2015 is the International Year of Soils!


To celebrate World Soil Day on December 5 and to launch the International Year of Soils 2015, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an event at their headquarters in Rome with invited guests — from scientists to diplomats — from around the world.

FAO summarized the significance of soil for human and environmental health:

Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production and for services to ecosystems and human well-being. It is the reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore requires the same attention as above-ground biodiversity. Soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. The largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil so that its preservation may contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water, and energy security is to be met.

World Soil Day was celebrated worldwide this year as seen in the map below:

Soil Day Events

In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) proposed in a resolution to celebrate World Soil Day every December 5 and convey the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human well-being.

Even though World Soil Day has come and gone, the fight to protect the world’s soils and biodiversity continues on with the International Year of Soils 2015.  The UN has declared 5 pillars of action:

  1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity
  2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil
  3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions
  4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines
  5. Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources   

You can contribute to the International Year of Soils!  The Missouri Transect education and outreach participants have developed a “citizen science” project called Missourians Doing Impact Research Together (MO DIRT).  MO DIRT will address the interplay between climate and soil that has an impact on global carbon cycling.  Citizen scientist volunteers will collect and analyze soil samples and record meteorological information in their communities.  The results will be sent to Missouri Transect climate, soil, plant and environmental scientists to enhance real-time data from around the state.

To get involved or for more information, contact Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas, tthomas@danforthcenter.org.

Competition for the 2015 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is Now Open!

If you know great math and science teachers, and want to nominate them for this prestigious award, read on!


PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for K-12th grade mathematics and science teachers. The 2015 awards will honor up to 108 7th – 12th grade mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers. In 2016, awards will recognize K-6th grade teachers.

To nominate a teacher, go to the program website and click on “Nominate a Teacher.” Completing a nomination form takes only a couple of minutes. You only need a teacher’s contact information to complete the form. It’s just that simple!

Awardees receive a citation from the President, $10,000 from NSF, and trip to Washington DC for recognition ceremonies. The website also has a link that allows you to search for past awardees in your home state!

Nominations close April 1, 2015 but please don’t delay. Give your nominated teachers as much time as possible to complete a competitive application.

For more information, contact James Colby

Deadline Announced for NSF EPSCoR RII Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations

Please note that the National Science Foundation (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) FY 2015 Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-2 Focus EPSCoR Collaborations (RII Track-2 FEC) solicitation has been released as NSF 15-517.  The deadline for proposals is 20 February 2015.

The solicitation is posted at: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505148.

In FY 2015, proposals aligned with themes consistent with NSF priorities, including such areas as cognitive science and neuroscience, clean energy, and food security, are encouraged.

Please contact Emily Haghighi (haghighie@missouri.edu) at Missouri NSF EPSCoR with any questions or follow-up.  We strongly encourage those who submit proposals through their institutions to let Missouri EPSCoR know that they submitted.

The Missouri Transect Community Team: A Closer Look at Resiliency of Missouri State Parks

Two University of Missouri (MU) researchers on the Missouri Transect Community Team, Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis and Dr. Mark Morgan, are using their expertise in the human dimensions of natural resource management to study the impacts of climate change and natural disasters in Missouri state parks. The research group also includes two Ph.D. students and an M.S. student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources graduate program, Lisa Groshong, Ojetunde Ojewola, and Yun Ho and one M.S. student in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism graduate program, Hongchao Zhang.

(left to right) Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, Lisa Groshong, Dr. Mark Morgan, Yun Ho, Hongchao Zhang, and Ojetunde Ojewola.

(left to right) Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, Lisa Groshong, Dr. Mark Morgan, Yun Ho, Hongchao Zhang, and Ojetunde Ojewola.

Dr. Wilhelm Stanis graduated with her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and is an Associate Professor in the School of Natural Resources’ Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Her research focuses on the social-psychological aspects of outdoor recreation and resource management. In particular, her work examines factors that facilitate and constrain outdoor recreation.

Dr. Morgan received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M and is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. In 2010, he was selected to be a Fulbright scholar and spent a semester of teaching and research at Vietnam National University – Hanoi. His research focuses on natural resources, specifically “policy, visitor behavior, and communications.” He has expertise in outdoor recreation management.

This research group aims to assess the resiliency of Missouri state parks in relation to the impacts of climate change on visitation and management. Initially their team will use historical data to map the frequency of events linked to climate change (e.g., floods, droughts, extreme temperatures, insect-borne diseases, fires) that may impact visitation and management priorities. Additionally, they will conduct interviews and surveys with park visitors, park managers and employees to gain a better understanding of preparation for and recovery from natural disasters and climate change impacts.

