It All Starts with Science

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatricksuper bowl RR GI

Not a big Coldplay fan? Here’s some other halftime entertainment: the latest in EPA science.

  • February is Healthy Heart Month
    Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. EPA is raising awareness of heart disease and its link to air pollution and other environmental factors as a partner in the Million Hearts, a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Read more about our Healthy Heart Toolkit and Research.
  • Meet EPA Geographer Marc Weber
    Marc Weber has always been interested in maps and environmental issues. Now as a geographer working at EPA, Marc gets to combine these interests every day at work. Learn more about Marc and our other amazing researchers in Researchers at Work.
  • Making a Visible Difference through Citizen Science
    EPA’s Laura Stewart is working on a community-based research project testing the beta version of a new EPA resource, the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST). C-FERST is a web-based environmental information and mapping tool that EPA researchers are developing where communities can identify, understand, and address local-scale sources of environmental exposure. Read more about the project in the blog Making a Visible Difference through Citizen Science.
  • See the Data, Find a Solution
    EPA collaborated with several organizations to create a contest for high school students in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions. The Visualize Your Water Challenge asks students to use open government data to help visualize nutrient pollution. This contest gives young people an opportunity to dive into the world of environmental data, problem solving, communications, and more. Read more about the contest in the blog See the data, find a solution.
  • New England Communities Addressing Climate Change
    EPA’s Curt Spalding recently wrote about the newly launched online resource to help New England communities navigate how to respond to climate change. This resource, called RAINE (Resilience and Adaptation in New England), is full of links, documents, and information on how more than 100 New England communities are taking action to adapt to climate change. Read more about the resource in his blog New England Communities Addressing Climate Change.
  • Diving for Science
    EPA’s certified divers study and collect vital information about our underwater environmental challenges. Their skill and hard work helps EPA do a better job cleaning up and protecting the environment. Check out the video Wyckoff Eagle Harbor Superfund Cleanup to find out what EPA’s diving scientists have been doing at a Superfund site in the Northwest.

Photo of the Week

WayneWearRedDay

Today is National Wear Red Day! EPA’s Wayne Cascio wears red to raise awareness for heart health.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

We’re still recovering from Snowzilla here in Washington DC, but our scientists are hard at work. Here’s what they’ve been up to this week.

  • Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event
    EPA’s Amanda Kaufman recently participated in an event at the White House called the State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Address. There, she demonstrated some of EPA’s emerging air sensor technologies research. The event brought in students from all over the country to showcase innovative science and technology to excite the imaginations of the students and encourage them to follow their dreams and passions.

    Read more about the event in her blog Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event.

  • Traffic-Related Pollution
    Many scientific studies have found that people who live, work, or attend school near major roads appear to be more at risk for a variety of short- and long-term health effects. To help schools, parents, and communities reduce students’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution, EPA has just released a new resource: Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Pollution Exposure at Schools.

    Read more about the resource in the blog Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event

By Amanda Kaufman

Kaufman SoSTEm

Amanda Kaufman at the SoSTEM event.

President Obama’s last State of the Union address on January 12th called for giving everyone a fair shot at opportunity, including offering every student the “hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.” The United States government, including EPA, is supporting this call by encouraging the next generation of scientists and engineers. There IS hope—and I experienced firsthand that hope with a group of young students at the White House just last week.

On January 13th, my colleague Joel Creswell and I demonstrated some of EPA’s emerging air sensor technologies research at a post-State of the Union event at the White House called the State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Address (SoSTEM). SoSTEM brought in students from all over—the Bronx, Baltimore, DC, and more—to showcase innovative science and technology to excite the imaginations of the students and encourage them to follow their dreams and passions no matter how insurmountable they may seem. Over 150 students from 5th through 12th grade attended the event.

I was lucky enough to spend several hours with these kids while I exhibited a variety of portable, lower-cost citizen science air monitors. They also got to build their own air pollution sensors using LED lights, microprocessors, electrical circuitry, and particulate matter (PM) sensors using kits designed by EPA research engineer Gayle Hagler. These energetic students had lots of questions about the sensors and air pollution in general, and I was amazed by how much they already knew about both topics or just figured out as we played with the various devices.

