The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports 30 multi-user facilities that provide infrastructure for EAR-supported research communities. The larger facilities support researchers with a combination of instruments, cyberinfrastructure, and expertise/training, while most other facilities emphasize either instrument-based infrastructure or cyberinfrastructure.
Budget amounts were determined based on the total amounts awarded to date (as of February 2019; information provided by EAR), divided by the number of years for which funds have been awarded. In some cases, these values differ somewhat from the average amounts awarded for the entire award period. If principal investigators provided updated award amounts, these were used instead. Most of the facilities described above are supported primarily by EAR. Some facilities also receive funding from other NSF divisions or directorates—these funds are included as additional support.
Following sections are divided into multi-user facilities that provide instrumentation and those that provide cyberinfrastructure.
The Instrumentation and Facilities Program supports 20 multi-user facilities that develop and provide community access to instrumentation. The annual average of funding for these facilities is $41.6 million per year.
Seismology and Geodesy
Seismological Facilities for the Advancement of Geoscience (SAGE)
SAGE provides instrumentation services, data services, as well as education, workforce development, and community engagement activities in support of seismology. It is operated by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Consortium, which consists of more than 100 U.S. universities dedicated to the operation of science facilities for the acquisition, management, and distribution of seismological data. The mission of the IRIS Consortium is to:
- Facilitate investigations of seismic sources and Earth properties using seismic and other geophysical methods.
- Promote exchange of seismic and other geophysical data and knowledge through the use of standards for network operations and data formats, and through pursuing policies of free and unrestricted data access.
- Foster cooperation among IRIS members, affiliates, and other organizations in order to advance seismological research and education, expand the diversity of the geoscience workforce, and improve Earth science literacy in the general public.
Average annual budget: $17,500,000 from EAR, with an additional ~$900,000 from the Office of Polar Programs
Geodetic Facility for the Advancement of Geoscience (GAGE)
GAGE supports the NSF investigator community for geodesy, Earth sciences research, education, and workforce development with broad societal benefits. It is operated by UNAVCO, a nonprofit, university-governed consortium. Supporting services include:
- Operation of the Network of the Americas, an integrated set of geodetic systems including continuous Global Navigation Satellite System (cGNSS), real-time GNSS, borehole strainmeters, tiltmeters and seismometers, and met-packs;
- Engineering, instrumentation, and data services to NSF-funded investigators who use terrestrial and satellite geodetic technologies (e.g., Terrestrial Laser Scanning, GNSS, and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar [InSAR]) in Earth science research as well as geosciences more broadly;
- Operations to support NSF-funded community GNSS networks for Earth, atmospheric, and polar science applications, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Global GNSS Network; and
- Planning support for principal investigators and core programs to advance geoscience education resources and geodesy community engagement.
Average annual budget: $11,400,000, with an additional ~$840,000 from the Office of Polar Programs and ~$1,000,000 from NASA
GeoSoilEnviroCARS Synchrotron Radiation Beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source (GSECARS)
GSECARS is a national user facility for frontier research in the Earth sciences using synchrotron radiation at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory. GSECARS provides Earth scientists with access to the high-brilliance hard X-rays from this third-generation synchrotron light source. Primary applications include:
- High-pressure/high-temperature crystallography and spectroscopy using the diamond anvil cell
- High-pressure/high-temperature crystallography and imaging using the large-volume press
- Powder, single crystal and interface diffraction
- Inelastic X-ray scattering
- X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy
- X-ray fluorescence microprobe analysis
Average annual budget: $2,900,000
Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences (COMPRES)
COMPRES is a community-based consortium whose goal is to enable Earth science researchers to conduct the next generation of high-pressure science on world-class equipment and facilities. It facilitates the operation of beamlines, the development of new technologies for high-pressure research, and advocates for science and educational programs to the various funding agencies.
Average annual budget: $2,400,000
Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory (PRIME Lab)
The PRIME Lab is a dedicated research and user facility for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). AMS is an ultra-sensitive analytical technique for measuring long-lived radionuclides. Their mission is to provide measurements of long-lived radionuclides for researchers at Purdue University, at other universities, at national laboratories, and at agencies providing measurements of environmental levels of long-lived radionuclides in the United States and throughout the world. PRIME Lab facilities include the AMS system, based on a tandem electrostatic accelerator, and those laboratories needed for physical preparation of samples and the chemical separation and purification of long-lived radionuclides. Isotopes analyzed include 10Be, 14C, 26Al, 36Cl, 41Ca, and 129I.