For more stories about Missouri EPSCoR people and their research, check out our page, Research and Accomplishments!

NASA EPSCoR: 2015 Research Awards Announcement

It is anticipated that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Education in conjunction with the NASA Mission Directorates, Centers, and Office of the Chief Technologist, will solicit proposals through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NASA EPSCoR).

See the NASA Page for more information about the Request for NASA EPSCoR Missouri Pre-Proposals.

Special Report – Perspectives on Broader Impacts

NSF has released a Broader Impacts Special Report on broader impacts criteria of NSF proposals.  In 1997, NSF decreased the merit review criteria for proposals from four to two so that each proposal is considered based on its intellectual merit and its broader impacts.  This report discusses the need for broader impacts criterion and what this criterion is according to various perspectives.

Missouri EPSCoR Strategic Plan Approved

On Oct. 31, NSF EPSCoR approved the RII Track-1 Missouri EPSCoR Strategic Plan for Year 1.  You can access the document on the Strategic Plan Page of this website.

The document clearly defines the mission and vision of the Missouri Transect project and how it will compliment the other EPSCoR projects in Missouri.  The plan features each of the five research and education teams and lays out their goals, timelines and objectives.  It also defines the workforce development plan and identifies key personnel.

The Strategic Plan is a living document that will be updated regularly each year as the Missouri EPSCoR program progresses.  Please enjoy and let us know what you think!

Anticipated Funding Opportunity — Limited Submission

NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-2 Program

**UPDATE (Nov. 14, 2014): The RFP has not been release so we will not be accepting white papers for the Nov 17 deadline**

Background Information

NSF EPSCoR is planning a solicitation for RII Track-2: RII Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations (RII Track-2 FEC) for FY2015. This solicitation is going through the approval process within NSF and is subject to the FY2015 budget. In anticipation of this solicitation, the EPSCoR Missouri Statewide Committee is proactively coordinating selection of one proposal that will be submitted with Missouri serving as the lead collaborator. Any changes to the selection process and timeline described herein, which are based on a webinar conducted by NSF, will be announced after the solicitation is released by NSF. Interested individuals should also regularly check the EPSCoR Missouri website for any revisions and/or updates.

Program Description

RII Track-2 proposals may only be submitted by consortia of eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions. Principal Investigators/Project Directors of proposed RII Track-2 projects must be affiliated with research universities, agencies, or organizations within the consortia of EPSCoR jurisdictions. Each EPSCoR jurisdiction can submit only one proposal as the lead collaborator. Jurisdictions have no limit for the number of proposals in which they participate as non-lead collaborators.

Each participating jurisdiction in the consortium should be represented by a PI/co-PI. An individual can serve as PI/co-PI on only one RII Track-2 FEC proposal. PIs and co-PIs must be active researchers in the field of the proposed research activities.

Focus areas for RII Track-2 FEC in FY15 are:

  1. Understanding the Human Brain – NSF’s goal is to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain, in action and in context, through targeted, cross-disciplinary investments in research, technology, and workforce development. RII Track 2-FEC proposals on Understanding the Brain should focus on one or more thematic areas of the NSF BRAIN Initiative. (http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/brain/)

Example thematic areas

  • Multi-scale integration of the Dynamic Activity and Structure of the Brain – elucidate and link dynamics of the brain and neural circuits with brain function, including its real-time physiological, behavioral and cognitive outputs.
  • Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure – create tools to image, sense, record and affect real-time brain function and complex behavior, and develop theories and systems to collect, visualize, analyze, model, store, and distribute BRAIN data.
  • Quantitative Theory and Modeling of Brain Function – reveal emergent properties of the brain and provide predictive theoretical frameworks to guide future research
  • Brain-Inspired Concepts and Designs – capitalize on insights gained from BRAIN to inspire novel conceptual paradigms and innovative technologies and designs that will benefit society.
  1. Water-Energy-Food Nexus – The WEF Nexus is a complex, global grand challenge that reflects the interconnectedness and interdependencies among these resources. Proposals in the focus area of the WEF Nexus must present a program that integrates all three elements of the nexus. In all projects, emphasis must be on transformative research that improves fundamental understanding of the underlying dynamics, processes, and interactions between WEF systems. Proposals to apply existing methods or technologies to demonstrate or quantify aspects of the WEF Nexus will not be considered.

