The National Science Foundation on Sept. 26-27 awarded 30 grants, totaling some $750,000, for studies related to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. The subjects run the gamut from decontamination of flood waters, to lessons for repairing catastrophic levee failures, to solid and hazardous waste containment.

The small grants for exploratory research related to Katrina were made from 130 formal proposals to NSF’s directorate of engineering, says Richard Fragaszy, an NSF program manager. Additional awards will be made, starting this month, by the Directorate of Social, Behavorial and Economic Sciences.

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    The maximum two-year studies allow for rapid collection of ephemeral data, which must be gathered rapidly before validity is compromised, says NSF.

    The post-Katrina studies join myriad others planned or under way. If anything, the many efforts need a coordinator, say sources.

    For building surveys, just a few groups involved include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Institute of Architects and The Masonry Society (see related story). The American Society of Civil Engineers is organizing teams to assess and investigate infrastructure, including ports, harbors and levees. One team has completed an initial review of coastal damage. Another will focus on New Orleans.

    Academia is responding as well. The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at the University of California, Berkeley, formed a Katrina Recovery Task Force to look into the engineering and social dynamics of responses to the disaster. The group also will look at levee failures, coastal management and pipelines, and damage to offshore structures. Part of the $150,000 in funding is from NSF.

    ASCE, working with the American Association of Wind Engineering, is exploring the possibility of a joint publication of university findings. Contributors may include Louisiana State University, Texas Tech, Clemson University, Florida International, Colorado State and the State University of New York at Buffalo.