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UH Awarded $20M to Support Climate Resilience

May 22, 2022, 12:00 PM HST
* Updated May 22, 11:14 AM
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Professor Mahdi Belcaid with data science fellow alumna Jaclyn Lee. (Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

The University of Hawaiʻi was awarded a grant to fund research and capacity building in support of actionable climate science as part of a statewide collaboration.

The National Science Foundation granted $20 million throughout five years to the UH Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research for initiatives through Change HI, a collaborative program that includes multiple partners taking on the challenges of climate impacts throughout the islands.

A collaborative research and education lab used to support data science at UH-Hilo.

“Hawaiʻi faces unique challenges as climate change impacts resource availability, ecological sustainability, economic vitality and human health in the islands,” a press release from UH said.

To help face the critical issues brought on by climate change, Change HI will use a multidisciplinary research effort and integrate expertise in climate and data science to enhance fundamental knowledge and develop new climate models, data products and tools. The collaboration aims to advance education and workforce readiness in these areas and help build a new data-driven knowledge economy in the state, targeting the growth of computer and data science that can be applied in critical areas.

“Change HI represents an amazing opportunity for us to advance even further one of our globally distinctive strengths, climate change and resilience,” UH President David Lassner said in the release. “At the same time we will continue to build fundamental capacity in Hawaiʻi in data science, which is increasingly vital across the full spectrum of inquiry and activity in academia, business and government.”

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Change HI research comprises eight data and climate science-focused projects. The team of researchers will work in areas of climate downscaling, numerical modeling sensitivity studies, functional trait analysis, carbon sequestration, cloud water interception and soil moisture characterization.

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Participating organizations include UH-Mānoa, UH-Hilo, Chaminade University, Island of Opportunity Pacific Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Hawaiʻi IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence, UH LGBTQ+ Center, UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization, Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership, Hawaiʻi State Energy Office and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.

Climate station located at Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu.

“This exciting project brings together an outstanding team of scientists and educators and has enormous potential to address two critical challenges for our state — preparing for the impacts of climate change and building a resilient data driven economy,” Information Technology Services Director of Cyberinfrastructure and principal investigator Gwen Jacobs said in the press release.

Change HI also will build research capacity through new data science faculty hires, developing and creating access to climate data and products and building immersive data analytics environments to aid in decision-making. The collaboration will support data science education and workforce development through a variety of programs as well, including graduate fellowships, summer undergraduate research experiences, internships and data science training and certification.

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“Change HI will deliver human and program infrastructure that supports critical education and workforce development initiatives to ensure Hawaiʻi has the highly skilled, data-ready workforce that will power our future economy,” Garret Yoshimi, Information Technology Services vice president and chief information officer, said in the release. “Broad-based training efforts under Change HI will also help to ensure opportunities for everyone in our community to strengthen our support for equity and inclusion in our (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-powered future workforce.”

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