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University of Hawaiʻi awarded $20 million for climate resilience through data science

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  • Collaborative research and education lab used to support data science at UH Hilo. Photo Courtesy: UH
  • Climate station located at Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu. Photo Credit: UH
  • Professor Mahdi Belcaid is with data science fellow alumna Jaclyn Lee. Photo Credit: UH

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Hawaiʻi’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research a five-year, $20-million grant to fund research and capacity building in support of actionable climate science through a collaboration called Change HI. 

Climate change presents unique challenges to Hawaiʻi with impacts of resource availability, ecological sustainability, economic vitality and human health in the islands.

Change HI — a collaborative program with multiple partners inside and outside the UH System — will advance education and workforce readiness in these four areas for Hawaiʻi. Change HI also will help build a new data-driven knowledge economy statewide, targeting the growth of computer and data science that can be applied in critical areas of state need and growth.

“Change HI represents an amazing opportunity for us to advance even further one of our globally distinctive strengths, climate change and resilience,” said UH President David Lassner. “At the same time we will continue to build fundamental capacity in Hawaiʻi in data science, which is increasingly vital across the full spectrum of inquiry and activity in academia, business and government.”

Change HI research comprises eight data and climate science-focused projects. The team of researchers will work in areas of climate downscaling, numerical modeling sensitivity studies, functional trait analysis, carbon sequestration, cloud water interception and soil moisture characterization. All areas of research will use a variety of advanced data science techniques such as computational simulations, data visualization, natural language processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and statistical modeling. 

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“This exciting project brings together an outstanding team of scientists and educators and has enormous potential to address two critical challenges for our state—preparing for the impacts of climate change and building a resilient data driven economy,” said Information Technology Services Director of Cyberinfrastructure and Principal Investigator Gwen Jacobs.

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Change HI will support data science education and workforce development for the state through a variety of programs, including graduate fellowships, summer undergraduate research experiences, internships and data science training and certification. 

The focus of both science and education efforts of the Change HI collaboration are to increase the state’s climate resilience through leveraging climate and data science research and support diversification and growth of Hawaiʻi’s economy through data analytics.      

“Change HI will deliver human and program infrastructure that supports critical education and workforce development initiatives to ensure Hawaiʻi has the highly skilled, data-ready workforce that will power our future economy,” said Garret Yoshimi, Information Technology Services vice president and chief information officer. “Broad-based training efforts under Change HI will also help to ensure opportunities for everyone in our community to strengthen our support for equity and inclusion in our STEM-powered future workforce.”

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For more information about UH’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, click here.

Participating organizations in Change HI include: UH System, UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, Chaminade University, Island of Opportunity Pacific Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Hawaiʻi IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), UH LGBTQ+ Center, UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization, Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership, Hawaiʻi State Energy Office and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation. 

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