Nagoya University Global COE Program: From Earth System Science to Basic and Clinical Environmental Studies



21st Century COE Program

Cover image of "New Earth Sciences"In 2003, four organizations at Nagoya University (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Graduate School of Environmental Studies, the Hydrospheric Atmospheric Research Center, the Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, and the Center for Chronological Research) joined forces to implement the 21st Century COE Program: "Dynamics of the Sun-Earth-Life Interactive System (SELIS COE)"(FY2003-2007, COE Leader Tetsuzo Yasunari). The SELIS-COE was designed to create a new kind of Earth Sciences, one which would allow us to comprehensively understand the seamless systems of the Sun-Earth-Life Interactive System.

This SELIS-COE developed inclusive and innovative measures, including interdisciplinary seminars and science workshops, and graduate lectures on Earth Science. In March 2008, a new textbook, New Earth Sciences, was published by The University of Nagoya Press; it crystallizes the achievements of the SELIS-COE.

By April 2008, 23 of our COE-DC researchers had gone on to become instructors or PDs at Japanese and international universities or specialist colleges, and 14 had gone on to positions at public research institutes. The significant achievements of the SELIS-COE Program were further crystallized as the establishment of the Study Consortium for Earth-Life Interactive System (SELIS) at the end of FY2007. Our impressive results ensured that the SELIS-COE earned a ‘superlative' mark at its end-of-project evaluation.

Within the SELIS-COE, the importance of intra-organizational collaboration was felt by all, resulting in the merger of the Solar Terrestrial Environment Laboratory (STEL), previously on the Toyokawa Campus, into the main Higashiyama Campus. Research themes included the prediction and modeling from diverse perspectives of the dynamics of earth systems; and the analysis and simple modeling of potential changes in earth systems in 1,000 to 10 million year units, based on core samples of lacustrine sediment and global climate models. During the four years of the program (FY2003-2007), around 700 papers were published in peer-reviewed academic journals, including Nature, J.Climate, J.Geophys.Res. Our main research themes included the following:

Global research on a short time scale (less than a few decades):

  • An evaluation of the effect upon the earth's climate resulting from changes in cosmic-ray intensity and fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field
  • Monitoring of ambient aerosols including yellow sand and an evaluation of how they affect our climate
  • An analysis of fluctuations in the snow and ice environment for several decades, with a particular focus on glaciers in the Eurasian continent
  • Modeling of fluctuations in the level of continental vegetation activity and water/carbon cycles based on satellite data

Regionally discrete research on a long time scale (more than several hundred years)

  • Elucidation of transitions in solar activity based on radiocarbon present in annual growth rings in trees such as the Yakusugi cedar
  • Analysis of palaeoenvironmental changes over the past 2 million years in East Asia based on core samples of lacustrine sediment
  • Analysis of fluctuations in the Asian Monsoon season resulting from Tibetan Plateau uplift and using an Atmosphere-Ocean Couple General Circulation Model
  • Research into the climatic changes and reciprocal actions of the carbon cycle and thermohaline circulation using a simple model

End-of-program Evaluation Results: Some Comments on the SELIS-COE

The following are a sample of some of the comments made on the 21st COE Program, "Dynamics of the Sun-Earth-Life Interactive System (SELIS COE)", as part of the end-of-program evaluation.

The overall plan for the establishment of the Center was characterized by some very specifically identified goals, which were scientifically well chosen; and these certainly appear to have been extremely well met. Specifically, the goal of looking at the supra-crust and the biosphere as a coupled system and attempting to understand comprehensively the fluctuations in that system, including relative fluctuations in energy source (the Sun), is an extremely appropriate one for topical Earth (Environmental) Studies, and we consider it to have been an extremely well thought-out objective. The COE leader is to be praised for his striking talent in adopting this kind of overall, comprehensive viewpoint, and for being so highly motivated in moving towards the goals of the COE in his charge.

In terms of education, multidisciplinary seminars, workshops, and interdisciplinary research programs for young researchers were carried out. This diverse planning and activity allowed COE participants to gain a more rounded perspective on their respective research content. The COE also initiated significant joint research programs on overlapping issues and collaborative activities; this must also be recognized as a significant achievement. Equally, it was a meaningful decision to require young researchers to take part in practical on-site research training, including those persons involved in theoretical and modeling research.

Research activities include the publication of a textbook, New Earth Sciences, and the beginning of the construction of a Nagoya Model; these achievements point to particular efforts to integrate the overall findings and achievements of the COE. This approach deserves to be recognized. Most other findings are located within specific individual fields, and included unique knowledge such as paleoenvironmental research in East Eurasia, and research into climate impact of solar activity both recently and over the past 1,000 years; these achievements deserve strong recognition.

In terms of the sustainable development of the project and its various aspects after the expiration of the COE, in addition to the four institutes and departments that participated in the COE, one department of the Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences will also be taking part in the Study Consortium for Earth-Life Interactive System (SELIS), established within the University. SELIS will allow for the construction of a framework within which the long-term goals of the COE program can be pursued. The realization of SELIS should be considered a result of the proper functioning of the COE.

Copyright © 2009 Nagoya University All Rights Reserved.