Average annual budget: $708,000
University of California, Los Angeles, Ion Probe Lab (UCLA SIMS)
The UCLA SIMS facility consists of a CAMECA IMS 1270 which is used primarily for U-Pb geochronology and a CAMECA IMS 1290 with a Hyperion-2 ion source that focuses on high-precision stable isotope ratio measurements. Priorities include providing (1) access to these instruments for U.S. geochemists, cosmochemists, and geochronologists; (2) UCLA scientists the resources required to continue to develop and refine existing and new methods for research in geochemistry, geobiology, cosmochemistry, and geochronology; and (3) opportunities for research training at a variety of levels.
Average annual budget: $468,000
Arizona State University Ion Probe Lab (ASU SIMS)
The ASU SIMS facility contains a CAMECA IMS 6f and a CAMECA NanoSIMS 50L. The IMS 6f is well suited for precise isotope ratio measurements and trace element analyses in small (several micrometer) areas and for in-depth profiling of trace element distributions with few-nanometer resolution. The NanoSIMS has extremely high lateral resolution coupled with high secondary ion transmission at high mass resolving power. It is a good match for a wide range of NSF EAR-supported research and is the only NanoSIMS in the United States that acts as an open facility. Priorities include (1) helping a diverse group of visitors obtain the best possible trace element and isotopic microanalyses, (2) developing new analytical techniques and instrumentation, (3) improving quantification and infrastructure (standards), and (4) enhancing educational approaches for new visitors.
Average annual budget: $402,000
Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility (NENIMF)
The NENIMF consists of a CAMECA IMS 1280 and a CAMECA IMS 3f which are used for high-precision measurements of light elements such as hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Primary applications include determination of magmatic volatiles in silicate glasses and analysis of biogenic carbonates as records of climate change and its impacts on marine organisms. Additional applications include studies of B isotopes in MORB glasses and subduction zone minerals, Zr in rutile geospeedometry, Ti diffusion in quartz, and U-Th-Pb dating of monazite and zircon.
Average annual budget: $339,000
University of Wisconsin SIMS Lab (Wisc SIMS)
Wisc SIMS utilizes an IMS-1280 large-radius, multicollector ion microprobe (SIMS) for analysis of stable isotopes (including Li, C, N, O, Mg, Si, S, Ca, and Fe). The three most common areas of research that are enabled by Wisc SIMS are Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology and Geochemistry; Cosmochemistry and Astrobiology; and Low-Temperature Geochemistry and Paleoclimatology. More than 50% of instrument beamtime has been devoted to Earth science and NSF-supported projects. NSF-funded projects receive the highest priority and a reduced-fee schedule.
Average annual budget: $330,000
Arizona LaserChron Center (ALC)
The ALC utilizes laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to generate U-Th-Pb ages, Hf isotope ratios, and trace element concentrations of geologic materials. Instruments include dedicated single-collector (Thermo Element2) and multicollector (NU Plasma) mass spectrometers, two excimer lasers, and an SEM with SE, BSE, EDS, EBSD, and color CL capabilities. Priorities are to (1) provide opportunities for researchers from around the world (and especially NSF-supported scientists) to use our instruments and expertise to address geologic problems; (2) drive the development of new instruments, techniques, and applications of geochronology, thermochronology, and
petrochronology; (3) build new cyberinfrastructure for data acquisition, analysis, and archiving; and (4) use every aspect of facility operation as an opportunity to enhance expertise and diversity in geochronology. Research focuses on the growth of continents, processes of mountain building, generation and dispersal of sediment, formation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, history of evolutionary changes, and genetic linkages between climate and tectonics.
