National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics
NCED is an NSF-funded Science and Technology Center (STC) created to catalyze development of an integrated, predictive science to examine processes that shape the Earth’s surface and, specifically, to predict the coupled dynamics and evolution of landscapes and their ecosystems (http://www.nced.umn.edu/). NCED research is organized into three integrated projects: (1) Desktop watersheds seeks to exploit the spatial structure imposed by tributary channel networks, expressed by high-resolution topography, to provide static and dynamic predictions of local physical, geochemical, and ecosystem properties. (2) Subsurface architecture uses information from modern systems, experiments, and stratigraphic records to develop a predictive understanding of delta evolution and apply this understanding to delta restoration. The work will also improve prediction of variations in porosity and permeability that control the flow and accumulation of water, oil, and gas in the subsurface. (3) Stream restoration addresses the scientific basis for this multibillion-dollar activity in the United States through a combination of research and training developed in coordination with agency, industry, and academic partners including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Land Management. The goal is to move restoration practice away from reliance on analogy to an analytical, process-based approach.
Knowledge transfer, education, and diversity are all integrated into NCED’s research programs. Knowledge transfer includes exchange and engagement with the broader research community via workshops, working groups, a visitor’s program, short courses, and postdoctoral researchers. NCED’s education program uses the familiarity and aesthetic appeal of landscapes to engage a broad spectrum of learners in NCED science. The centerpiece of the NCED education program has been collaboration between the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) and NCED’s academic institutions and applied partners. One outcome has been the successful EarthScapes exhibit (http://www.nced.umn.edu/Earthscapes.html) at SMM. A major new traveling exhibit initiative, H2O: Water = Life, developed by SMM and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, along with three STCs, is also helping the public learn about Earth surface processes (http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/water/). The NCED-SMM collaboration led to the NSF-funded Future Earth Initiative (http://www.smm.org/exhibitservices/history/futureEarth/), which will serve as a center for informal education activities on human influence on the environment. NCED’s diversity program addresses the mismatch between the current spectrum of participants in environmental science and the U.S. population overall. Working with Ojibwe tribal elders, NCED has developed environmental camps that use innovative, culturally sensitive programming to excite Ojibwe children about environmental sciences and encourage them to excel in school and pursue science-related careers. NCED also has a vigorous recruiting program for minority participants in its research program, and minority participation increased from 8 percent when the program started to 17 percent in 2008.