This award is funded under NSF's Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) activities, which aim to address the challenges of creating a sustainable world.
Research Coordination Network (RCN) CE3SAR (Climate, Energy, Environment, and Engagement in Semiarid Regions) is a comprehensive partnership of researchers at South Texas regional institutions and major research universities elsewhere advancing knowledge of science, engineering and education for sustainability (SEES). The network will develop and test an innovative model for conducting interdisciplinary, region-specific, sustainability research closely tied to the needs and interests of highly-engaged local stakeholders. RCN CE3SAR will aggregate regional research capacities specific to sustainability in semiarid climates contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico while leveraging research expertise infused from outside the region. Geographic information science (GIS) will play a key role in the process of integrating layers of scientific data, producing scientific insight and presenting new ideas, new research directions and new scientific knowledge to regional stakeholders as well as the scientific community. The network will align regional capacities that heretofore were largely disconnected and bring focus and synergy to a range of research that will profoundly impact the region and its socioeconomic future. The network will engage and educate regional communities, government and private-sector stakeholders throughout the process.
South Texas comprises 28 counties, eight of which border Mexico and eight the Gulf of Mexico, where coastal marine and estuarine environments quickly become semiarid regions historically susceptible to drought. Climate change and its ripple effects, from rising seas to parched riverbeds, will profoundly affect South Texas socioeconomic structures, geographic distribution patterns and educational and cultural institutions. While much sustainability science focuses on global scales, local communities and institutions in South Texas and elsewhere face crucial decisions over the next 20 years driven by sustainability issues related to water, energy and use of space. Scientific knowledge must be available at relevant scales for those decisions to be informed by sustainability research; moreover, the science must be understood and accepted by the community, which plays a vital role in implementing the research results into its decision making and infrastructure. Experience has shown that importing researchers from outside the region with little or no connection to the community results in low acceptance of research results by local decision-makers and by the community at large; moreover, South Texas has been historically isolated and its residents suspicious of 'outsiders'. In order for sustainability research to have a salutary and substantive local impact, it must be advanced by regional researchers who also draw on national and international expertise.