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Translational Environmental Research (TER) at The University of Arizona supports the quest to identify sustainable solutions to evolving environmental and societal concerns in Arizona and other arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Environmental issues are particularly apparent in these regions, which face a delicate balance between rapid population growth and limited life-supporting natural resources like water, especially in the context of climate change. Through seven interrelated initiatives, TER aims to integrate and translate knowledge and technology that is accessible and useful—if not vital—for policy development and decision-making.
The seven initiatives are engineering for a sustainable environment; environmental informatics and decision support; economics, law, policy, and the environment; environmental entrepreneurship; biogeochemistry and ecosystem dynamics; hydrometeorology and climate; and environment and health. Funded by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF), TER projects in these areas combine knowledge, education, and public outreach in earth sciences, translational science, applied science and engineering, social sciences and law, health sciences, and information technology.
- To enhance UA research, training, and technology development prowess in the seven theme areas
- To improve quality and quantity of private and public sector work force pools
- To reduce vulnerability and increase economic opportunity in the face of environmental change through successful TER-public and TER-private partnerships
- To develop environmental entrepreneurship and business growth though transfer of knowledge/technologies to private-sector firms and public-sector agencies
- To increase recognition of Arizona as a center of innovation in translational environmental research and application
- To boost UA stature in the field of translational environmental science
The TRIF-funded, interdisciplinary Translational Environmental Research encompasses seven key initiatives that address continuously evolving environmental issues that affect society and the way we live. The goal of the research is to provide the tools, knowledge, and technology that serve the critical needs of society in rapidly-developing arid and semi-arid regions in the United States and around the globe.
Economics, Law, Policy, and Environment
This initiative capitalizes on the growing world-class UA strength in environmental economics, law, and policy to provide an enhanced foundation of intellectual expertise within a broader interdisciplinary context, and to serve as a source of practical information and solutions for society.
Engineering for a Sustainable Environment
Engineering for sustainability is a new and dynamic field that, in addition to enhancing academic knowledge and expertise, offers considerable promise for stimulating entrepreneurship, including formation of new private-sector businesses. Engineering aimed at jumpstarting a new paradigm in environmental systems engineering is at the core of the TRIF TER initiative in this area.
There is a growing recognition that meeting environmental challenges and limitations will likely become one of the major economic engines of the twenty-first century, and UA plans to be at the forefront of this revolution. The UA already possesses a great wealth of environmental expertise across campus, both in the form of knowledge creation and technological innovation. The goal of the environmental entrepreneurship initiative is to couple this generation of knowledge and technology with private sector reality.
Environmental Informatics and Decision Support
This new, highly innovative program has as its goal the development of computational expertise and product development skills needed to support environmental decision-making processes. This initiative works toward establishing a new paradigm for the use of information technologies in earth sciences and environmental programs and provides an innovative model for modernizing university research infrastructures.
Climate and Hydrometeorology
State-of-the-art climate modeling indicates that the southwestern U.S. is likely to dry out in the future. This process appears to have already begun, with substantial reductions in rainfall over the region since 1999. Not only has this drought opened the eyes of climate scientists, it has also created a growing demand for climate knowledge and outlooks from a broad range of public and private stakeholders across the region, and in particular Arizona. The goals of the climate and hydrometeorology initiative are multi-fold, but focus ultimately on improving our ability to predict future climate change in Arizona and the surrounding region.
Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Dynamics
Rapid growth in this field has arisen from concern over how ecosystems, such as forests and rangeland, will be affected by climate change, and also from increasing recognition of the role of the Earth’s biota in regulating environmental processes. Cross-cutting research and interdisciplinary education programs are emerging at the UA that provide a fertile interface between strong earth science and life sciences programs.
Environment and Health
Environmental and societal changes are combining in ways that pose new threats to the health and well-being of society. Hotter, wetter conditions encourage the explosion of vectors, such as mosquitoes, that spread diseases. More frequent and more intense air pollution episodes are likely to increase the number and severity of respiratory stress episodes among both healthy and vulnerable populations. Other environmental conditions and changes pose equally high risks. The focus in this initiative is on the knowledge and translation of knowledge needed to solve those health and environmental problems most pressing to society.