NSF awards supplemental funding for INSPIRES project

The National Science Foundation awarded nearly $600,000 in supplemental funding to extend and expand a University of Maine-led effort to build a digital framework that can better assess and predict complex changes in forests.

The project, Leveraging Intelligent Informatics and Smart Data for Improved Understanding of Northern Forest Ecosystem Resilience (INSPIRES), involves researchers and students from UMaine, the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College and the University of Vermont designing a framework that can integrate, analyze and visualize near real-time data from the forests spanning the northern portions of their respective states and New York — collectively known as the Northern Forest Region. 

The supplemental funding from NSF allows researchers to broaden their investigation by collaborating with Alabama A&M University (AAMU) to study the transitional forest response to unique stressors when species are primarily at the southern extent of their biological ranges instead of their northern extent. AAMU, a Minority Serving Institution of higher education, is the only historically black college with an accredited forestry program in the U.S.

“We are very excited to welcome our new collaborators at AAMU into the project and make our scientific efforts more diverse and inclusive as we move forward,” says INSPIRES project lead Aaron Weiskittel, a professor of forest biometrics and modeling and director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF) at UMaine.

The INSPIRES project was initially awarded $6 million from the NSF in 2019, with $3 million contingent on project progress and availability of funds. The organization recently approved both the contingent and supplemental funding. 

With both the contingent and supplemental funding from NSF now in hand, the INSPIRES research team plans to continue its ongoing efforts by visiting field research sites, deploying wireless sensors for climate data acquisition, targeting remote sensing acquisitions, modeling parameterization and calibration for predicting regional forest dynamics, and refining mentoring and student participation, including those at regional high schools. 

“The project largely remains on schedule with many exciting outcomes planned in the coming months, such as continued interactions with high school science teachers and students from across the region,” Weiskittel says. 

Learn more from the full release on the CRSF website

Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207.581.3721, marcus.wolf@maine.edu