Example thematic areas

  • Integrated analysis and modeling- develop analytical methods and models to identify critical connections to global and regional energy and water resources that influence food production, investigate relationships among food, water, energy technology options and socioeconomic factors such as population fluxes in urban and rural areas, economic drivers and competing resource demands.
  • Advanced materials and technological solutions- development of materials and technologies that can yield economically-relevant improvement in the water-energy-food nexus
  • The integrated science behind improvements of feedstock production systems, including aquaculture – the area encompasses improved understanding of the basic processes and interactions that underpin crops, agricultural, and aquaculture techniques that improve water quality, co-production of value-added products that reduce energy intensity and environmental protection across the food production lifecycle. Basic and fundamental research bridging the hydrological, environmental, ecological, geochemical, energy, and engineering sciences is encourages.
  • Advanced sensors and analytics – technologies for reliable measurement-based data of water availability, quality, and demand to support food and energy production and deliver relevant land-use and climate scenarios to support decisions related to water and resource allocation. Technologies may include subsurface sensing and characterization, remote sensing, and treatment to toke water quality to specific food and energy production requirements.

Awards are for four years and up to $6 million and are made as Cooperative Agreements. Teams may request up to $500,000 per state annually (maximum $2 million over four years) and award amounts will not exceed $1.5 million annually.

NSF has asked that State EPSCoR Project Directors and Statewide Committees reach out to investigators in their jurisdiction who are capable of submitting or collaborating on a proposal in one of the two focus areas. NSF requires junior faculty involvement and encourages recruitment and development of junior faculty through these awards.

The following is the anticipated NSF timeline.

Early November 2014              Solicitation released

Late January 2015                  Proposals due

Early April 2015                       Merit review

July 2015                                 Actions to DGA

August 2015                           Award target date

Limited Submission Internal Selection Details

Individuals interested in proposing a RII Track-2 project with their organization serving as the lead collaborator must submit the following as a PDF document to the EPSCoR Missouri Office, epscor@missouri.edu.

  1. A two-page white paper describing the vision, goals and objectives of the consortium, methods to be employed, expected impacts of the proposed activities, role of each jurisdiction in the project activities, and intellectual merit and broader impacts of the proposed project.
  2. A list of primary researchers and their institutions from each jurisdiction.
  3. A two-page CV for the lead investigator from each jurisdiction.

Concluding Remarks

Those interested in responding to this limited submission may want to review the previous solicitation. Principal Investigators from collaborating jurisdictions are strongly recommended to contact their respectively EPSCoR offices for any requirements that they need to meet.

Strategic Planning Meeting Held on August 20

IMG_2473As an awardee of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Missouri is required by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct Strategic Planning meeting within 90 days of the award date (August 1, 2014). Investigators, team leads, project administration and NSF Program Officers came together for a strategic planning meeting on August 20, 2014.

The strategic planning meeting was held at the Bradford Research Center and facilitated by an independent external facilitator, Dr. Carl Batt, a Liberty Hyde Professor in the Department of Food at Cornell University. There were approximately 50 participants. Researchers traveled from Kansas City, St. Louis, Jefferson City, Rolla and around Columbia to attend the meeting. External participants came in from California, New York, and Washington, D.C.


Researchers traveled from around the state to collaborate on the Missouri Transect strategic plan at the Bradford Research Center in Columbia, Missouri.

The morning opened with an introduction and welcome from Dr. John Walker, the Project Director and Principal Investigator of Missouri EPSCoR. Dr. Kelvin Chu, Program Officer at NSF EPSCoR, outlined the expectations from NSF for the strategic plan. Each team lead gave short 5 to 10-minute presentations about their team’s research question, goals, and investigators.

After a short break, participants split off into their research teams. They drafted the expected accomplishments by the end of the five-year program, determined timelines for their activities in research and outreach and created a poster for further discussion.

Education Team creating timelines and accomplishments with collaboration through Skype

Education Team creating timelines and accomplishments with collaboration through Skype

Everyone reconvened and Dr. Chris Elsik, the Cyberinfrastructure (CI) team lead, led a discussion about integrating CI capabilities with each team’s research and database needs.

After the discussion, researchers split up to visit each poster and discuss timelines and accomplishments with other teams. They noted on other teams’ accomplishments posters possible individual or team collaborations to achieve each accomplishment.


Participants visited other teams’ posters to discuss how the timelines and accomplishments fit into the Missouri Transect project.

The full group reconvened for a presentation from the external evaluator about the EPSCoR evaluation process. Then the Statewide Committee Chair, Dr. Keith Gary spoke to the group about the role of the Statewide Committee and the Academic and CI subcommittees, the Missouri Science & Technology plan, and how to build commercialization partners and increasing communication with the State government. The meeting closed with comments from Dr. Walker.