NCSA to be data management partner for new NSF CINet grant

08.21.20 -

NCSA is proud to announce they are the data management partner for a new National Science Foundation project awarded to Praveen Kumar from the University of Illinois’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept. The Critical Interface Network in Intensively Managed Landscapes (CINet) project will use two software tools developed by NCSA: the Clowder Framework and the Geostreaming Data Framework. Data will be streaming from sensors in real time and manually uploaded to the tools by scientists to share with the larger community.

Luigi Marini, lead research programmer in NCSA’s Software Applications and Data Laboratory group, heads NCSA’s five-year, CINet data management $350,954 effort.

“As data-driven science and research continues to grow, robust and flexible generic data frameworks become an indispensable part of successful scientific collaboration. Not just in helping researchers navigate big data’s data deluge, but also in supporting the unique datasets and transdisciplinary methods prevalent in big data’s long tail,” says Marini. “The Clowder and Geostreams frameworks meet the needs of a variety of disciplines and we’re excited to be bringing them to CINet.”

Clowder is an Open Source Data Management Framework for Research created by NCSA and contributed to by various collaborators. It is a cluster of independent services to help researchers manage their research data.

The Geostreaming Data Framework is a set of open source software tools developed by NCSA to help researchers manage and visualize geo temporal data. Researchers install Geostreaming Data Framework as needed for their project in the cloud, on their hardware, or they can partner with NCSA for a custom instance. It is built to be extensible and support new use cases and domains.

In 2013, a multi-investigator team led by Kumar established the U.S. Midwest’s first Critical Zone Observatory, one of nine instrumented sites across the country funded by NSF to expand knowledge about the critical zone in Intensively Managed Landscapes – regions where humans have modified the earth’s landscape to suit societal needs.

Through that research, the team concluded that critical interfaces – whether naturally occurring like floodplains and depressions or human-made like agricultural drainage and crop root systems – seem to exert disproportionately large control on the overall dynamics of critical zones. Furthermore, because these critical interfaces are undergoing rapid transition due to human activity and weather extremes, knowledge of how they function and respond is crucial to the sustainable management of Intensively Managed Landscapes.

The new NSF grant will allow the team to build on the existing network of observational sites by augmenting them with novel observational systems. The team will use innovative data analytic and machine learning techniques along with integrated modeling approaches to look at the structure, evolution and functioning of three critical interfaces that are particularly affected by human action and weather: the near-land surface, the active root zone and the river corridor.

A closer look at these areas will have broad impact. A better understanding of the near-land surface interface is important for determining how agricultural activity intersects with critical zone processes and affects soil functioning and health. Together with the active root zone interface, it represents the foundation upon which sustainable agriculture in Intensively Managed Landscapes depends.

The river corridor is a complex mix of several interfaces and functions as a biogeochemical reactor and critical zone filter. Improved understanding of connections between these interfaces is also important for addressing broader, far reaching environmental problems such as hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

“This project is an example of convergence research that brings together scientists from many different backgrounds, and its findings will help us address a range of landscape management issues from enhancing agricultural productivity while maintaining soil health to managing sediment and nutrient transport to the Gulf of Mexico,” Kumar says.

Kumar is the Colonel Harry F. and Frankie M. Lovell Endowed Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition to Kumar, the research team is led by Ashlee L. Dere, associate professor of geology at the University of Nebraska Omaha; Timothy Filley, professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University; and Allison Goodwell, assistant professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Colorado at Denver. The multi-institution team also includes Bruce Rhoads (University of Illinois, Geography and Geographic Information Science), Alison Anders and Jennifer Druhan (both University of Illinois, Geology), Laura Keefer and Erin Bauer (both Illinois State Water Survey), Andrew Stumpf (Illinois State Geological Survey), Luigi Marini (NCSA), Ximing Cai (University of Illinois, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Neal Blair (Northwestern University), Sean Schaeffer (University of Tennessee at Knoxville), Marian Muste (University of Iowa), Lisa Welps-Smith (Purdue University), Ted Kratschmer (National Great Rivers Research and Education Center), and Sarah Fisher (National Great Rivers Research and Education Center). Several students, including Susana Roque-Malo and Leila Hernandez from CEE at Illinois, contributed to the success of the proposal.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation's science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.