This document has been archived. For current NSF funding opportunities, see
Division of Earth Sciences
The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
supports research and education in most areas of the solid-Earth and
surficial-terrestrial sciences. Emphasis is on the support of basic research
aimed at improving our understanding of the Earth’s structure,
composition, natural processes, evolution, paleobiology, and interactions
with the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. In addition,
EAR provides support for instrumental and observational infrastructure
and encourages innovative educational activities in the earth sciences.
Core Research programs support research in the following areas: the
solid Earth, with emphasis on our understanding of the Earth’s
dynamic behavior and structure; surficial-terrestrial research, which
deals with processes related to the Earth’s environmental envelope
and near-surface phenomena; and instrumentation and facilities and education,
which focuses on the development and acquisition of instrumentation for
the research community and educational aspects of the earth sciences.
Special Emphasis areas include research directed toward special scientific
opportunities that accommodate the changing needs of the scientific community.
This research is often interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary in character
or focuses on newly emerging areas of the earth sciences.
• Core Research Support Programs
The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) supports fundamental research
through programmatic discipline, as well as interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary
proposals that may involve one or more disciplines. Especially welcome
are proposals for research in newly emerging areas of science that may
not fit easily into one of the program categories.
1. Continental Dynamics
Supports multidisciplinary research that
will result in a better understanding of the processes that govern the
origin, structure, composition, and dynamic evolution of the continents
and continental building blocks. This program is especially geared toward
projects whose scope and complexity require a cooperative or multi-institutional
approach and multiyear planning and execution. The program is intended
to fund only relatively large projects that do not fit easily within
other EAR programs and that offer broad support for major sections of
the earth sciences community. The program also funds research as part
of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.
2. Education and Human Resources
Coordinates the division's efforts
to improve earth science education for U.S. citizens and provides a
liaison between the earth sciences research community and NSF's Directorate
Education and Human Resources. The program supports EAR's participation
in NSF-wide programs such as Research Experiences for Undergraduates
3. Geology and Paleontology
Supports studies directed toward
a better understanding of physical, chemical, geological, and biological
processes at or near the Earth's surface and the landforms, sediments,
fossils, low-temperature fluids, and sedimentary rocks that they produce.
Areas of research may include paleontology, paleoecology, stratigraphy,
paleoclimatology, geomorphology, glacial geology, sedimentology, soil
genesis, sedimentary petrology, diagenesis, and organic geochemistry
and biogeochemical cycles.
Supports laboratory, field, theoretical, and computational
studies related to the composition, structure, and processes of the
Earth's interior. Topics include studies in seismicity and seismic wave
the nature and occurrence of earthquakes; and the Earth's magnetic,
gravitational, and electrical fields and its internal temperature distribution.
also is provided for geophysical studies of active deformation, including
global-positioning-system-based geodesy and fundamental laboratory studies
of properties and behavior of earth materials in support of geophysical
observation and theory.
5. Hydrologic Sciences
Supports basic research dealing with the
Earth's hydrologic cycle and the role of water on and near the continental
surfaces of the Earth. The program views hydrologic sciences as a geoscience
interactive on a wide range of space and time scales with ocean, atmospheric,
and solid earth sciences as well as plant and animal sciences. Supported
projects may involve water in the form of precipitation, lakes, streams,
and groundwater, and interactions with landforms, soils, the atmosphere,
the biosphere, and the Earth's crust. The program encourages integrated
studies of water balance and fluxes among the various reservoirs.
6. Instrumentation and Facilities
Supports the acquisition or
upgrade of equipment required for research, the development of new instrumentation
and techniques that extend current research capabilities in the earth
sciences, the operation of multiuser regional or national facilities
that provide access to complex and expensive instrument or database
systems for a significant segment of the earth sciences research community,
the funding of research technicians.
7. Petrology and Geochemistry
Supports research on igneous, metamorphic,
and hydrothermal processes that occur within the Earth and other planetary
bodies and on the minerals, rocks, fluids, and ore deposits resulting
from these processes. Included are studies in mineralogy, crystallography,
petrology, volcanology, geochemistry, and economic geology. Supported
research includes field, laboratory, theoretical, and computational
Involves studies in structural geology, tectonics,
geochronology, petrology, paleomagnetics, and other fields related to
understanding the tectonic history of the lithosphere through time.
Supported research includes field, laboratory, and theoretical studies
of the processes
and kinematics accompanying deformation at plate boundaries and in plate
• Special Emphasis Areas
Certain research areas within the Division of Earth Sciences may be
selected for emphasis on the basis of special scientific opportunities.
Frequently, these opportunities are related to areas of national priority
such as the environment, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and
the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program.
In addition, the Division of Earth Sciences has initiated the EarthScope
Program under NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction
(MREFC) support. EarthScope is a scientific infrastructure initiative
for new observational facilities that will address fundamental questions
about the evolution of continents and the processes responsible for earthquakes
and volcanic eruptions. The integrated observing systems that will comprise
the EarthScope facility include USArray—maps in 3-D the Earth’s
interior by means of seismic and magnetotelluric systems; Plate Boundary
Observatory (PBO)—monitors the distortion of the Earth’s
surface by means of geodetic systems; and the San Andreas Fault Observatory
at Depth (SAFOD)—defines the conditions and physics of an active
plate boundary fault at depth. All data from the EarthScope facility
will be openly available in real time to maximize participation from
the scientific community and to provide ongoing educational outreach
to students and the public. For EarthScope science and education support,
see program solicitation NSF
03-567. For general information, see the
EarthScope home page, http://www.earthscope.org.