This event also featured presentations by NASA, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Institutes of Health, and some words of wisdom and encouragement from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, as well as several others.

The day ended with a live question-and-answer video chat session with scientists working at the South Pole. The students lined up eagerly to ask questions about what it’s like to live at the South Pole and what kinds of challenges they face in such a harsh environment.

Throughout the day, I was constantly impressed by the vision and enthusiasm exhibited by each of the young people, which inspired me to think of what future discoveries they would bring. All this “controlled chaos of enthusiasm” was accompanied by inquiring student reporters making their rounds with thoughtful questions. It was great to see these kids link what they were seeing to school subjects, making the connection between the microprocessors used in the air sensors and those being used in their computer science or robotics classes.

With support from President Obama and others, these kids are a shining example of our future. The common message given to students throughout the day was to stick with their dreams, to never give up, and to never stop dreaming. Quoting John Holdren, “The spirit of discovery is in our DNA…You [the students] are at the core of President Obama’s vision for the future.”

Check out a few more resources and a video from this event, below:

EPA Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists

Report to the President: Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For America’s Future

About the Author: Amanda Kaufman is an ORISE participant hosted by EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy national research program.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap graphic identifierThis weekend, the East Coast is preparing for the potentially record-breaking Winter Storm Jonas. So whether you’re waiting in a long line at the grocery store, already holed up at home, or enjoying the warm weather someplace far away, here’s a little snow-related reading to keep you occupied.

Are You Ready for a Snowstorm?
At the first mention of inclement weather, we often make a mad dash to the grocery store or hardware store to stock up on supplies. EPA’s Lina Younes shared some tips on how to avoid the panic and stay safe during severe storms.

Read about them in her blogs Don’t Panic. Be Prepared and Are you Ready for a Snowstorm?

The Importance of Snowpack
Long-term trends in snowpack provide important evidence that climate-related shifts are underway, and highlight the seriousness of water-resource and drought issues that Western states such as California currently face.

EPA scientist Mike Kolian explains more about snowpack as an environmental health indicator in the blog The Importance of Snowpack.

What Happens to Road Salt after the Snow has Melted?
Road salts are an important tool for making roads safer during ice and snowstorms. Every winter about 22 million tons of road salt and other de-icers are used nationwide. What happens to all that road salt after the snow melts? Is it bad for the environment?

EPA Ecologist Paul Mayer provides an answer in the blog Got an Environmental Science Question? Ask an EPA Scientist!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Dog outside in the snow.

When not out in the snow with friends, enjoy the EPA Research Recap!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap graphic identifier

The Washington Post recently provided some tips on how to get the best view of Washington, DC’s biggest celebrity—that’s right, Bei Bei, the National Zoo’s giant panda cub! Here’s the latest EPA science to read about while you stand in line for your turn, or have some other less exciting thing to do.

  • The Nexus of Food-Energy and Water
    EPA is a sponsor for the upcoming Nexus conference which is looking at the intricate links between food, energy, land, and water management in today’s complex world. The Conference will focus on critical questions such as ‘How do we feed the 9.6 billion people expected to be alive in 2050?’
    Read more about these challenges and the upcoming conference in the blog The Nexus of Food-Energy and Water: Critical Steps to Sustainability.
  • Visualize Your Water
    Do you live near the Great Lakes or the Chesapeake Bay watershed? EPA is challenging high school students to use open government data sources to create compelling, innovative, and comprehensible visualizations that inform individuals and communities about nutrient pollution and inspire them to reduce nutrient levels that cause algal blooms and hypoxia in local watersheds.
    Read more about the Visualize Your Water Challenge.
  • The Broader Lessons of California Drought
    EPA has awarded a $1 million grant to the Public Policy Institute of California to study the factors that have contributed to the state’s drought and the broader effects of a decreased water supply. Water Online recently wrote about how the study’s findings promise to go beyond an account of what happens when water wanes.
    Read the article The Broader Lessons of California Drought.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

The Nexus of Food-Energy and Water: Critical Steps to Sustainability

By Alan Hecht

three images vertically aligned showing food, energy, and waterEPA is one of several government sponsors for the upcoming Nexus conference (January 19-21) organized by the National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE).  This timely event recognizes the intricate links between food, energy, land, and water management in today’s complex world:  water supply is influenced by demands from energy and food sectors; food production requires both water and energy; and energy requires water for a large fraction of its production and delivery.

