The Environmental System Science (ESS) program targets terrestrial, watershed, and coastal systems whose current representation or large uncertainties in process and multi-scale models of the Earth system represent significant knowledge gaps in current and predictive understanding.
ESS uses an iterative model-experiment (ModEx) approach.
- ESS-funded researchers undertake hypothesis- and discovery-driven research, which generates observational and experimental data through lab- and field-based studies. These data are then incorporated into the ESS data system known as ESS-DIVE (Environmental System Science Data Infrastructure for a Virtual Ecosystem).
- The observational and experimental data are incorporated into conceptual system models.
- To enable prediction of future states, ESS-funded scientists and others develop numerical models that incorporate structural and functional components of a given system.
- Numerical models are advanced through the addition of more observational and experimental data, but they are also used to identify opportunities for additional field and lab-based research to fill gaps in understanding system structure and function.