UTEP Receives $7.2 Million NSF Grant to Innovate in Geoscience
Main goals include a talent pipeline, impactful research and community participation
EL PASO, Texas (Feb. 24, 2023) – The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) announced a $7.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support a comprehensive effort to engage the public and change the ways the geosciences are perceived, taught and applied.
The work of the Community-Driven Inclusive Excellence and Leadership Opportunities in the Geosciences program, also known as CIELO-G, will consist of three pillars: professional development opportunities and funding for students, community engagement in geoscience projects, and research that impacts the Paso del Norte community. A major goal of the program is to prepare Hispanic students to enter the geological sciences field, historically one of the least diverse in academia.
Geoscience is the study of the Earth: rocks and soils, volcanic activity and earthquakes; oceans, lakes and rivers; glaciers; the atmosphere; and the processes that affect them, such as climate change, droughts, pollution and population growth.
“At UTEP, we advance knowledge and engage potential students in how exciting research can be,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “I look forward to connecting geosciences more closely to the community we serve.”
The guiding principles of CIELO-G have been in development for over 15 years. Aaron Velasco, Ph.D., professor of earth, environmental and resource sciences, is the principal investigator on the project. He and co-investigators Benjamin Brunner, Ph.D.; Hugo Gutierrez, Ph.D.; Marianne Karplus, Ph.D.; and Lin Ma, Ph.D., saw the need for a systematic approach to generating diverse talent in the geosciences and creating a mutually beneficial relationship between researchers and the community. They believe CIELO-G’s work will become increasingly relevant as climate change continues to impact weather, water availability and agriculture in the borderland.
“I’m very proud to see this project come to fruition,” Velasco said. “It is a prime opportunity for us to do research that responds to the needs of the community and prepare students from this region to become innovative geoscientists.”
The project currently offers financial support for six graduate students and their research projects, as well as for travel to scientific meetings and outreach activities. The number of students who receive financial support through the grant is expected to grow as the project progresses.
Doctoral students Judith Hoyt and America Alvarez, along with two other students who are also part of the inaugural cohort of CIELO-G research fellows, presented their projects this morning during an event on the UTEP campus to announce the NSF grant. Alvarez and Hoyt are working to measure the difference in solar light reflection between light and dark-colored roofs in different parts of El Paso. The outcomes of their research could help inform locally focused strategies to reduce outdoor air temperature and alleviate the urban heat island effect, which is linked to increases in energy costs, air pollution levels and heat-related illness.
“Education and community engagement are key for societal and policy change,” Alvarez said. “Through CIELO-G, we can work directly with the community to solve local problems unique to our region that stem from climate change, natural hazards and water sustainability. We hope our current and future research brings change to El Paso-Juárez and serves as a foundation for other communities.”
To advance its mission, the CIELO-G team will work with a diverse set of local organizations such as Insights El Paso Science Center, Frontera Land Alliance and several others.
To learn more about the work of the CIELO-G project, visit https://www.utep.edu/science/cielo-g/
About the University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.
Last Updated on February 24, 2023 at 12:00 AM | Originally published February 24, 2023
By MC Staff UTEP Marketing and Communications