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Undergraduate Research Increasing at UAS Fueled by Two Major Grants

The University of Alaska Southeast Environmental Science program is enhancing climate change research opportunities for undergraduate environmental science students with the help of grants from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NOAA hopes to enhance researchers’ abilities to gather data, advance sensor technology and approve their ability to combine and share data across disciplines, while generating interest for students to work towards careers. Thirty-one percent of the grant is specifically for scholarships and to fund fieldwork for undergraduates.

"It's a very exciting time to be at UAS, for students and faculty," said Assistant UAS Professor of Physics Matt Heavner of the Environmental Science program and principal investigator of the NOAA grant. "Climate change is the defining issue of our generation and this grant gives UAS professors and students an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue. By engaging students on the undergraduate level we have an opportunity to make a difference in our students' lives and potentially on a global scale."

Prof. Heavner is also the principal investigator on the $881,755 NASA SEAMONSTER grant with UAS colleagues Assist. Prof. of Environmental Science Eran Hood and UAS Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Science Cathy Connor. SEAMONSTER stands for Southeast Alaska Monitoring Network for Science, Telecommunications, and Educational Research. When the project is completed it will be capable of instantly transmitting research data as it is collected for analysis at UAS. "There is a lot of crossover on the scope of the grants," said Hood. "We will be able to include many more undergraduate students in the SEAMONSTER project, gaining experience with sensor networks and data management, with the addition of the NOAA grant."

UAS is a partner in the NOAA Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Research and Education Center. That includes California State University Fresno, City University of New York, Fisk University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and University of  Minnesota. The partnering colleges will work towards NOAA's goals:

  • Understanding climate variability and change, serve society's needs for weather and water information.
  • Protecting, restoring, and managing the use of coastal and
    ocean resources.
  • Supporting the nation's commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation.

UAS is committed to undergraduate research. All UAS faculty are challenged to find opportunities for students outside the classroom.  Many programs emphasize field research and internships, which help to produce accomplished graduates who excel in continuing their academic careers or in the workforce. The science and humanities programs take full advantage of Alaska's diverse ecosystems, as both an outdoor science laboratory and artistic inspiration.