$4.5 Million Water Project Taps UNC as Technical Lead

UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute has been tapped as the technical lead in a $4.5 million collaborative water project by the National Science Foundation. The project, which involves a team that spans eight U.S. universities, aims to develop a cyberinfrastructure that will significantly broaden water researchers’ ability to share and access data — an attempt to address some of the world’s most critical water problems.

The five-year project, led by Utah State University with UNC’s RENCI as the lead collaborating institution, will provide $2.1 million to RENCI to build an infrastructure to help hydrologists easily access water-related research data, models and code that are online, retrieve them to their desktops, and analyze them using shared software and products.

“Think of it as Facebook for hydrologists who want to work collaboratively sharing data and models,” said David Tarboton of Utah State University, the lead principal investigator on the project. Ray Idaszak, RENCI’s director of collaborative environments, will serve as the project’s technical coordinator and co-principal investigator. Larry Band, director of UNC’s Institute for the Environment, will serve as a scientific lead at UNC and co-principal investigator.

Dubbed HydroShare, the project will expand the data-sharing capabilities of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science Inc. (CUAHSI) Hydrologic Information System (HIS), which connects hydrologic databases housed on servers across the U.S.

HydroShare will broaden the types of data accommodated by CUASHI HIS and expand its capability to share models used to simulate the flow of water in rivers and streams, water’s behavior during storms and how pollutants are transported.

To facilitate easy discovery, access and sharing of multiple kinds of data, HydroShare will incorporate existing software created by the Data Intensive Cyber Environments group at RENCI and UNC’s School of Information and Library Science. The software is used to manage distributed data by developing the rules, filters, metadata tags and methods for interpreting syntax.

“Scientific problems related to water — how to maintain quality, manage scarce water resources and ensure accessibility — are fundamental to the health of our planet and its societies,” Idaszak said. “If we can help water scientists share and publish their data and make it easier for them to collaborate and address these critical challenges, the benefits will be widespread and long-lasting. We feel privileged to partner with the hydrology community to solve these critical problems.”

The multidisciplinary project also includes collaborators from Brigham Young University, the University of South Carolina, Purdue University, Tufts University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at San Diego.

Drawing upon internationally recognized faculty expertise, UNC has launched a two-year campus academic theme, “Water in Our World.”

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