$20 million granted to Echo

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced one of the largest federal awards to a UVM-affiliated program while Lake Champlain shone behind him April 18.

UVM President Thomas Sullivan, Leahy and representatives from colleges across Vermont gathered at the Leahy ECHO Center to hear the purpose and goals of the project the award will be used for.

The $20 million award granted to the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research from the National Science Foundation will allow research teams from UVM and other colleges across the state to gather data that will aide in the maintenance and monitoring of Lake Champlain’s health.

Vermont EPSCoR is the state’s answer to the national mandate to promote scientific progress and does “research and development” in various areas of science, according to the Vermont EPSCoR’s website.

“[EPSCoR] has worked on proposals for the competitive award for about a year,” said professor Judith Van Houten, director for Vermont EPSCoR.

UVM is a primary institution in EPSCoR, Houten said.

Approximately two-thirds of the awarded funds will be put toward paying those who are doing research, including UVM undergraduate and graduate students, she said.

The research will give opportunities to students from high school to graduate, Leahy said.

“This research will support valuable new STEM learning opportunities for all students, including high school, under- graduate and post-doctoral researchers right here in Vermont,” he said.

It is crucial that research is beginning now, which makes the timing of this award so perfect, said sophomore Garrett Chisholm, an environmental studies major.

“The Lake Champlain Basin is a complex ecosystem that provides us with a wide variety of services, including provisioning, regulatory and cultural, that would be put at risk as a result of the effects of climate change,” Chisholm said.

The benefits to the education system that these research opportunities bring about are also essential to the progress of tomorrow’s environmental changemakers, he said.

“In this process, student research is extremely important because students can offer a diverse perspective to mitigating these effects that other researchers may not be able to offer, ” Chisholm said.

In the past few decades, climate change has caused massive erosion of Lake Champlain’s basin, but some areas have fared better than others, he said.

The goal of the five-year project is to identify, understand and predict how climate change has affected different areas of the basin, Chisholm said.

“Our goal is to provide research to policy makers,” he said.