Looking ahead we have several major challenges. Global population is expected to increase by 38%, from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.6 billion in 2050.  It is estimated that with a population of 8.3 billion people by 2030, we will need 50% more energy, 40% more water, and 35% more food (source, see: “Can ‘nexus thinking’ alleviate global water, food and energy pressures?” Tim Smedley, 2013, Guardian Magazine).

The Conference will focus on critical questions:

  • How do we feed the 9.6 billion people expected to be alive in 2050?
  • What are the opportunities to improve water and energy efficiency and reduce food waste?
  • What are the strategies for resilience in the face of increased climate variability and other environmental changes?
  • What science and technological are needed to meet these problems?

Government and business must now deal with the nexus of food-energy and water, as well as   economic development, health and wellbeing and environmental protection. This means integrated, systems thinking is needed.   For us here at EPA, partnership is key to the next phase of environmental protection– achieving sustainable outcomes. We are embracing research that strategically engages government-business collaboration as critical foundations for achieving sustainable outcomes.

Working with our partners, we have advanced a guiding definition of sustainability as a goal and a process for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. The goal is to protect our future generations; the process involves use of technology, tools and approaches to achieve sustainable outcomes.

One example is our partnership with the U.S. Army to support their Net Zero initiative,  while dramatically lowering—or eliminating—energy consumption, water use, and waste generation on military bases.

To support such efforts and help local communities, Agency researchers have already developed hundreds of decision support tools to assess the potential impacts of decisions and advance actions that can promote healthy and sustainable communities well into the future. For example, our recently released “Green Infrastructure Wizard” (GIWiz) provides an interactive web application connecting communities to a wealth of EPA Green Infrastructure tools and resources.

As is evident from the conference, in the world today we must recognize the nexus of land, water, energy and food and must aim for sustainable outcomes. The goal today at EPA is that “sustainability isn’t part of our work, it is a guiding influence for all of our work.”

About the Author: Alan Hecht is the Director for Sustainable Development in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Happy 2016! Here’s your first Research Recap of the New Year.

Research Recap graphic identifierHow Do You Fight The World’s ‘Largest Environmental Health Problem’?
More than 4 million people die prematurely every year from household air pollution—largely a result of indoor cooking with smoky stoves. Huffington Post recently featured a 2009 EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition winner’s project, a solar cookstove, as a possible solution.

Read more about the solar cookstove in the article How Do You Fight The World’s ‘Largest Environmental Health Problem’? Harness The Sun.

Small Business Innovation Research
EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a source of early-stage capital for innovative small companies in the green tech arena. Are you an entrepreneur with an idea for green technology? EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program may be an opportunity to help advance your brilliant idea into the marketplace. And you’re in luck—the deadline has been extended to January 14.

Learn more about the program here.

StarTalk
Neil deGrasse Tyson recently interviewed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on his show StarTalk. They discussed EPA’s efforts in keeping the Earth habitable for humans with co-host Maeve Higgins and guest Andrew Revkin, of Dot Earth, the science blog of The New York Times.

Watch the interview here.

Environmental Merit Awards
EPA is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Environmental Merit Awards, which recognize environmental achievements during the previous year. Do you know anyone deserving of the award? Categories are available for individuals, businesses, governmental entities, and other organizations.

Read more about the awards in the press release Nominations Open for EPA’s Annual Environmental Merit Awards in New England.

