Mines receives $3.9M NSF grant to advance research in sustainability of earth dams and levees

GOLDEN, Colo., Dec. 4, 2012 – Colorado School of Mines has been awarded a $3.9M Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant from the National Science Foundation to advance knowledge on earth dam and levee sustainability -- a global issue affecting many through flood protection, clean water supply and hydropower.

The project -- an international partnership with Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi as well as Dutch, French and Bangladeshi researchers -- will pursue research and education on multi-scale monitoring science to enable a sustainable future for the vast worldwide array of earth dams and levees (EDLs). EDLs are critical infrastructure that provide flood protection, fresh water storage and renewable energy to developed and developing nations.

To date, the science and engineering community knows relatively little about the internal condition of EDLs, their interaction with the natural environment and how they will perform with climate change. This partnership aims to improve understanding in these three areas through an integrated social-environmental-economic-technical approach to EDL sustainability research and education.

The research will advance understanding in:

  • Passive geophysical imaging to noninvasively assess conditions within EDLs, including internal erosion;
  • Airborne and space borne remote sensing for assessing important surface features of EDLs and surrounding landscape;
  • Characterization of levee interaction with the surrounding natural environment, including the benefit of natural landscapes;
  • EDL health assessment, early warning of damage and prediction of performance due to climate change;
  • Social, economic and policy approaches to EDLs and risk tolerance across countries and cultures;
  • Cost-benefit of incorporating monitoring systems into EDLs and how it influences policy on risk tolerance.

The research and education plan immerses participating graduate students in EDL sustainability education through rich interactions with European researchers, study abroad and research-intensive visits to these countries, sustainability coursework and interdisciplinary seminar.

Graduate students will pursue a minor in EDL sustainability and will participate in K-14 sustainability outreach through a program led by Red Rocks Community College.

The four-year study is led by Mike Mooney, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and brings together faculty and students from six departments at Mines including Geology and Geological Engineering Professor Wendy Zhou, Geophysics Professors Andre Revil and Roel Snieder, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Tracy Camp, Liberal Arts and International Studies Professors Jason Delborne and Jen Schneider, and Economics and Business Professor Harrison Fell.

This new grant builds upon the interdisciplinary SmartGeo program at Mines that began in 2009, also through funding from the National Science Foundation. 



Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu
David Tauchen, Public Relations Specialist / 303-273-3088 / DTauchen@mines.edu