USU projects clear funding hurdle

By Kim Burgess
The Herald Journal
July 9, 2009
Proposed design of the Agriculture Research Services building

Photo courtesy CRSA/HDR Architects
A model shows a proposed design of the Agriculture Research Services building, which will house federal research located to the left with the blue tower. The College of Agriculture building is located to the right.

A number of Utah State University projects – including a major new College of Agriculture facility – have passed the first hurdle in gaining millions in Congressional funding.

In total, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved over $17 million for USU this week. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, a member of the committee, requested the money for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

“We appreciate Sen. Bennett’s leadership,” said Eric Warren, spokesperson for the Space Dynamics Lab, which would benefit from the request.

Before USU can receive the funds, Bennett’s proposal must pass through several other parts of Congress. During that process the amount of money allocated may change.

The following is a summary of the approved programs:

Agriculture Research Center – $4.527 million

This funding will support the construction of a new USU facility that will provide the space needed to enhance collaborations among USU faculty, USDA and Agriculture Research Service researchers.

The state-of-the-art, high-tech facility will increase opportunities for research with ARS, top university and other federal programs. The new building will be located on the east side of the Quad and will include campus-wide, technology-enhanced classrooms. In March 2008, the Utah State Legislature approved a challenge bond for $43.1 million that provides the entire state share of the building funding, but the release of the funds are tied to the release of federal funding.

College of Agriculture dean Noelle Cockett was not available for comment on Wednesday, but in a previous interview with The Herald Journal she said that she was thrilled the facility is planned for the Quad, which will place agriculture “at the heart of the campus.”

In a press release, Bennett commented that the center will help Utah continue its leadership in agriculture research “as a result of the innovative work of Utah State University.”

Jack H. Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management – $1.5 million

This collaborative program with Mississippi State University researches scientifically based solutions for wildlife disease threats. Created in 1993, the purpose of the institute is to give students opportunities to participate in multi-disciplinary research programs focused on resolving human-wildlife problems. This funding will be jointly used by the institute’s eastern and western divisions. In the last five years, Bennett has obtained nearly $8.1 million for the institute.

High Performance Computing Utah – $263,000

This initiative addresses the need for high performance computing education and resources. Through this program, the high performance computing resources at USU will be expanded by improving visualization, storage and networking capabilities. The demand for high performance computing education, in this case for agricultural scientists and students, will be addressed by the development of training material targeting agricultural researchers.

Joint U.S./China Biotechnology Research Programs – $210,000

Utah State will develop joint research programs in agricultural biotechnology, including infectious diseases, livestock cloning and genetics, crop production, and irrigation. A number of Chinese collaborators are involved including the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, Xiamen University and the Northwest Sci-Tech University of Agriculture and Forestry. The funding will be used for professional exchange, training and internships to promote greater economic and agricultural development in the U.S. and China.

Alternative Energy Technology – $10 million

These funds will go toward developing technology focused on energy-efficiency, carbon sequestration and carbon-free energy sources. USU plans to develop energy research and establish long-term relationships with the Department of Energy (DOE) national labs and other research universities.

USU Intermountain Center for River Dynamics and Restoration – $600,000

The center will work to integrate river science research to restore riparian environments in the West. The funding will provide educational programs for natural resource scientists and managers in the public and private sector.

Prevention Plus, Utah State University – $170,000

This program for at-risk students is already in place in six high schools in Ogden, Alpine, Nebo and Wasatch school districts. The funding will allow it to expand. According to Richard West, USU professor of education and the executive director of the Center for the School of the Future, the effort targets students who display highly aggressive or violent behavior.

“We are trying to identify these kids earlier and deal with the problems,” said West. “We see a lot of these kids drop out of school.”

The program includes a screening process, collaborative communities among schools and the use of research-based techniques that improve students’ learning and behavior.

Satellite Sensor Calibration for Global Climate Observing System – $400,000

The funding for this project will allow USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory to work with NASA Goodard Space Flight Center’s Biospheric Sciences Branch to develop a comprehensive record of climate data for analysis.

SDL spokesperson Eric Warren commented that SDL has a long history of developing calibration processes and providing accurate climate data.

©2009 The Herald Journal