an issue of utmost importance and will do so by further deploying technology and cyberinfrastructure, and further building on the expertise and capabilities of our researchers and faculty.”
“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 wildland fire 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 reveal the power of cooperation in Nevada when it comes to addressing challenges important to the state and beyond its borders,” said University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Keith Whitfield. “This research will advance our fundamental understanding of wildfires as it strengthens the capacity of our campuses to engage with each other and with Nevada's students and citizens in addressing today’s complex challenges. This is but one example of how research works for Nevada.”