CORVALLIS - Oregon State University scientists have received two major awards totaling $2.9 million from the National Science Foundation for oceanographic and computer research.
The studies will create new computer systems that can organize information about the complex world of oceans, currents, subsea terrain and the atmosphere, and help users answer questions about natural hazard management, fisheries, climate, weather forecasting and other topics.
One project will create an "Oregon Coastal Atlas" and make information about the nation's coastal oceans more available, organized and useful. The second will create advanced software that combines ocean observations and mathematical models, allowing mapping of ocean properties, testing of models and design of new ocean observing strategies.
"We want to enable the public, research scientists and coastal decision-makers at all government levels to more easily find and use relevant, timely information about our oceans and atmosphere," said Dawn Wright, a professor of geosciences at OSU, expert in the evolving science of geographic information systems and recipient of a three-year grant for $498,000.
"Text, video, graphics, data, computer models and other information will all be compiled along with the tools to use and understand the information," Wright said. "Much of this will be accessible on the Internet, user training will be available, and the systems can be updated as new data becomes available."
The initial work will focus on the Oregon coast, to help experts address such issues as beach erosion, salmon restoration, protection of marine fisheries, and forecasting of ocean and atmospheric conditions. Eventually, these new types of geographic information systems should form a working model for technology useful on all of the nation's coastal areas and the many different issues they face.
The second grant, for $2.4 million over five years, is to Andrew Bennett, an OSU professor of oceanography. His research team includes 14 physical oceanographers, civil engineers and computer scientists from private industry, six universities and a national laboratory, who collectively have also received grants totaling another $2.4 million over the five years.
The OSU scientists will develop modular software and apply it to the equatorial Pacific Ocean, to the Oregon coast and to the Earth's crust; the other researchers will apply it to the Gulf of Maine, the Mid-Atlantic Bight, the North Atlantic and elsewhere.
Other work will include training in use of the advanced software system, development of visualization tools and a web site, and summer schools and workshops to be held at OSU.