OSU receives grant to expand research in computational sustainability


CORVALLIS, Ore. – With a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Oregon State University are partnering with 11 other universities and organizations to expand computer science research on projects that impact sustainability.

OSU and Cornell University are the lead institutions on this initiative, which includes projects related to conservation, poverty mitigation and renewable energy. The five-year award is a renewal of a previous grant that sparked research at OSU in wildfire management, precision agriculture, and bird migration modeling.

“Not only are there really interesting computational problems related to how we can save the planet, but it’s our duty to study these problems,” said Tom Dietterich, a distinguished professor of computer science in the OSU College of Engineering and a principal investigator on the grant.

The institutions involved in the grant form a large community of computer science experts, called CompSustNet, to serve as a resource for other researchers studying sustainability issues. CompSustNet will be a virtual research lab, including educational, community building, and outreach activities to ensure that advanced computational technology is routinely incorporated into sustainability projects.

The research at OSU includes experiments to maximize energy production of microbial fuel cells; a project that places weather sensors across Africa to form a network that aids small farmers; and modeling species migration to protect the migratory paths of endangered birds.

“OSU has long been a leader in sustainability-related fields such as ecological science and natural resource management,” Dietterich said. “We’re building on that strength and reputation to be a leader in studying the computational sides of those questions.”

College of Engineering

About the OSU College of Engineering: The OSU College of Engineering is among the nation's largest and most productive engineering programs. Since 1999, the college has more than tripled its research expenditures to $37.2 million by emphasizing highly collaborative research that solves global problems. It is a leader in signature research areas, including precision health, clean energy, resilient infrastructure and advanced manufacturing; and targeted strategic areas, including robotics, materials research and clean water.