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Oregon State University will continue work to expand computer science research on projects that impact sustainability with an infusion of grant money from the National Science Foundation.

OSU and 11 other universities will share $10 million over five years. The grant renews a previous award which led to OSU research in wildfire management, precision agriculture and bird migration modeling.

“Not only are these really interesting computational problems related to how we can save the planet, but it’s our duty to study these problems,” said Tom Dietterich, a distinguished professor of computer science at OSU’s College of Engineering.

Cornell University is the lead institution for the grant, while Dietterich is the principal investigator for the OSU research. Other institutions involved in the research are Bowdoin College, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Howard, Princeton, Stanford, UMass-Amherst, USC and Vanderbilt.

Dietterich and four other professors will work on projects funded by the renewed grant money: Alan Fern, Xiaoli Fern and Weng-Keen Wong of the College of Engineering and John Selker of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Dietterich and Selker will work on sensor placement for the Trans-Africa Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO). The project seeks to provide information to farmers in Africa who support precision agriculture, using a series of weather stations to assist in efforts to manage limited water resources more effectively.

Dietterich also will collaborate with former OSU post-doctoral researcher Dan Sheldon, now at UMass-Amherst, on the bird migration project. The researchers will focus on bird mortality during migration.

Alan and Xiaoli Fern will work on algorithms for optimizing microbial fuel cells in collaboration with OSU’s Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.

Wong will continue his collaboration with Cornell researchers on modeling of errors of bird watchers who report data to the eBird web site. The eBird site provides data for studying bird biology and conservation/restoration of bird habitat.

“OSU has long been a leader in sustainability-related fields such as ecological science and natural resource management,” said Dietterich. “We’re building on that strength and reputation to be a leader in studying the computational sides of those questions.”

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Contact reporter James Day at or 541-758-9542. Follow at or