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ECU Hosts Planning Database

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

East Carolina University researchers will soon be able to synthesize their natural disaster and emergency planning data with institutions across the state. Through a $1.7 million, three-year grant from the Chapel Hill-based Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), ECU will house a database designed to keep public health, population and scientific records that focus on the region’s coastal areas.

Jamie Kruse, professor of economics and director of ECU’s Center for Natural Hazards Research, will direct the operations of RENCI@East Carolina University. Kruse said she looks forward to collaborating with colleagues and state officials across the state to help the region better plan for and address disasters.

“This project will meld ECU’s research expertise in the area of human systems and physical processes of coastal North Carolina with high performance computing and visualization to produce truly path breaking approaches to disaster reduction,” Kruse said.

RENCI@ECU will open in the Rivers Building by early 2007. The center will be equipped with high-resolution displays for scientific modeling and visualization, audio/video equipment, and network connections to other RENCI sites and national research networks. The site also will have use of a vehicle designed to showcase new technologies and bring educational, economic development and training programs to surrounding communities.

Ernest Marshburn, director of strategic initiatives in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at ECU, said RENCI@ECU will work with ECU’s Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling to pull together the region’s atmospheric, ecological, medical and economic data, with the goal of helping the region and its residents have the tools to be better prepared.

“We hope to create a large multi-hazard, multidimensional database by unifying work already underway at the Brody School of Medicine, the Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources, the Center for Natural Hazards Research, and the Geographical Information Lab,” he said.

The data will also prove useful for medical and emergency responders, said Lloyd Novick, MD, MPH, director of the Division of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at the Brody School.

“The most critical problems associated with disasters are protecting the health of the public and arranging for the ongoing care of individuals with existing chronic diseases,” said Novick. “The informatics project is a major step forward in meeting the health needs of eastern North Carolina and preparing for disaster.”

Dan Reed, director for RENCI, said he looks forward to benefiting from the expertise of universities and communities in solving problems critical to the region and state. “This is our next step in creating a statewide virtual organization that can address issues of state and national importance,” Reed said.

Other RENCI locations will open soon at UNC-Asheville, North Carolina State University, Duke University, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

“These sites will bring a new core of university and community expertise to bear on important problems that can’t be solved by one campus, one discipline or one region of the state,” Reed said.

Other ECU researchers involved in the RENCI project include: Wayne Cascio, professor of cardiology at the Brody School of Medicine; Ron Mitchelson, chair of geography; Rick Ericson, chair of economics; Enrique Reyes, professor of biology; Lee Bartolotti, professor of chemistry; and Jeff Johnson, professor of sociology.

4/23/07
This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.