Average annual budget: $259,000
Support for Continental Scientific Drilling
International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP)
ICDP performs the critical function of providing a working infrastructure that facilitates scientific drilling through access to a multisensor core logger, core scanner, and deep lake drilling system, among other equipment and services. ICDP endeavors to benefit stakeholders through (1) focusing scientific efforts on drilling sites of global significance, (2) offering affordability and cost-effectiveness through sharing, (3) attracting high-quality researchers to topics of high national and international priority, (4) providing intellectual benefits to all participants arising from international cooperation, and (5) monitoring the socioeconomic benefits linked to water quality, climate change, sustainable resource development, and natural hazard vulnerability. The organizational structure of ICDP aims to be simple, transparent, and flexible in balancing project logistics and scientific rigor.
Average annual budget: $1,000,000
Continental Scientific Drilling Coordination Office (CSDCO)
The CSDCO performs several critical functions for scientific communities requiring drilling and coring on Earth’s continents: (1) develop project-specific technical, logistical, budgetary, and funding plans, engineer optimal drilling solutions, solicit bids, and secure and manage contracts for field operations; (2) manage domestic and international logistics and field operations; (3) procure, stock, and provide specialized equipment and consumables; (4) provide expertise for training and supervision of operations including drilling-science interface, sample and data management, and outreach activities; (5) manage laboratory services for processing, scanning, and subsampling all types of core samples and derivative data; (6) develop software and data systems for visualization, workflow support, and data management; (7) develop infrastructure for support of project and community goals; (8) facilitate curation of cores and data/metadata in repositories; and (9) foster the development of an engaged, active, and technologically advanced community and coordinate the development of long-range community science plans.
Average annual budget: $733,000
National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore)
The LacCore Facility supports the limnological community for studies that contribute to our understanding of past climates, ecological systems, Earth processes, and biogeochemical dynamics on the continents though collection, scanning, analysis, and archival services for lacustrine sediment core samples. LacCore operates open facilities for community access to specialized field coring equipment, laboratory instrumentation, curatorial services, and staff expertise for core collection; core splitting; lithologic description; core scans and automated logging; SEM imaging and EDS; optical petrography/smear slide analysis; preparation and analysis of subsamples for palynology; grain size; loss on ignition; X-ray diffraction; thin sections; and several other analyses. LacCore also provides refrigerated, frozen, and ambient core storage, and repository and data services. Since 2012, LacCore has extended its services to additional geoscience communities for analysis and curation of other types of continental core samples.
Average annual budget: $358,000
National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM)
The primary function of NCALM is to provide research-quality airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) observations to the scientific community. Li-DAR measures surface topographic features with very high accuracies and spatial resolution, resulting in very detailed digital elevation models (DEMs) that offer an unprecedented high-resolution representation of topographic features and illuminate the processes that shape them. Examples include fault scarps, hill slopes, river channels, barrier beaches and sand dunes, mountain and continental glaciers, volcanic edifices and the structure of the forest canopy. Secondary objectives are to advance the state of the art in airborne laser mapping and to train and educate graduate students with knowledge of airborne mapping to meet the needs of academic institutions, government agencies, and private industry.
Average annual budget: $877,000
Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Programs (CTEMPs)
CTEMPs offers community support for planning, training, equipment loan, and field implementation using distributed fiber optic Raman backscatter Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) for observation of the spatial and temporal distribution of temperature. Applications include snow, groundwater, and watershed hydrology; aquatic and terrestrial ecology; karst geology; soil science (including permafrost studies); physical limnology and oceanography; micrometeorology; and glaciology. New initiatives include developing the use of actively heated optical fiber sensing for the measurement of soil moisture and fluid flux and incorporating unmanned aircraft systems technology to hydrologic and earth surface monitoring. CTEMPs added in 2019 the OPEnS lab (Open-Sensing.org), where CTEMPs clients learn to apply micro-sensors and wireless communication to Earth science measurement projects. Services of OPEnS include sensor-to-web data systems, 3D printing, consulting on selection of sensors, power sources for remote sensing systems, and wireless communication (including satellite- and cell phone–based solutions). CTEMPs runs three to five workshops annually.
