National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) Program

This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, establishes a new graduate training program that focuses upon understanding the resilience of agricultural systems. Nebraska hosts one of the world’s most productive and efficient agricultural systems, the Platte River Basin. Like most agricultural systems characterized by high productivity and efficiency, its resilience to change is unknown. This training program builds upon strengths at the University of Nebraska, and joins the disciplines of agronomy, natural resources, computer sciences and engineering with policy studies, to enhance the resilience of agricultural landscapes to global – and local – change. Interdisciplinary training for Master’s and Ph.D. students will enhance the type of team-building needed to address today’s food, energy, and water problems, and trainees will engage with external partners from the agricultural industry, from state and federal government, and NGO’s that have an interest and stake in maintaining productive agricultural systems. The traineeship program anticipates preparing ~50 trainees (25 Ph.D. and 25 Master’s), including 23 funded trainees (9 Ph.D., 14 Master’s), with a focus on hands-on experiences between the university and its industry and agency partners. Trainees will focus on key aspects of agricultural resilience specific to their interests, while receiving broad training in resilience theory as applied to working agricultural landscapes. This training will help develop a workforce and agricultural industry better capable of managing future demands on food, energy, and water systems.

This NRT program will focus on understanding resilience in water-stressed and energy-demanding agricultural landscapes and will utilize resilience and panarchy theory, adaptive management, novel sensing technologies and modeling, and policy interventions. Such training is rare in graduate programs in the United States, but is required to prepare the next generation of natural resource scientists, producers, managers, engineers, and policymakers to better respond to the challenges created by increasing demands for diminishing and interconnected resources and the need to maintain and build resilience in stressed watersheds. The University of Nebraska is recognized as a global leader in water and agricultural sciences; this NRT will explicitly integrate these disciplines. This NRT will train students in interdisciplinary science at the nexus of theory and application, and the intersection of sometimes completing, sometimes complementary endpoints of food, water, and energy – and ecosystem services – sustainability. In addition, this NRT will serve as the innovative foundation for a permanent interdisciplinary graduate program that will create a novel education program in the resilience of agro-ecosystems and ensure students, academic programs, local-to-federal agencies, and the private sector engage in building and preserving natural and agricultural ecosystems to meet local-to-global demands of water (in quantity and quality), clean energy, food, and ecosystem services. Moreover, this NRT will develop cross-disciplinary training for multidisciplinary cohorts of graduate students focused on the complex and intertwined ecological, technical, and societal systems involved in managing resilient water resources in the 21st century, in complex landscape managed for agricultural production. Further, the program will help develop innovative tools for data collection, analytics, and synthesis for decision support, management, and restoration of water-stressed agricultural systems within local-to international contexts. The program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The Traineeship Track is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas, through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NECFWRU
-Nancy Shank, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
-Francisco Munoz-Arriola, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
-Sebastian Elbaum, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
-Dirac Twidwell, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Graduate Student(s)
-January 2018 cohort TBA
Project Duration
August 2017 - September 2022
-National Science Foundation
Project Location
Statewide Nebraska