Cybernetwork to help K-State researchers study tallgrass prairie, respond to global warming

September 18, 2009

Research at the Konza Prairie Biological Station and beyond will benefit from a cyber infrastructure grant to connect Kansas State University with other universities in the region.

A group of researchers, led by Paul Risser at the University of Oklahoma, has been awarded $6 million from the National Science Foundation to develop cyber infrastructure that will facilitate ecological forecasting and education efforts. Leading K-State's portion of the project are Walter Dodds, university distinguished professor in the Division of Biology, and Daniel Andresen, associate professor of computing and information science. They are joining a multidisciplinary team from Oklahoma State University and the Universities of Kansas and Oklahoma.

Dodds said development of this infrastructure will benefit K-State faculty and students whose research centers on Konza Prairie, a 3,487 hectare native tallgrass prairie preserve jointly owned by K-State and The Nature Conservancy.

"The main benefit to K-State will be getting Konza wired up so we can stream more data directly from the site in real time and link to similar data from other sites," Dodds said. "It will also increase regional data on distribution of plants and animals. This will benefit any researchers using Konza, whether at K-State or elsewhere."

The project title is "Oklahoma and Kansas: A cyberCommons for Ecological Forecasting." It will link K-State with KU and the Oklahoma universities to integrate computer hardware, sensor networks and computer databases. This integration will stimulate collaboration and integration by allowing researchers to share scientific information like data, models and analytical synthetic efforts.

"Multidisciplinary approaches are essential to forecasting environmental trends, and this proposal will help K-State researchers share ecological data streams and connect with researchers at regional institutions," Dodds said.

The cyberCommons promises to help ecologists researching the tallgrass prairie by filling in gaps in common modeling methods and ecological forecasting.

"The ecological data-sharing will assist management of ecological resources in Kansas and help us respond to issues like global warming, invasive species and emerging diseases," Dodds said.

The Kansas principal investigator for the project is Kristin Bowman-James, project director of the Kansas National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, also known as EPSCoR. The KU collaborators are: Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute; Donald R. McMullen, senior scientist from the office of research and graduate studies; and James Beach, assistant director of informatics at the Biodiversity Center.

Kansas' portion of the award will be administered through the Kansas National Science Foundation's EPSCoR office. The National Science Foundation established EPSCoR in the late 1980s to promote scientific progress in states that previously had been underfunded in the sciences.
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Kansas State University

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