Average annual budget: $563,000
Virginia Tech National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology Infrastructure (NanoEarth)
VT NanoEarth provides a National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure site to support researchers who work with nanoscience- and nanotechnology-related aspects of the Earth and environmental sciences/engineering. VT NanoEarth has a close partnership with the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). NNCI geo- and environmental science/engineering users have access to both the Virginia Tech and EMSL/PNNL sites depending on specific technical needs and geographic considerations. NanoEarth facilities at Virginia Tech house a broad array of electron-, ion-, and X-ray-based characterization tools as well as facilities for sample preparation and nanomaterials synthesis.
Average annual budget: $500,000
University of Texas High-Resolution Computed X-Ray Tomography Facility (UTCT)
UTCT utilizes X-ray computed tomography (CT) to provide researchers across the Earth, biological and engineering sciences access to a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3D geometries and properties. UTCT serves both as a source of high-quality data for investigators without access to CT instrumentation, and as a repository of experience and expertise in all aspects of CT data acquisition and analysis.
Average annual budget: $423,000
Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM)
The IRM provides advanced instrumentation, expertise, and training to the Earth Science research community for studies of magnetic properties of natural materials and their synthetic analogs. Research focuses on the characterization of magnetic minerals in natural systems and understanding the origin, evolution and significance of magnetic minerals and natural remanent records of ancient magnetic field behavior on Earth and other planetary bodies. Natural-material magnetic research has important applications over a broad range of Earth science, including (paleo) environmental research, history of geomagnetic field variations, evolution of the deep interior, plate tectonic reconstructions, quantification of flow and deformation fabrics in sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks, biomagnetism, and planetary and meteorite magnetism. The IRM also hosts a Summer School for Rock Magnetism for graduate students and early-career scientists and organizes biennial interdisciplinary conferences.
Average annual budget: $387,000
International Seismological Centre (ISC)
The ISC data provide the most comprehensive and complete account of earthquakes worldwide for the entire instrumental period from 1904 to present. This is the principal data source for several hundred research papers each year. The types of studies for which the ISC data are virtually indispensable include research of tectonics and inner-Earth structure, seismic hazard and mitigation of earthquake disasters, earthquake source physics, earthquake forecasting, and monitoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The ISC products also serve as unique and valuable tools for education and scientific publishing. With the current tendency of other agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to focus their efforts on rapid determinations, the value of the most comprehensive and accurate ISC data is further enhanced.
Average annual budget: $250,000
Global Centroid-Moment-Tensor Project (CMT)
The objective of the Global CMT Project is to provide the best and most comprehensive record of global seismic strain release available. The project involves (1) systematic determination of moment tensors for earthquakes with M>5 globally, and accumulation of the results in the CMT catalog; (2) rapid determination of moment tensors for earthquakes with M>5.5 globally and quick dissemination of results; (3) curation of the CMT catalog; and (4) development and implementation of improved methods for the quantification of earthquake source characteristics on a global scale.
Average annual budget: $123,000
EAR supports 10 multi-user facilities that develop and provide community access to cyberinfrastructure. The annual average of funding for these facilities is $10.7 million.
Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance (IEDA)
IEDA systems serve as primary community data collections for global geochemistry and marine geoscience research and support the preservation, discovery, retrieval, and analysis of a wide range of observational field and analytical data types. Our tools and services are designed to facilitate data discovery and reuse for focused disciplinary research and to support interdisciplinary research and data integration. IEDA hosts and serves data that include marine seismic data and bathymetry; rock and seafloor sediment and hydrothermal vent fluid geochemistry; geochronology; Antarctic research; information about physical samples; and other marine and Earth science data. It also has developed and deployed map-based data discovery tools and compiled data products that enable quick identification of data and/or datasets of interest.
Average annual budget: $3,410,000
Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrological Science, Inc. (CUAHSI)
CUAHSI is a 501(c)(3) research organization representing more than 130 U.S. universities and international water science-related organizations. CUAHSI’s mission is to develop infrastructure and services for the advancement of water science by (1) strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration in the water science community, (2) empowering the community by providing critical infrastructure, and (3) promoting education in the water sciences at all levels.
Average annual budget: $2,485,000
Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics (CIG)
CIG is a community-driven organization that advances Earth science by supporting and sustaining the cyberinfrastructure and computational capacity for geophysics and related fields. During the past decade, CIG has supported the development of open source software communities and widely used numerical modeling codes as well as their dissemination for research and education in computational seismology, mantle convection, magma dynamics, short- and long-term lithospheric and crustal deformation, and dynamo modeling.
