UNCA Launches National Environmental Modeling and
Analysis Center; $1.28 Million Grant from Education & Research Consortium Funds First
UNC Asheville Chancellor James Mullen today announced the establishment of UNCA's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) and a $1.28 million grant that will fund its first major project. This is the largest grant UNCA has received in its history.
NEMAC's vision is to become a national center for the prediction and analysis of environmental data, with a focus on environmental issues and patterns concerning the interrelationships of air, land, water and health issues. The center will work in collaboration with other academic institutions, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses.
"This is an important day for the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and an important day for the economy of our region," Mullen said at a public event announcing NEMAC's opening. "NEMAC will be home to a series of initiatives that will enhance our superior undergraduate research program, particularly in atmospheric sciences, environmental studies, computer science, management and mathematics. The center will encourage important collaborations between our university, the private sector, and other educational institutions that will draw on the rich data available through the National Climatic Data Center here in Asheville. And through our collaboration with the private sector and other institutions, we will help spur knowledge-based jobs in our region."
NEMAC's initial task will be to develop the infrastructure for the commercialization of current and future environmental data that reside at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Funding for the task comes in the form of a $1.28 million grant from the Education & Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas (ERCWC) for SANTEER, or Storage Area Network Technology for Education and Environmental Research. Involved with UNCA on the SANTEER project are NCDC, ERCWC, and Barons Advance Meteorological Systems (BAMS), a knowledge/technology-based firm that focuses on commercial environmental and weather-related products and services.
Max Lennon, ERCWC president, believes NEMAC will be an economic boost to the region. "Bringing partnerships together that include the federal government, educational institutions and the private sector will increase the local economy. Each agency has a role to play, but together we can make magic," he said.
BAMS President Gregory Wilson agrees. "As a result of NEMAC, we're going to see a growth in the weather industry in the western Carolinas that will be promoted by the cooperation between UNC Asheville, the government and the private sector," said Wilson.
In addition to SANTEER, NEMAC's early projects will focus on the special needs of the western Carolinas region, said John Stevens, UNCA's chief research officer and acting director of NEMAC. "We anticipate developing environmental models that will provide a greater understanding for our region on issues such as acid rain, air quality, and flooding. These will be the basis of solving similar problems elsewhere in the country."
Thomas Karl, NCDC director, called NEMAC a "marriage made in heaven." "We have this opportunity to take the enormous amount of data in which we have made an investment in terms of all the observations in this country and abroad . . . and turn those observations into something that is very useful for individuals across the country. . . . It will be most interesting to watch NEMAC's environmental modeling, which looks toward the future while explaining the past, to try to help prevent the types of floods that happened during Hurricane Floyd."
NEMAC is a great fit for UNC Asheville, Stevens noted. "UNCA is one of only two institutions in North Carolina with a degree program in meteorology. U.S. News & World Report ranks UNCA's Undergraduate Research Program among the best in the nation. NEMAC will provide research opportunities to UNCA faculty and students, as well as additional intellectual capital through collaborative projects and through those scientists who will be employed by the center."
- Merianne Epstein, UNCA Public Information director, 828/251-6676 (office);