Infrastructure to Develop a Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) Network

  • Yarnal, Brenton B.M. (PI)
  • Knight, C. Gregory C.G. (CoPI)
  • Easterling, William E. (CoPI)
  • Maceachren, Alan (CoPI)
  • Gahegan, Mark M. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Global environmental change is essentially a human problem. It results from myriad human actions occurring in local places. At the same time, people experience and respond to global environmental changes in localities. Recognition of these facts have led to a proliferation of research centers and sites dedicated to studying the local and regional implications of the human dimensions of global environmental change (HDGEC). The local data that are and will be generated by these centers, however, tend to be place-specific and are difficult to replicate and generalize. This weakness in the data stems directly from a poorly developed scientific infrastructure. There are no common protocols for collecting, reporting, analyzing, storing, and sharing the data. There are no data standards, which are necessary if the data are to be a lasting resource. Moreover, if HDGEC scientists are to be able to take advantage of the technological advances that are being made in intelligent data retrieval and analysis and in remote collaboration, they must coordinate research efforts to make the data amenable to these techniques. To address these problems, this award will support a project to develop infrastructure for studying the long-term implications of HDGEC at small regional and local scales. To meet this goal, the five-year project will promote infrastructure development by implementing four core activities. First, it will develop protocols for observing, collecting, reporting, storing, and sharing data. Second, it will build an intelligent networking environment for data management, Web-based access, and GeoCollaboratory that will help match data with research problems and will facilitate collaboration among scientists at remote sites. Third, it will test proof of concept by applying the protocols and intelligent networking environment to local HDGEC research problems. Fourth, it will build networks by linking the US regional and local HDGEC research sites through this infrastructure. Protocol development will be carried out at four human-environment regional observatories (HEROs). The HEROs, which are located in the Southwest-Mexico border region, the High Plains of Kansas, central Pennsylvania, and central Massachusetts, represent a diverse set of natural and human environments. University of Arizona, Kansas State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Clark University scientists will approach infrastructural development by tackling a broad human-environment problem, but in the local context. The Geographic Visualization Science Technology and Applications Center (GeoVISTA) at Penn State will work with the National Mapping Division of the United States Geological Survey to develop the HERO intelligent networking environment (HEROINE). HEROINE will emphasize geospatial data, scientific research in human-environment interaction, and rapid development of distributed databases. To develop the a GeoCollaboratory, HEROINE will develop tools for data retrieval and collaborative query specification, geographic visualization (GVis) methods to support joint exploration of quantitative and qualitative data, and ways to integrate GVis and geocomputational methods, such as spatial statistics, data mining, or process models. The infrastructure developed by the HEROs and HEROINE will be tested and refined through iterative collaboration among the HEROs. The four HEROs will address one research question to test proof of concept: How does land use affect local sensitivity to climate variation and vulnerability to climate change? The project aims to promote adoption of the infrastructure by developing a network of regional and local HDGEC centers. Two open meetings of regional HDGEC investigators and an advanced Web-site are features of the network building. This project will generate significant products for science and society. The protocols and data standards will produce a template (meta-protocols) for assembling diverse data for use by other large-scale, interdisciplinary projects. The intelligent networking environment will serve as an archetype for bringing scientists together to solve complex interdisciplinary problems. In addition, the project will contribute to the overarching theme of human science and policy research throughout the 21st century -- the 'sustainability transition.' It will preserve precious scientific data on human-environment relationships, thereby sustaining our historical and natural heritages. It will answer critical questions about the complex relationships among individuals, communities, and their environments over time and space, and it will provide a technological means to bring scientists, stakeholders, and decision-makers together to address fundamental issues linking nature and society.

Effective start/end date8/1/007/31/07


  • National Science Foundation: $2,543,530.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.