Five Goals of CGRER
1. Establish a center of excellence in global change that promotes interactions among researchers interested in its effects
CGRER aims to facilitate global change research. To do so, it utilizes diverse mechanisms to bring together faculty and students of different disciplines, outlooks, institutions, and nationalities to share creative ideas. The Center:
- hosts symposia on environmental change
- publishes newsletters and annual reports
- sponsors seminars
- works with visiting scientists and post-doctoral research associates
- joins multi-institutional alliances.
These types of efforts have pulled researchers in new directions and promoted unlikely interdisciplinary alliances. Through CGRER, chemists have worked with atmospheric scientists; climate change researchers have mentored students in public health; and engineers have crafted policy negotiations and worked collaboratively with Iowa’s energy utilities.
These fertile interactions have produced a “center of excellence” whose efforts and influence reach beyond Iowa’s borders. CGRER’s atmospheric modeling research, for example, has generated international awareness of Asia’s impact on global air quality and has sparked new research programs at EPA and NOAA. CGRER’s models are now integrated into multinational studies of weather patterns and air pollutants circulating the globe.
CGRER’s modeling efforts have:
- influenced Asian policy and economic decisions
- broadened to encompass health, development, and ecological questions
- been incorporated into training and application packages for foreign officials.
CGRER has demonstrated its influence by the impact of its members on national and international agendas. CGRER members continue to:
- edit numerous professional journals
- guide committees of the WMO, UNEP, NIH, IGBP, EPA, NSF, the NRC, and other influential bodies
- consult with foreign governments on climate and environmental-change matters.
2. Pursue funding for multidisciplinary projects from federal, state, and private sources
CGRER’s efforts have generated generous research funding for projects blending disciplines and colleges.
CGRER’s Seed Grant program, which through 2008 had awarded $1,644,312 to 92 projects, is intended to jump-start research efforts. Funding, typically between $15,000 and $25,000, is awarded to global-change-related projects that are likely to lead to larger awards from other sources. Successes have been common. For example a 1996 Seed Grant to geologist Greg Ludvigson and colleagues helped initiate studies, now funded by NSF, of hydrological regimes in the Cretaceous "Greenhouse World." These studies are significant in predicting the near-future effects of increasing greenhouse gasses.
3. Attracts highly qualified students who are interested in environmental change; provide personnel for careers in environmental-change science and policy
Students are the major product of any university program. CGRER focuses on attracting and educating students with a flair for reshaping environmental research, policies, and ideas, trusting that they will become the future’s wellspring of global change efforts.
CGRER has funded dozens of research assistants. In addition, CGRER members have mentored hundreds of students. Many of these recipients have gone into professorships and environmental agency careers around the globe.
CGRER-affiliated graduate and undergraduate students enjoy such benefits as:
- office space and use of high-powered computers
- training and assistance in modeling
- access to field facilities and other technical support
- research assistantships, research-travel grants, and crucial stipends for other efforts.
Capitalizing on their CGRER connections, students have applied successfully for competitive fellowships and internships sponsored by NASA, NCAR, UCAR, and IIASA. CGRER students also profit from day-to-day contact with others passionate about sustainability and global change issues. CGRER’s lively mixture of students, visitors, and professors from different disciplines has produced sterling results. Student activities have helped direct the UI curriculum and campus toward sustainability, all while attracting new students and research grants.
4. Acquire state-of-the-science equipment and facilities essential to the conduct of global change research
CGRER was initially envisioned as a “virtual center,” where researchers would come together to manipulate and visualize complex environmental data in computer laboratories. In 1990, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools for doing so were expensive, complex, and out of reach for most departments. CGRER played a seminal role in bringing these tools to the UI, when it established a GIS Computer Laboratory in the Engineering Building.
CGRER’s state-of-the-art GIS Computer Laboratory, technical support services, and training programs have remained integral to the Center. However, GIS programs today can be operated on computers anywhere on campus, and CGRER has continually upgraded to provide other types of computer facilities. For example, CGRER now provides its members and students with access to the high-performance computing required for complex simulations and modeling, as well as mass storage of large data sets.
CGRER has meanwhile offered additional otherwise-unavailable research tools, including mapping-quality GPS equipment and rural field-research stations. CGRER provided the financial and administrative support to establish the Paul H. Nelson Stable Isotope Laboratory in the UI’s Geoscience Department. This in-house facility was crucial to broadening the scope of the paleoclimate research group on campus. In the last few years, CGRER has helped fund two environmental monitoring towers: one for continuously recording wind data, and a second for continuously monitoring greenhouse gases. Both provide data for graduate research efforts.
5. Assist the state and its industries in their activities related to the effects of environmental change
CGRER pledges to use its skills to help Iowa agencies and industries adapt to changing environments. It does so by conducting research in energy production, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and carbon sequestration.
CGRER’s efforts commenced in 1994 with the EPA-funded Iowa Greenhouse Gas Action Plan. CGRER developed options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that were specific to Iowa, and quantified the results for its 16 major recommendations. This effort stimulated several carbon sequestration research projects at ISU and the UI.
These energy projects have brought state awards to both CGRER and the UI. In 2004, with CGRER’s encouragement, the UI joined the Chicago Climate Exchange (for trading greenhouse gas credits) and formed an Energy Conservation Advisory Council. In 2005, the UI became an Energy Star partner and held its first Energy Awareness Month.