Other National EPSCoR Awards


Track-4 Awards

Harms, Jones and Tomco

Three University of Alaska researchers recently received “Track-4” awards from the National Science Foundation. The awards will fund Tamara Harms, Ben Jones and Patrick Tomco to further their research by collaborating with scientists in New York, Connecticut, Louisiana and Florida.

Harms, an Assistant Professor of Ecology with the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, will receive $126, 218 for her project, Arctic Nitrous Oxide (N2O): Training and Technical Advances to Quantify Emission of a Powerful Greenhouse Gas. Harms will work with researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York to study the production in soils of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Large releases of nitrous oxide have been documented in high-latitude areas subject to permafrost thaw or wildfires, but it remains unclear how this nitrous oxide is produced and how long disturbed soils might generate emissions. This project will examine these processes with a goal of contributing to an improved ability to forecast potential N2O emissions under the warmer, more nutrient-rich, and more fire-prone conditions predicted for high-latitude ecosystems. Funding for the project runs through 2021.

Jones, a Research Assistant Professor with the Water and Environmental Research Center at the UAF Institute of Northern Engineering, will receive $295,256 for his project, PermaSense: Investigating Permafrost Landscapes in Transition Using Multidimensional Remote Sensing, Data Fusion, and Machine Learning Techniques. Jones and a postdoctoral researcher will train and collaborate with researchers at the University of Connecticut to acquire new data fusion and machine learning techniques. These will be used to increase the capacity of “Permasense,” a project to gather and analyze multidimensional remote sensing data on permafrost degradation. Funding for the project runs through 2021.

Tomco, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the UAA Department of Chemistry, will receive $165,406 for his project, Formation, Photolysis, and Bioaccumulation of Dissolved Hydrocarbons from Chemically-Herded and Burned Crude Oil at High Latitudes. Tomco and a graduate student will use specialized equipment at the University of New Orleans and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida to analyze samples of Alaska North Slope crude oil, surface collection agents used to thicken oil spills to burn them off, and mussels collected from Resurrection Bay. These experiments will lead to a better understanding of how dissolved residues may form as a result of this type of oil spill remediation, how sunlight may transform these residues, and what impacts they might have on susceptible marine organisms. Funding for the project runs through 2021.

Four other University of Alaska faculty are also currently implementing Track-4 awards. Jeff Benowitz, a Research Assistant Professor with the Geophysical Institute, received $220,043 for his proposal “Why are Young Volcanic Rocks Undateable: Chemistry, Environment, or Instrumentation?” Eric Collins, an Assistant Professor with the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, received $187,301 for his proposal “Advancing Machine Learning in Biological Oceanography through Interdisciplinary Collaborations.” Georgina Gibson, a Research Assistant Professor with the International Arctic Research Center, received $222,000 for her proposal, "Modeling Dissolved Organic Matter at the Arctic Land/ocean Interface." Ken Tape, an Associate Professor with the Geophysical Institute, received $200,382 for his proposal, “Predicting Beaver Colonization of the Arctic and Creation of Tundra Stream Oases.” Funding for all four projects runs through 2020.

“Track-4” grants are awarded by the NSF to encourage researchers in EPSCoR states and territories to collaborate with researchers across the nation. They are one of four EPSCoR funding tracks: “Track-1” awards fund major research projects, such as Fire and Ice in Alaska; “Track-2” awards fund projects incorporating multiple EPSCoR jurisdictions; and “Track-3” awards funded projects to build diversity in STEM fields.

Track-2 Award


Hyunju Connor, an Assistant Professor with the UAF College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the Geophysical Institute, has received a $1.94 million "Track-2" award from the national NSF EPSCoR program.

The four-year award (2019-23) will fund Connor to collaborate with researchers at the University of New Hampshire to study geomagnetically induced currents, which are caused by geomagnetic disturbances during space weather events and which can produce power outages, train system failures, and pipeline corrosion. The research team will apply machine learning techniques to over two decades of space- and ground-based observations and develop two prediction models for geomagnetic disturbances and risk of geomagnetically induced currents, which will be provided to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. The project will also incorporate data from the Space Weather Underground (SWUG) program, in which high school and undergraduate students build and deploy magnetometers, measure geomagnetic disturbances, and analyze the data.




Through a process called “co-funding,” the national NSF EPSCoR organization provides funds to other NSF departments so they can more broadly support worthy research projects located in EPSCoR jurisdictions. As of January 2020, NSF EPSCoR was co-funding 5 awards in Alaska for a total of $960,000:

  • $198,051 for Collaborative Research: Physiological and Genetic Correlates of Reproductive Success in High- versus Low-Quality Weddell seals. Principal Investigator Brandon Briggs, UAA.
  • $187,257 for Estimating the Earth's Dayside Exospheric Neutral Density Using XMM-Newton Soft X-ray Data. Principal Investigator Hyunju Connor, UAF.
  • $74,074 for RUI: Bridging the Spatial Gap in Local Seyfert Galaxies: Characterizing Active Galactic Nuclei Feeding and Feedback on Scales of Tens to Hundreds of Parsecs. Principal Investigator Erin Hicks, UAA.
  • $125,000 for NNA Track-2: Unangam Ulaa Project: Culturally-informed adaptation of the ancient Aleutian semi-subterranean dwelling for sustainable and resilient Arctic housing. Principal Investigator Michael Livingston, Aleutian Pribilof Island Association.
  • $376,311 for CAREER: Building research and decision making capacity in the Arctic through deciphering storm-induced sediment dynamics and synergistic Alaska Native coastal science education. Principal Investigator Christopher Maio, UAF.
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