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User Facility for Natural Hazards Research

With this investment, UB is now poised to become a high-visibility, international leader in the field of natural hazards science through the Geohazards Field Station.

The ability to forecast disasters and the conditions they create, i.e. hazard science, is a major component of resilience research.  Establishment of the ECLIPSE Campus, a ~700 acre “open-air” facility near Springville, New York, began in 2008, and has been fundamentally driven by the need to conduct large-scale experimental research in order to understand disasters and mitigate their consequences.  Initially, the focus of ECLIPSE was on engineering disciplines, and the goal was to develop a series of field stations on the campus that would address different classes of problems, and these are currently in varying degrees of development.  The concept of a Geohazards Field Station (GFS) was initiated in 2009.  The GFS differs from the engineering-centered stations, in that it would focus on the processes that generate the extreme conditions themselves.  Working closely with the UB-managed, not-for-profit organization ECLIPSE, LLC, the GFS is being developed under the scientific leadership of the UB Center for Geohazards Studies (College of Arts and Sciences).  Because of the general lack of accessible facilities for large-scale experiments in the geohazards community, it was decided that the Geohazards Field Station would be developed as an international user facility.  In a user facility business model, a basic experimental infrastructure would be put in place and maintained, and any researcher would be able to use the facility for specific experiments in return for a user fee. 

Before launching the GFS, it was critical to engage the international community to: 

  1. Determine whether there was broad interest and support for a user facility,
  2. Articulate as a community what critical research needs could be addressed with the facility, and
  3. Discuss initial priorities and design concepts for the facility that would enable it to address the research needs.

The following major classes of problems were identified during the workshop as priorities for the GFS: 

  1. Granular mass flows,
  2. Volcanic crater and conduit dynamics,
  3. Explosive interaction between water and magma in volcanic systems,
  4. Dispersal and fallout from particle laden plumes. 

Additionally, large-scale experiments on these problems will provide unique opportunities for testing new remote sensing technologies. 

With this investment, UB is now poised to become a high-visibility, international leader in the field of natural hazards science through the Geohazards Field Station.  Specific impacts on UB’s performance metrics and reputation are detailed in the main proposal.  This proposal is aimed at securing resources and personnel that are needed to move beyond the groundwork that has been completed and make the field station a functioning reality that is ready for external funding.