The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced Aug. 7, 2023, an investment of $56 million in 11 projects, spanning a total of 21 institutions in 19 jurisdictions, through NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The University of Nevada, Reno is included in a $6 million award in a three-state collaborative project to address climate change in underserved rural communities.
The project, “Where We Live (W2L): Local and Place Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Underserved Rural Communities,” will advance research, education, workforce development and partnerships among Idaho, South Carolina and Nevada – communities and landscapes each experiencing drought, heat and wildfires. The University of Idaho, leading the project, will receive approximately $2.44 million over four years. The University of Nevada, Reno and University of South Carolina will each receive about $1.77 during that same time span.
"As evident from EPSCoR’s impact, investing in research infrastructure is a powerful catalyst for strengthening our nation's security, competitiveness and fostering groundbreaking scientific advancements," NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. "I'm thrilled to announce this year's EPSCoR Track-2 awards, which will strengthen community and regional efforts to understand the impacts of a changing climate and enhance the resilience of disproportionately affected communities. By addressing these critical challenges, and engaging with communities impacted by climate change, we have the potential to advance innovation and promote economic stability and recovery in EPSCoR jurisdictions and beyond."
Nevada is uniquely situated in a high-desert, arid location where climate change impacts historical water use on tribal lands, irrigated agriculture important to the state’s economy, water quality and wildlife habitat protection.
“The funding from NSF on this highly competitive RII Track-2 grant will provide us resources to interact with and learn from our many underserved, rural communities in Nevada,” Loretta Singletary, the University’s project principal investigator and Extension interdisciplinary outreach liaison in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources and professor of economics in the College of Business, said. “The goal is to enable better adaptation planning and action by exploring how a variety of small changes can enhance climate resilience in these communities that are central to our nation’s sustainability and security.”
This investment is a component of NSF's ongoing effort to build research and development capacity and education in states that demonstrate a commitment to research but have not received the levels of investment seen in other parts of the country.
Under the program, researchers will partner with local, state, tribal and federal organizations in rural communities. These communities constitute nearly 84% of the United States land area and are home to only 14% of the population. These areas serve as critical sources of food, freshwater, wildlife habitat and energy as well as supporting carbon sequestration, education, recreation and tourism.
“The reality of a changing planet is often at odds with perception and adaptation for everything from human health to national security,” Lil Alessa, the research project principal investigator and co-director of the University of Idaho’s Center for Resilient Communities, said. “Dialogues and policy making occurs mostly in urban areas, but rural communities are our make-or-break for adaptation to environmental change.”
This collaborative research project brings together a number of scientists across academic disciplines in all three states to look at differences in climate change impact perception and adaptation across the country, as Idaho, Nevada and South Carolina are experiencing varied types of effects from environmental change – drought, heat and wildfire.
“Understanding the perspectives of rural areas in our three states as they confront these challenges is critical to expanding and accommodating the diversity of resilience experiences seen across the nation,” Susan Cutter, lead of the University of South Carolina team and co-director of the Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute, said.
Nevada faculty on the project include University PI Singletary, Co-PI Elizabeth Koebele, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts; Co-PI Dilek Uz, assistant professor in the Department of Economics in the College of Business and Nevada Experiment Station; and Co-PI Christine Albano, assistant research professor at the Desert Research Institute’s Division of Hydrologic Sciences.
The W2L project will support workforce development and advancement in STEM education by funding early-career faculty, postdoctoral scientists, doctoral students, undergraduate research summer experiences and graduating high school students in summer training experiences to provide meaningful research opportunities. The project is funded by NSF award 2316127. The FY23 funding for the University of Nevada, Reno is $888,482 for a total intended award amount of $1,775,748, which amounts to 100% of the federal share.
To learn more about this project and how to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.