Average annual budget: $1,700,000
Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS)
CSDMS is a diverse community of experts that promotes the modeling of Earth surface processes by developing, supporting, and disseminating integrated software modules which predict the movement of fluids and the flux (production, erosion, transport, and deposition) of sediment and solutes in landscapes and their sedimentary basins. Specific processes that are studied include soil erosion, glaciation, river sedimentation, coastal change, seafloor processes, and many natural phenomena that can impact human life and infrastructure. CSDMS focuses on the development and applications of computer models that help researchers and other professionals understand these processes and their potential impacts on human activity. The organization provides support in community, computing, and education.
Average annual budget: $1,206,000
OpenTopography High Resolution Data and Tools Facility (OpenTopo)
OpenTopo provides web-based access to high-resolution topographic data from technologies such as lidar and photogrammetry, co-located with processing and analysis tools in support of Earth science research, research training, and education. Earth science fields, including geomorphology, hydrology, glaciology, volcanology, and neotectonics, have benefited and will continue to benefit from OpenTopo data and tools. Current activities focus on development of strengthened interoperability, a broadened suite of processing and data services, improved scalability via cloud and high-performance computing, and provision of outreach and user support through short courses and workforce development.
Average annual budget: $546,000
Geo-Visualization and Data Analysis using the Magnetics Information Consortium (MagIC)
MagIC is designed to develop and maintain an open community digital data archive for published rock and paleomagnetic data. This allows researchers and other users continued free access to archive, search, visualize, manipulate, and download data that are used to study (1) past climate changes and their relation to Earth’s magnetic field; (2) the timing of the appearance and growth of Earth’s solid inner core and the associated influences on the geomagnetic field; (3) the geodynamics of Earth’s mantle; (4) biogeomagnetism; and (5) magnetism at high pressures and in extraterrestrial bodies.
Average annual budget: $429,000
Neotoma Paleoecology Database and Community
The Neotoma Paleoecology Database is an online hub for community data curation, research, and education about paleoenvironments that existed during the past 5 Ma. Data currently include pollen (NAPD, EPD, LAPD, APD, IndoPac), fossil mammals (FAUN-MAP), diatoms, ostracodes, insects, charcoal, isotopes, radiocarbon dates, etc. with global coverage for pollen and North American coverage for other proxies. Multiple national to international research campaigns are under way to add or refine data in Neotoma and use them in regional to global reconstructions of past environments (e.g., ACCEDE, CLIMATE12K, HOPE, LANDCOVER6K, PALEON, SKOPE). Information provided by Neotoma is of benefit primarily to the paleobiology, paleoclimatology, geochronology, archaeology, global change, biogeography, and Earth surface processes communities.
Average annual budget: $319,000
Open Core Data
Open Core Data provides the infrastructure that makes data from scientific continental and ocean drilling projects findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), according to community best practices for data stewardship. Drilling data are used to study the nature of the deep biosphere and oceanic sub-seafloor, understand environmental change and evolution of the Earth and Earth-life systems, species evolution, fault zone dynamics, magmatism, tectonics, and geothermal energy, among many other topics. Open Core Data benefits from partnerships with a wide range of U.S. and international cyberinfrastructure and technology projects and communities.
Average annual budget: $305,000
Alpha-MELTS develops software that includes models and algorithms for computational thermodynamics in petrology, geochemistry, and geodynamics. It enables earth scientists to execute forward models of complex petrogenetic scenarios with internal thermodynamic consistency and integrated volatile and trace element calculations. All software is released free of charge for use by the scientific community.
Average annual budget: $176,000
Generic Mapping Tools (GMT)
The GMT software package is an open-source collection of about 90 command-line tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian datasets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing illustrations ranging from simple x–y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3D perspective views to animations. GMT supports more than 30 map projections and transformations and requires support data such as Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Geography Database coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries and optionally Digital Chart of the World country polygons. GMT source code is distributed, free of charge, under the GNU Lesser General Public License. The GMT website has more than 20,000 visits per month and roughly 2,000 downloads per month.
Average annual budget: $123,000