Monthly Archives: June 2009

Science Wednesday: Year of Science-Question of the Month

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

For each month in 2009, the Year of Science—we will pose a question related to science. Please let us know your thoughts as comments, and feel free to respond to earlier comments, or post new ideas.

The Year of Science theme for June is “Celebrate the Ocean and Water.”

Many EPA scientists celebrate the Ocean and Water by studying how to protect them and keep them clean for human and ecosystem health.

Now that summer is here, how do you plan to celebrate the ocean and water in the coming months?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: A Case of Crabs and People

About the author: Steve Jordan’s environmental career is rooted in a childhood spent in the woods and creeks of suburban Maryland and along the shores of Chesapeake Bay. After graduate school and a couple of decades working in Chesapeake Bay science and management, he joined EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a scientist and manager at the Gulf Ecology Division.

Before the 1970s, intense development of our coastal areas was limited mostly to scattered resort cities separated by large areas of sparsely populated or undeveloped land. As population grew and roads improved, coastal development exploded—and sprawled.

Beach front high-rises are the most obvious result of all that coastal development, but the whole complex of barrier islands, back bays, bayous, and tidal rivers along our Atlantic and Gulf coasts is now arrayed with homes, businesses, roads, golf courses, docks, bulkheads, and everything else that comes with development. Gulf of Mexico coastal watersheds lost over 370,000 acres of wetlands from 1998 to 2004, mostly to development (see: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Except for the occasional hurricane, the coastal zone is wonderful habitat for humans. It is also essential habitat for many kinds of animals and plants, including the fish and shellfish that shore residents cherish.

Do the habitat needs of humans conflict with the habitat needs of other coastal residents? Our research at EPA’s Gulf Ecology Division indicates that they can. With my coauthors, Lisa Smith and Janet Nestlerode, I developed a mathematical model to simulate how loss of seagrasses and salt marshes could affect the important blue crab fishery in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The model used information from many existing small-scale studies of how tiny, young (juvenile) crabs depend on aquatic vegetation until they are large enough to avoid predators. We linked data from these studies to electronic maps of the essential habitats and long-term, Gulf-wide commercial fishery data.

Putting it all together, we were able to predict that minor, local losses of essential habitats, multiplied many times in many places, could have serious negative effects on the future of the crab fishery. The main scientific advance in this work has been to make a connection between small-scale ecological studies and large-scale population modeling as it is used in fishery science.

With colleagues from the Pacific Coast and elsewhere, we are extending this type of research to other species and coastal areas. We hope this research will contribute to better understanding of the cumulative effects of coastal development on ecosystems and valuable ecological resources.

graph
Figure caption: Simulated U. S. Gulf of Mexico hard blue crab landings 2004-2050. The two lower curves show different scenarios of habitat loss: SAV = submersed aquatic vegetation (seagrasses); hardened shore = loss of salt marsh edge to shoreline structures.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate for Action: Reducing your Carbon Footprint on the Road

About the Author: Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

There are many ways to reduce your personal impact on climate change. An easy way to decrease your contribution is by reducing your transportation emissions. When we drive we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are many different steps you can take to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to save money!

There are plenty of alternatives to driving our personal vehicles. We can join carpools, which help save energy and produce fewer emissions. My county offers special carpool parking lots and designated highway routes for carpoolers. If you research carpooling in your area, you may find that your county provides benefits for carpool riders. Instead of driving a car you can walk or bike ride to school and work. Since summer is starting, walking or riding a bike also makes it easy to spend more time outside rather than cooped up in your car.

Another way to lessen your impact is to keep your vehicle well serviced. If you keep your car well tuned and follow the manufacturer’s guide to scheduled maintenance, you will produce fewer emissions. Not only will you reduce greenhouse gas emissions but you will have a more fuel-efficient car and it will be more reliable. You should also change air filters regularly and use the recommended motor oil. Having a well tuned engine can reduce fuel consumption. Regularly checking the amount of air in your tires can also decrease your fuel consumption, and the less fuel your vehicle consumes, the less it pollutes the air and the fewer greenhouse gases it emits.

Here are a few tips to becoming an environmental driver:

  • Avoid idling for long periods of time.
  • Turn off engine when sitting or waiting.
  • Reduce weight in your trunk and unload unnecessary items.
  • Be easy on brakes and gas pedal;, driving at moderate speeds uses less fuel.
  • Try smoother accelerations. They pollute less and save fuel.
  • Plan your trips and combine errands to reduce mileage.

For more information on climate change and what you can do while on the road, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/road.html

We can all do our part to help reduce climate change. Remember it’s never too late to start new habits! If you haven’t started driving yet, these tips could be helpful for your parents or friends who have their licenses. Spread the word. We all need to work together in this fight to reduce climate change!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: What books have you read that influenced your thinking about the environment?

Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold – many authors have inspired us to think deeply about protecting the environment. Share which books you’ve read.

What books have you read that influenced your thinking about the environment?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Qué libros ha leído que lo motivado a pensar sobre el medio ambiente?

Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Gabriel García Márquez  – Muchos autores nos han inspirado a pensar acerca de la protección del medio ambiente.  Comparta con nosotros los libros que ha leído.

¿Qué libros ha leído que lo motivado a pensar sobre el medio ambiente?

Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.