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 stepped forward to embrace this role through participation in the Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) 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 manmade. Its overarching goal was 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. Mathematical models give us: insights about these complex interactions and how to monitor and measure the health of our planet; tools for analyzing and interpreting the massive amounts of data that are collected; and methods to mitigate and control human impact.
MPE was planned as a year-long project running in 2013 and involving mainly North American institutions, but it evolved to become a truly worldwide initiative with 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 2013 came to a close, it was clear that the problems facing our planet would persist, and there was momentum to propel the effort to address them beyond 2013. The Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+ (MPE 2013+) project is a continuation of MPE beyond 2013. The project is led by DIMACS and will involve mathematical scientists in laying the groundwork for a long-term effort to surmount problems facing the planet. These problems are complex and do not abide disciplinary boundaries. They require understanding of physical and biological processes that are overlaid by human political and economic processes.
MPE 2013+ will build on MPE activities in 2013, leverage the many partnerships that the 2013 effort helped to establish, broaden and deepen our understanding of earth’s issues, strengthen multidisciplinary contacts, lay a course for future research, and propel MPE activities into the future.
MPE 2013+ will organize the project around the following five research clusters, each emphasizing a particular research theme:
- Sustainable Human Environments;
- Global Change;
- Data-aware Energy Use;
- Natural Disasters; and
- Management of Natural Resources.
Each cluster will launch with a workshop that provides a broad overview of the cluster theme and then continue with additional workshops on more focused topics within the overarching theme.
Education is a crucial component of MPE2013+. Educational issues will be discussed at each research workshop and a special sixth cluster, Education for the Planet Earth of Tomorrow, will be devoted entirely to exploring integration of related topics into education at all levels.
- Brian Conrey, American Institute of Mathematics (AIM)
- Margaret (Midge) Cozzens, DIMACS
- David Ellwood, Clay Mathematics Institute
- Eugene Fiorini, Muhlenberg College
- Fred Roberts, DIMACS
- Mary Lou Zeeman, Bowdoin College
Calendar of Events: A variety of workshops and mini-workshops are part of the MPE 2013+ project.
The Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+ project is supported by DIMACS and its partners, and by the National Science Foundation under grant number DMS-1246305.