Urban and suburban areas, particularly in southern California, face multiple environmental challenges such as wildfires, pollution, and sea level rise. To address these challenges successfully will require strong partnerships that cross academic and government agency boundaries and that engage all stakeholders. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of California, Irvine, will establish the Ridge-to-Reef (R2R) training program for community-engaged graduate training through partnerships with government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. The primary goal of R2R is to train the next generation of professionals with the skills required to translate conceptual knowledge into practical environmental solutions.

This graduate research training program will foster a skilled workforce to tackle pressing environmental problems. The R2R training program will actively engage with partners outside academia to develop research questions and methods so that outcomes align with real-world needs. A Research in Action Internship (RAIN) program will provide students with hands-on skills training guided by the partners and academic faculty. The R2R curriculum will focus on interdisciplinary knowledge, communication skills, and professional development. A summer institute will teach data analysis skills, and an environmental solutions practicum will require trainees to apply their knowledge to real-world problems and datasets. Trainees who complete program requirements and an internship will receive a Certificate in Ecosystem Management and Environmental Change to facilitate career placement. Research products and curriculum materials will be disseminated to enrich graduate programs outside UC Irvine. By training the next generation of environmental problem solvers, R2R will enhance the sustainable management of terrestrial, aquatic, marine, suburban, and urban ecosystems.

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas, through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.