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NASA Awards Earth Science Research Grants to Minority Serving Institutions

As part of its ongoing work to empower and equip investigators from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities, NASA is partnering with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to expand research opportunities in Earth science.

NASA has awarded grants to 15 MSIs for research totaling approximately $7.5 million over five years. The institutions become part of the networks linking measurements across local, regional, and global studies.

NASA will also provide instruments to support surface-based measurement networks in the areas of atmospheric chemistry and physics. These provide unique information about Earth combined with the observations from Earth-observing satellites.

“By partnering with MSIs, we get the opportunity to engage students and faculty directly in the research and the science teams associated with these networks, but we’ll also gain from having more instruments in the network, which will help us to better understand our satellite observations and how the Earth system works,” said Jack Kaye, associate director for research in NASA’s Earth Science Division.

The selected institutions and their proposed projects are:

Hampton University

Participation in NASA Earth Science Surface-Based Measurement Networks

To develop creative students in the area of atmospheric science and remote sensing, Hampton University (HU) in Virginia proposed to deploy new instrumentation on their campus and by the Chesapeake Bay. The project sought to enhance basic atmospheric research and produce a pool of skilled graduates in the field, especially from underrepresented groups. They noted that instruments including photometers and rain gauges would provide excellent multidisciplinary training and would support research in air quality, precipitation, aerosol and cloud science, and atmospheric transport.

University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Ground Remote Sensing Integration and Training

Drawing on their long history of supporting NASA Earth science research, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) proposed to deploy instrumentation at Hart Miller Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Measuring air quality in the Baltimore-Washington region has been historically challenging due to water-land boundary factors and a lack of measurements available over water. The proposal sought to observe and measure aerosols, gases, and precipitation both on land as well as directly over water. They said measurements would also be critical to developing satellite validation/verification strategies of upcoming missions.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

South and Central Texas MSI-Led Collaboration with AERONET and Pandora Network

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) proposed to install and operate spectrometer systems and photometers on campus and at St. Edward’s University (SEU) in Austin, Texas. Their objectives included: supporting the validation and verification of more than a dozen low-Earth orbit and geostationary sensors; providing underrepresented students and communities the opportunity to be exposed to state-of-the-art instrumentation; engaging diverse groups of young STEM investigators, and generating additional data for ongoing research projects and air quality action plans.

Xavier University of Louisiana

Surface-Based Measurement Initiative for Environmental/Air Quality Monitoring

To leverage and enhance their existing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and outreach capabilities, Xavier University of Louisiana (XULU) proposed a surface-based measurement initiative focusing on environmental/air quality monitoring. The proposal sought to expand participation in NASA’s surface-based measurement networks at the university and in the surrounding community.

Lehman College

Surface-Based Precipitation Measurement Network in the Bronx: Science and Education Opportunities for Diverse and Minority Students

Lehman College, City University of New York, proposed to deploy rain gauge instrumentation in an effort to add practical educational components to existing courses on weather and climate geospatial data integration, hydrology, and environmental science. Their proposal aimed to provide local research experience to the diverse students of Lehman College using NASA data, as well as statistical and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools.

Spelman College

Acquisition of Ground-Based Remote Sensing Measurement Networks for STEM Research and Research Education

Spelman College, a historically Black college for women, proposed to deploy a new spectrometer system and instrumentation to enhance STEM research and education. The instruments would be strategically deployed to expand the capabilities of existing networks in Georgia and significantly enhance research and education capabilities in air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and other fields. They anticipated that numerous scientists, graduate, undergraduate, and high school students would benefit from the proposal, as well as attract more underrepresented students to work and study in STEM fields.

Florida International University

The Pandora Project Miami: Air Pollution in Miami-Dade County

Florida International University (FIU) proposed a project to support interdisciplinary student-led research on natural and anthropogenic drivers of air pollution in Miami-Dade County. Located within the most populous county in Florida, the campus is representative of the coastal peninsula geography. They noted that air pollution in the county is known to reach unhealthy levels as a result of transportation, domestic energy consumption, regional port activity, industry, power generation, and natural sources including wind-blown salt and sand.

