**Mathematicians Tackle Challenges to the Planet with Support from the National Science Foundation**

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided a grant of $467,549 to support the extension of the Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE2013) program into the future.

With the human population recently having surpassed 7 billion, protecting the earth and its resources is a shared challenge facing all of humanity. People need food, housing, clean water, and energy; yet the earth’s systems and dynamics are unpredictable, and its resources are limited. We need to understand the impact of our actions on the environment, how to adapt those actions to lessen our impact, how to predict and respond to catastrophic events, and how to plan for changes to come. The most pressing problems are inherently multidisciplinary, and the mathematical sciences have an important role to play. A large community of mathematical scientists has stepped forward to embrace this role through participation in the Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE2013) project.

MPE was launched by a group of mathematical sciences research institutes to promote awareness of the ways in which the mathematical sciences are used in modeling the earth and its systems—both natural and man-made. MPE aims to increase the contributions of the mathematical sciences community to protecting our planet by: strengthening connections with other disciplines; involving a broader community of mathematical scientists in related applications; and educating students and the general population about the relevance of the mathematical sciences. MPE’s mission is to increase engagement of mathematical scientists—researchers, teachers, and students—in issues affecting the earth and its future.

MPE was conceived as a year-long project slated to begin in January 2013, involving mainly North American institutions. It has since evolved to become a truly worldwide initiative and now includes partners from all continents and endorsement by the International Mathematical Union, International Council of Applied and Industrial Mathematics, International Commission of Mathematical Instruction, and UNESCO, among others. As MPE has gained members, it has become clear that there is momentum to propel it beyond 2013. The problems facing our planet will persist, and this proposed project will involve mathematical scientists in laying the groundwork for a long-term effort to surmount them. The extended effort is called MPE2013+.

The NSF support will allow us to sustain MPE activities beyond 2013 by:

- conducting five research workshops that will each define a set of future research challenges;
- establishing a Research and Education Forum (REF) associated with each workshop that will involve follow-up smaller group meetings to flesh out the challenges, identify potential follow-up activities, and begin collaborations;
- holding an education workshop that helps to identify how to integrate themes identified in the research workshops into undergraduate and graduate curricula;
- finding ways to involve the next generation of mathematical scientists in the effort, with special emphasis on involving under-represented minorities in the MPE workforce of the future, especially through a “pre-workshop” directed at preparing graduate students, postdocs, and others for involvement in the research workshops;
- disseminating information about the mathematics of planet earth by creating a website and other publicity materials for the project.

Research workshops will reflect some of the major themes of MPE: Management of Natural Resources, Sustainable Human Environments, Natural Disasters, Data-aware Energy Use, and Global Change.

MPE2013+ will be managed by the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). DIMACS, based at Rutgers University, was founded as a prestigious NSF “science and technology center” and has 13 partner organizations and some 360 affiliated scientists. MPE2013+ is part of the DIMACS Sustainability Initiative (http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/SustainabilityInitiative/), which includes educational programs, workshop programs, research efforts, and international outreach. MPE2013+ is under the leadership of Dr. Fred Roberts of Rutgers University, a Professor of Mathematics and Emeritus Director of DIMACS.

Organizing Committee for MPE2013+:

- Brian Conrey, Executive Director of the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM)

conrey@aimath.org - Margaret Cozzens, Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS)

midge6930@comcast.net - David Ellwood, Research Director, Clay Mathematical Institute

ellwood@math.harvard.edu - Mary Lou Zeeman, R. Wells Johnson Professor of Mathematics at Bowdoin College

mlzeeman@bowdoin.edu - Fred Roberts, Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University and Emeritus Director of DIMACS

froberts@dimacs.rutgers.edu

National Academies Press has free downloadable resources for MPE2013. We would be glad to share links to our reports, which can be downloaded in their entirety for personal use.

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