Inside Clemson

Computational ecology catalyzing “intelligent” solutions

By Dawn Anticole White, Institute of Computational Ecology

Land, water and natural systems are being impacted by unsustainable human demands, resulting in economic and ecological challenges. A transformative shift in how we monitor, manage, conserve and restore our natural resources is essential and will require novel earth-monitoring technologies and big-data applications.

Clemson University trustees acknowledged a paradigm shift to data-intensive science by approving the renaming of Clemson’s Institute of Applied Ecology to the Institute of Computational Ecology (ICE). The name change better reflects the big-data focus of the institute’s research, education and economic development initiatives, while underscoring strong interdisciplinary connections to Clemson’s Public Service Activities, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, College of Engineering and Science and the Restoration Institute. ICE brings together an interdisciplinary faculty with an applied focus to develop, pilot and package innovative solutions for river basin-scale ecology, green infrastructure, ecological restoration and sustainable natural resources.

The institute program structure remains the same. Gene Eidson, professor of Biological Sciences, continues as institute director with Jason Hallstrom, associate professor with the School of Computing, serving as deputy director. ICE is developing a Fellows Program, which will be open to all interested faculty who participate and remain active in the ICE’s research and education programs, details are forthcoming.

Major ICE programs include the Intelligent River® Research Enterprise (IRRE) and the EPA-designated Center for Watershed Excellence (CWE) which recently had its memorandum of understanding (MOU) renewed for another five years. The evolving project teams of IRRE develop forward thinking applications and remote data acquisition systems that transmit a constant flow of real-time environmental data to more decision makers at a lower cost.

Photo of a mote stack.

The MoteStack is a battery-operated computer that has the ability to sense environmental data.

Clemson University was awarded $3 million from the National Science Foundation to design, develop and deploy the Intelligent River® technology in Savannah River. The Intelligent River® Viewing Room at the Institute offices will provide real-time imagery by simulating the river system with the incoming data. Other IRRE project models in testing phases include Intelligent Farm™ at the Edisto Research and Education Center (Blackville), Intelligent Forest™ at the Baruch Institute (Georgetown) and Intelligent City™ in Aiken, SC.

The institute designation consolidated the existing CWE and Center for Applied Ecology in 2010 to support a comprehensive research and education mission linking land use, water, energy and climate change. ICE is affiliated with two SmartState Program™ Centers of Economic Excellence, the Sustainable Development Center and the Urban Ecology and Restoration Center. Visit the ICE website at www.clemson.edu/computationalecology.