I am sure many of you recently heard that the University of Idaho received $20 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to boost Idaho’s research and development capacity and infrastructure.
The project has a research focus on two species that are integral to Idaho, redband trout and sagebrush, and looks into the genetic, environmental and social systems connected to these populations. The research results will provide new knowledge for understanding and predicting relationships between genomes and associated phonemes. Idaho’s discoveries will have a far-reaching influence for evidence-based resource management.
Although the project is formally titled “Linking Genome to Phenome to Predict Adaptive Responses of Organisms to Changing Landscapes,” here in the Gem State, we refer to it as “GEM3: Genes to Environment: Modeling, Mechanisms and Mapping.” I encourage you to visit the GEM3 website for more details.
I have a long personal history of involvement with EPSCoR efforts, from my EPSCoR research award in Vermont nearly 25 years ago to celebrating with Tennessee when they “graduated” from the program to now serving as interim project director and principal investigator on this Idaho award. Last summer, I was given the privilege of guiding a statewide team in preparing and submitting this complex proposal. I was humbled by the trust the Idaho EPSCoR State Committee placed in me to lead this team. Our goal was to submit a compliant, competitive and winning proposal. And we did! This is the eighth such EPSCoR RII award Idaho has received.
I am struck with how our project is so well aligned with national, state and institutional priorities.
First, GEM3 is directly aligned with several national priorities, including NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, NSF INCLUDES and Convergence Research. Participation represents a unique opportunity to position us at the cutting edge of research activities that advance the United States' prosperity, security, health and well-being, to build a network for broadening participation in STEM disciplines, and bring together many disciplines and approaches to address a grand challenge.
Second, our project aligns directly with the specific research priorities identified in Idaho’s Science and Technology Plan approved by the Idaho State Board of Education, and GEM3 is well aligned with the state’s vision of advancing STEM for the future of Idaho. The state of Idaho is contributing a $4 million match for this project through the Higher Education Research Council and we are committed to being good stewards of this investment.
Third, there is tremendous alignment of GEM3 with each of our institutions’ own priorities — not just U of I, Boise State University and Idaho State University, but also our state and community colleges. In addition, it aligns well with the creative, scholarly and personal interests of each of the individual research participants.
Selecting a statewide NSF EPSCoR Track-1 topic can be very challenging, but I think we knocked this one out of the ballpark! The NSF funding and the state investment will serve as a catalyst to build continued, sustainable funding; to train more and diverse students; to produce important research discoveries; and to find solutions to social and environmental issues facing Idaho and the nation.
EPSCoR awards are meant to be transformative. In Idaho, we are excited and driven to build our capacity for conducting convergent research. This award will help us continue to change our research and education culture, driving us toward excellence, impact and inclusion. Thank you for the opportunity to share in this excitement.
Janet E. Nelson Ph.D.
Vice President for Research and Economic Development
Scott Slovic knows the effect contemplation in nature can have on a student’s writing. He witnesses it every fall semester
Read student research features in the latest issue of Vandals in Focus