University of Texas at San Antonio

An Air Quality Monitoring Station to Expand NASA’s Pandora Network to South Texas

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) proposed to expand NASA’s Pandora global air quality network to South Texas by adding a station in their downtown campus. UTSA, a Hispanic Serving Institution, is located in a rapidly-growing metropolitan region and one of the largest cities in the Unites States. The proposed site was chosen to target pollution from transportation exhaust, one of the main sources of air pollution in the city. The observations would be incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses on atmospheric science, climate change, urban planning, and remote sensing.

Texas Tech University

Synergetic Surface-Based and Satellite-Borne Measurements of Arid-Region Aerosol and Precipitation (S3-MAAP)

Building upon existing ground-based remote sensing facilities, Texas Tech University (TTU) proposed a project to enhance engagement between their underrepresented student body and NASA’s surface-based observation network. Their proposal aimed to engage and train undergraduate and graduate students in hands-on research, help them gain experience in acquiring and analyzing data sets, publish research results, and communicate the societal impacts of research. They noted that research using combined aerosol, precipitation, and meteorological measurements have important societal impacts, including people’s weather-awareness related to poor air quality conditions and extreme rainfall events.

Whittier College

Installation of Pandora and AERONET Sites

To increase student participation in Earth science research and remote sensing, Whittier College proposed instrumentation for sites on their campus, which is located southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Research enabled by the new instrumentation would provide new insights into pollution and expand research opportunities in Earth science for undergraduate students at Whittier College, a Hispanic Serving Institution. The instrumentation would be integrated into the educational mission of the college through laboratory experiences in upper division analytical and environmental chemistry courses.

North Park University

Installation of an AERONET Sensor to Increase Minority Engagement in STEM

To increase engagement and recruitment of minority students in STEM fields, North Park University proposed to deploy new instruments on their Chicago campus. The proposal sought to enhance undergraduate curricula by incorporating the instrumentation, data-analysis, and results into a variety of STEM courses ranging from foundational classes to capstone and research-focused classes. They noted that aerosols in the atmosphere are especially important in urban environments like Chicago, which have a high density of vehicles and industry.

Prairie View A&M University

Characterizing Precipitation Distribution Using In Situ and Satellite Measurements Over the Agricultural Watershed

Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) in Texas proposed to install rain gauge instrumentation on their research farm site. The instrument would be used for evaluation and calibration of precipitation data as well as for hydrological model simulation and other water- and climate-related applications. The project sought to involve students in field measurements, data pre-processing, and application of the data for climate, hydrology, and watershed management-related research.

University of Arizona

EXCITE: Expanding Reach of NASA Earth Sciences Research at a Hispanic Serving Institution in Southern Arizona

Building on existing capabilities, the University of Arizona proposed to integrate instruments from three NASA Earth science networks in Tucson, Arizona, home to one of the largest Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the United States. They noted the new instrumentation could help provide a comprehensive view of the region and that the Tucson basin and surrounding areas provide numerous monitoring sites for atmospheric variables that could strengthen the utility of the data.

Stanislaus State University

Increasing Diversity in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with Courses, Outreach, and Research Programs (IDEAS-CORP) with NASA Instrumentation

California State University Stanislaus (CSU Stanislaus), a minority serving institution located in the Central Valley of California, proposed to host two NASA surface-based instruments. The proposal sought to engage students in atmospheric science as well as improve and expand courses offered in Earth and physical sciences related to the environment. It also aimed to expose the local community of the Central Valley to NASA Earth science through outreach events and collaborations with community colleges.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Validation of Rain Drop Size Distribution in Tropical and Subtropical Rain Systems at the Northwest Coast of the Gulf of Mexico

The main objective of a proposal from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) involved new instruments for studying various rain systems at the northwest coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Through its proposal, TAMUCC, a Hispanic Serving Institution, sought to engage and inspire minority and underrepresented students in field experiments and scientific exploration, as well as enhance STEM programs offered at the university. They planned to create internships to involve undergraduate students in the field, collecting and analyzing data to understand the cloud and precipitation process in the region. They noted that such hands-on experiences would be invaluable for students and support program retention.