Boise State University assistant professor of geosciences Alejandro (Lejo) Flores received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award to study the role land management plays in regional climate and hydrologic change.
The $457,205 five-year grant is titled “Citizens, Conservation, and Climate: Research and Education for Climate Literacy in Managed Landscapes.” The award will allow Flores to study how activities such as forest thinning, prescribed burns and fire restoration affect regional precipitation, snow storage, soil moisture and runoff in Idaho.
So much of what happens on public lands with respect to fire and forest management relate to the water cycle, said Flores, who in 2009 received his doctorate in hydrology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“There are all sorts of complex interactions that management activities induce that we haven’t looked at in an integrated way.”
The grant is part of the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, in support of junior faculty “who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research,” according to an NSF website.
“The CAREER award is really unique in that it offers five years of stable funding, instead of the traditional three years offered by many grants.” Flores said. “Such a long horizon frees the investigator to pursue the ‘grand challenges’ of their research field, in this case quantifying how land management activities interact dynamically with our water and climate.”
Also, the grant includes a K-12 teacher pilot program to engage students in science by creating low-cost weather stations for less than $100.
“We’ll use open source electronics and reuse everyday items like bicycle computers,” Flores said. “The idea is to introduce students to elements of electrical engineering by using sensors and circuits, to computer science by writing code to do data logging, and to climate through long-term monitoring of weather data.”
Flores’ program will defray travel costs for training for teachers who serve students in rural areas, refugee populations and Title I schools.
“Lejo’s research is not only important regarding land management practices and climate change models, but its teacher-education component will expand K-12 science education for underserved populations in Idaho,” said Mark Rudin, vice president for research and economic development.
Flores hopes to develop a teacher education program that includes computer programming, circuits and electronics, climate and weather. He wants to bring teachers to campus for summer classes that give them development credits and create a repository of information to support teacher education long term.
Visit https://earth.boisestate.edu/people/alejandro-n-flores/ to read more about Flores and his water sustainability lab.