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Kent State receives $2.7 million NSF training grant for environmental aquatic resource sensing

Kent State University has been awarded a training grant in the amount of $2,756,719 by the National Science Foundation under its Integrative Graduation Education and Research Training (IGERT) program. This is the first IGERT grant to be awarded to Kent State. The grant, which is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, runs through 2014.

The grant funds an IGERT project that focuses on environment aquatic resource sensing (EARS). The purpose of the program is to train doctoral students in environment sensing to learn how to protect and sense things in aquatic environments. The training provided by this project will prepare graduate students for a variety of future careers relevant to freshwater resources.

"The use of sensing technology allows us to monitor and understand what's going on in our environment," said Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Biological Sciences department and principal investigator of the program. "Humans are dependent on freshwater resources, and there is not much freshwater on the Earth's surface. There are many diverse threats that can impact our aquatic systems, and technology, such as sensors, allows us to ask questions we couldn't ask before."

The EARS project is interdisciplinary and involves Kent State and Miami University. "We want students to collaborate across disciplines to get a real hands-on experience and business experience in terms of technology transfer," Leff said. "The project provides a unique opportunity to bring together people in sciences, business and technology, serving as a catalyst of new partnerships to form not just between the sciences, but also with the colleges of business and technology."

A highly competitive program, Kent State was one of more than 400 pre-proposals that got narrowed down to approximately 100 proposals. Of those, only 25 were funded.

"This grant brings a lot of prestige to the university since it's a highly competitive award, endorsing the quality of our students and our sciences," said James Blank, chair of Kent State's Biological Sciences department. "This is a highly coveted award that will help transform graduate programs."

Currently, three doctoral students from Kent State and three doctoral students from Miami University are participating in the EARS project. The students recently conducted a workshop at Lacawac Sanctuary in Pennsylvania where they tested sensors and collected data. They also will design an education outreach project that they will implement together, using what they are learning to educate students in local schools.

"We hope to stimulate interest in environmental science from school kids and the general public," Leff said.

"It is a real honor to join the ranks of other IGERT recipients and particularly to focus our efforts on issues related to our fresh water resources," said Dr. Timothy Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State. "Through this program, Ph.D. candidates will build upon their knowledge of environmental science by designing sensors and sensor networks that can be used to analyze and manage data more effectively. These sensors will help detect potential pathogens and hazards in our water like never before. The EARS-IGERT research conducted at Kent State University and with our partners at Miami University will feed directly into the goals and objectives of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was also recently signed into law by the federal government."


Contact: Emily Vincent
Kent State University

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