Summer Institute on Earth-Surface Dynamics

The National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics has created a new teaching forum, the Summer Institute on Earth-surface Dynamics (SIESD), designed to engage young scientists in a focused topic in Earth-surface dynamics. Drawing on NCED’s approach of integrating theory, laboratory experiments, numerical modeling, and fieldwork, this two-week institute combines lectures with practical experiences in the laboratory and the field. 


SIESD 2018: Earth-surface math: evolution, signals, and connections

Dates: July 25th - August 4th, 2018
Location: St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN


This year’s Summer Institute focuses on the mathematical tools involved in earthcasting, with a particular focus on landscape connections and how signals (e.g. effects of climate change) are propagated through Earth-surface systems and recorded, whether in deposits or the current landscape. A desire to learn is essential, but training in advanced mathematics is not. The topics to be explored will include both erosional and depositional landscapes. Lectures and exercises on mathematical techniques will be complemented by experiments and observations at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. 

Participant costs (enrollment, accommodations, breakfast and lunch on teaching days, and a few dinners) are supported by NCED2. However, applicants are responsible for the cost of transportation to and from Minneapolis, Minnesota, for meals not specified above, and all other incidental expenses.

Application deadline is April 27th, 2018.

Read more about past Summer Institutes:

SIESD 2017: Investigating scale in earth-surface systems to better inform predictions

Scale is a fundamental attribute in how earth-surface systems operate and how we (scientists) study and understand them. The 2017 SIESD will concentrate on system behaviors that emerge from the interaction of processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales. Human activities, as a principal source of change, are included and introduce dimensions of scale that are unparalleled in geologic history. The themes of scale at SIESD will focus on two main applications: earthcasting – the simulation of large-scale earth-system interactions; and river deltas – a nexus of climate, land, ocean, and society.

SIESD 2016: Coupled hydro-eco-geomorphologic processes in human dominated landscapes: cascade of changes and the use of modeling for management and decision making

2016 SIESD's theme focused on examining the coupled interactions of surface processes in human-dominated landscapes, with the goal of better forecasting the physical and ecological outcomes of implementing different landscape management scenarios.  From agricultural fields and urban areas to delta landscapes and coastlines, the vulnerabilities of natural-human systems must be better understood to guide decision-making toward sustainability and resilience.

Like previous workshops, SIESD 2016 aimed to develop a basic working knowledge of analysis tools that can help us make sense of complex surface systems, including connections between field, laboratory, and modeling. Students participated in taught classroom sessions, hands-on work with computational tools, field work, and physical experiments that the course participants will help design and run.

SIESD 2015: Summer in the Swamp: Self-organization in landscapes and its residue in the stratigraphic record

This year's theme maintains our current focus on linking surface processes and subsurface records, but with a new flavor: it is field-centric and will be hosted at Tulane University to take advantage of the unique and fascinating Mississippi River Delta. The aims for 2015 are to develop a basic working knowledge of analysis tools that can help us make sense of complex surface systems and their depositional records, and begin to make predictions in both realms. We will focus on building connections: between surface and subsurface, between field and laboratory, and among physical biological and geochecmial processes. SIESD will combine classical methods of process analysis, measurement and predication with methods related to emerging ideas in areas such as reduced complexity, modeling, network analysis, pattern formation, and geostatistics. Students will participate in taught class-room sessions, hands-on work with computational tools, field work, and physical experiments that the course participants will help design and run. 

SIESD 2014: Complexity and Predictability in Depositional Systems

This year's theme builds on the 2013 SIESD theme, linking surface processes and depositional records, with a new focus on formal, quantitative analysis of complexity and its effect on prediction both of evolution and change in present-day systems and of 3D structure in the subsurface. The key objective of the 2014 SIESD is to develop a working knowledge of analysis tools that can help us navigate the complexity of the surface-process interactions to provide insights into the behavior of depositional systems.  In particular, the SIESD will combine classical methods of process analysis and prediction with methods related to emerging ideas in reduce complexity modeling, network analysis, multi-scale analysis, non-locality, pattern formation, and quantification of change.  Students will participate in taught class-room sessions, hands-on work with computational tools, and a physical experiement that the course participants will design and run over the duration of the course.

SIESD 2013: Subsurface to surface: recovering surface dynamics from stratigraphic records

There has long been a disconnect between scientists studying the Earth’s past, on the scale of ‘deep time’, and those working in the modern era, typically on human/engineering time scales. A major theme of NCED, which has also found expression in recent NRC publications (NRC, 2010; Transitions, 2011) is the importance of bridging this gap. The idea is to use the Earth’s rich archival record of its own surface evolution and the value of that record to inform understanding of how Earth’s surface might change in the future, considering a spectrum of time scales because even short-term evolution is often conditioned by long-term trends. Understanding these natural trends becomes even more important as human influence grows. Sustainable solutions imply management over long periods, i.e., the goal is that current practices could be continued indefinitely without damaging the environment or depleting future resources. Sustainability thus requires forecasting the effects of current practice over multi-generational time scales. The only data available for testing such forecasts is reconstructions of the past behavior of the surface system.
SIESD 2012: Future Earth: Interaction of Climate and Earth-surface Processes
August 8-17, 2012
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
The 2012 SIESD focused on the interaction between climate and landscapes over a range of scales. What will the effect be of more intense rainfall events on surface morphodynamics, flooding and landslide hazards? What will the effect be of sea level rise and human impacts on coastal eco-hydrology and deltaic systems? Emphasis was placed on the study of basic processes at the intersection of water-earth-biota using examples and data from diverse landscapes. Hands-on learning opportunities included the exploration of physical experiments and theoretical models as well as landscape evolution modeling using the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) tools. Mentoring and broader impact activities included touring the "Future Earth" exhibit of the Science Museum of Minnesota and spending time at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.
Click here to view presentations, readings, course materials, photos and more from the 2012 SIESD.
August 10-19, 2011
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
The 2011 SIESD focused on the biophysical dynamics and predictive evolution of deltas. Students investigated coupled models of erosion, deposition, and vegetation; responses to up- and downstream anthropogenic perturbations; and how predictive modelling can be used for restoration of these delicate ecosystems. Hands-on learning opportunities included the exploration of physical experiments and theoretical models as well as an intensive unit on the use of delta modeling tools available through CSDMS, the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling Systems. 
August 18-27, 2010
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The 2010 SIESD focused on "Rivers and Vegetation." Attending students gained experience via lectures, laboratory experiments, and field work on the basic physics of water-sediment-vegetation interaction, modeling of the co-evolution of landscapes and their ecosystems, quantitative analysis of complex landscapes, LiDAR analysis of river topography and vegetation, and specifics of braided, meandering and deltaic systems interacting with vegetation. The studetns also gained hands-on experience with a suite of analytical tools including GeoNet and InVEST, a modeling environment to support environmental desicion-making.
August 12-21, 2009
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The 2009 SIESD featured exploration of the dynamics of sediment storage and bed material transport, eco-hydrology, mathematical modeling and multi-scale analysis, and modeling the morphology and eco-hydrology of alluvial plains and deltas. The 2009 curriculum particularly emphasized the use of high-resolution digital topography in extracting critical features from the landscape and in providing for hypothesis testing and fieldwork guidance within a predictive environment.