The Shiraki International Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research (SIMuR) project is a collaboration between faculty and students at three public universities (Bridgewater State University, University of California San Diego, and Ilia State University in Georgia) and the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia. The SIMuR project will engage U.S. undergraduate students in interdisciplinary research of historical and ongoing human-environmental interactions in the Shiraki Plateau in the southeastern part of the country of Georgia. The project will strengthen scientific knowledge, technical and leadership skills of a cohort of diverse, globally competent, and engaged young STEM researchers. This international research experience will embed students in a cross-country and cross-disciplinary research effort while getting them acquainted with the national specifics of this culturally-rich strategic region. SIMuR will increase STEM engagement and literacy in underserved communities in rural Georgia and the US, bringing advanced data science, visualization and spatial and temporal analysis concepts and technologies into this cross-country collaboration, thus improving the capacity of students and universities to address research problems of global significance.
Specifically, understanding the interplay of natural and anthropogenic factors in the history of human settlement on the Shiraki Plateau is a part of the interdisciplinary challenge of identifying and modeling impacts of human and environmental changes influencing the rise and decline of civilizations. With the goal of contributing to this developing body of knowledge, SIMuR will engage 15 undergraduate students from Bridgewater State University (5 students each year) in high-quality interdisciplinary research collaborations with Georgian peers and mentorship from an international group of experts in geological sciences, cyber-archaeology, computer engineering, information management, and data science. Participants will also engage in STEM outreach to underserved communities in southeastern Georgia and Massachusetts. Both the research and educational components of the project will build on a confluence of advanced technologies to clarify the several competing hypotheses of the depopulation of the Shiraki Plateau, the site of a recently discovered early civilization. The active reconsideration of the early human history of this area by the research community, and rapidly growing additional data from archaeological excavations and field observations in geology, hydrology, paleo-ecology and related fields, will make this an unprecedented opportunity for students to engage in the science debate, develop field research and analysis skills, and deepen their understanding of this rapidly developing culturally diverse area. By creating and disseminating findings in accessible online locations, the project will increase equitable access to authentic scientific data to scientists, educators, and underserved communities in US and throughout the world. Recruitment will focus on undergraduate students from groups traditionally underserved in STEM fields, low-income and first-generation college students.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.