17 Dec, 2020

CyVerse Partners with NSF Convergence Accelerator Award Recipients

CyVerse is working with a UArizona hydrologist and her multi-institutional team to harness machine learning and data science to aid U.S. water managers in decision-making with better information about how groundwater systems behave.

Laura Condon, a University of Arizona assistant professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, is leading a new kind of grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Convergence Accelerator awards are designed to provide funding for multi-disciplinary efforts toward impactful problem-solving on a quicker turnaround than traditional funding cycles, representing a new approach to empowering innovation for government, industry, and academia.

A headshot of Nirav Merchant.
Nirav Merchant

"CyVerse cyberinfrastructure provides the tools and training that allows communities to derive more value from their data using advanced machine learning methods – we are making machine learning and artificial intelligence methods more accessible to communities and decision-makers," said Nirav Merchant, co-principal investigator of CyVerse and also a co-principal investigator of the new grant. "Condon's project will provide the unique opportunity to extend our capabilities by collaborating with some of the leading experts in the field."

The project, Hidden Water and Hydrologic Extremes: A Groundwater Data Platform for Machine Learning and Water Management, is funded at $1 Million for 9 months and aims to develop machine learning modeling tools that can better represent complex groundwater systems and aid in decision-making.

A headshot of Laura Condon.
Laura Condon

"Water is one of the most pressing issues for climate change," Condon said, "and we need big physical hydrology models in order to make predictions about how environmental changes will impact our water resources. Our goal with this project is to make groundwater data and simulations more useful for decision-making using machine learning."

"This is a new program in NSF that is about supporting use-inspired and application-oriented convergent research," Condon continued. "Our project is part of a cohort on artificial intelligence-driven innovation via data and model sharing."

Condon is one of two UArizona researchers to receive Convergence Accelerator awards in 2020. The other grant, to Zheshen Zhang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and optical sciences, will fund his work to create sensor systems for navigation, healthcare, and communications.

Condon's team also attended CyVerse's Container Camp – now an online workshop next offered in March, 2021 – to learn how to use software container technology to make their model more powerful and accessible for researchers and educators alike.

In addition to working with CyVerse, Condon's team is partnered with Princeton University, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the software company Kitware. Her work extends beyond research and stakeholder applications of the Accelerator grant to developing educational tools for classroom use.