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$6.5M grant to boost Scripps Earth studies program

Tidepools near the Scripps Institution Of Oceanography on Sep. 4, 2020.
Erik Anderson
Tidepools near the Scripps Institution Of Oceanography on Sep. 4, 2020.

UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to receive a five-year, $6.5 million Geospatial Modeling grant, officials announced Friday.

The grant will enable the creation of an academic track within the Scripps Geophysics graduate program in geodesy, a field that studies Earth's geometric shape and its deformations, orientation in space and gravity field.

"China and Europe have many geodesy programs, but for some reason the U.S. has lagged behind and now there are not many places that teach it and there are not many teachers," Scripps researcher Yehuda Bock said. "This grant is going to allow us to begin to remedy that by making Scripps a marquee destination for geodesy training."


In addition to expanding Scripps' geodesy curriculum, the grant will support Scripps researchers' efforts to update the National Spatial Reference System, a consistent coordinate system that defines latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity and orientation in the United States.

University officials said that modernizing the NSRS will improve its accuracy for important applications such as sea level rise planning via improved floodplain maps, resilient infrastructure and evacuation routes for coastal hazards.

The grant will also provide three new graduate-level courses and funding for five graduate students over the course of five years.

The second half of the proposal funded by the NOAA grant will update the NSRS database, which was created by the NOAA's National Geodetic Survey and features a collection of more than 1.5 million points across the United States.

Avid hikers may have even seen the metal discs that NGS uses as survey markers.


"In the next five years we hope to fully develop our geodesy curriculum, to move towards a center of geodesy at Scripps that will be visible to the outside world, and hopefully attract more students to this important and exciting field," Bock added. "If we can train the next generation of geodesists while contributing to the modernization of the NSRS, we will have been extremely successful."