 

The Transform Tox Testing Challenge: Innovating for Metabolism
Out of thousands of chemicals in commerce today, very few have been fully evaluated for potential health effects. Today, EPA and partners announced a new challenge that will award up to $1 million to improve the relevance and predictivity of data generated from automated chemical screening technology used for toxicity testing.

Read more about the challenge in the press release Federal Agencies Partner to Launch the Transform Tox Testing Challenge to Improve Chemical Screening.

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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This Year in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap with Happy New Year message

Our EPA researchers were hard at work in 2015—so to highlight that effort, we’ve put together a list of the ten most popular blogs from this year.

Happy New Year!

  1. Bridging the Gap: EPA’s Report on the Environment
    Read about EPA’s Report on the Environment, an interactive resource that shows how the condition of the environment and human health in the United States is changing over time. It can be used by anyone interested in environmental trends and presents the best available indicators of national trends in five theme areas: AirWaterLand, Human Exposure and Health, and Ecological Condition.
  1. Release of Community Air Monitoring Training Videos
    Small, hand-held air quality sensors are now commercially available and provide citizens the ability to plan, conduct, and understand local environmental air quality as never before. Learn about how to use these tools yourself or educate interested groups and individuals about best practices for successful air monitoring projects.
  2. Training Citizen Scientists to Monitor Air Quality
    Read about when Administrator Gina McCarthy joined New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, and other community members at Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood Family Success Center to launch an EPA-Ironbound partnership for community air monitoring that is a first of its kind citizen science project.
  3. Seeding Environmental Innovation
    Read about when EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team attended a national conference and met with environmental entrepreneurs and successful SBIR awardees who have gone from an innovative seedling to a growing green business.
  4. Moving Away From “High Risk”
    This year the Government Accountability Office released their biennial High Risk Report, which included EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System Program. Read the blog by EPA’s Lou D’Amico and Samantha Jones discussing the program’s progress.
  5. Visit a Unique Air Monitoring Bench this Summer
    Read about how EPA has developed an air-monitoring system that can be incorporated into a park bench. The Village Green bench provides real-time air quality measurements on two air pollutants – ozone and particle pollution – and weather conditions. The data is streamed to a website and can be obtained at the benches using a smart phone. There are several benches throughout the country that you can visit!
  1. Swimming with the Sharks
    Through Small Business Innovation Research contracts, EPA helps many great, environmentally-minded business ventures with potential, get the funding they need to get started. Read about some of our success stories—one of which was recently on the show Shark Tank—in this blog.
  1. When Cooking Can Harm
    The process of cooking is one of the greatest health threats for the three billion people throughout the world who use biomass or coal-fed cookstoves to cook their meals and heat their homes. Read about how EPA supports research for cleaner technologies and fuels for cooking, lighting and heating in homes that have limited or no access to electricity or gas lines.
  1. Are Some People at Greater Risk from Air Pollution?
    Read about how researchers at EPA and Duke University are using a database called CATHGEN to see how factors like age, sex, race, disease status, genetic makeup, socioeconomic status, and where a person lives can put someone at greater risk from the health effects of air pollution.
  2. Indoor Air Quality in Schools – Concerns and Need for Low-Cost Solutions.
    Evidence has mounted regarding the contributions of poor indoor air quality and inadequate classroom ventilation toward student illnesses, absenteeism, and decreases in academic performance. Read about how a new EPA Science to Achieve Results grant will focus on high schools, a relatively under-studied school environment with numerous data gaps.

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap logo with a holiday wreath in the center‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the Agency,
Our researchers were working, so much discovery!
Is there one place, where all this can be found?
One science review, no looking around?
Here’s my present to you, no need to unwrap.
Right here on this blog, your Research Recap!

 

Swimming with the Sharks
Shark swimming toward lens
Through Small Business Innovation Research contracts, EPA helps many great, environmentally-minded business ventures with potential, get the funding they need to get started. Read about some of our success stories—one of which was recently on the show Shark Tank—in the blog Swimming with the Sharks.

 

EPA Researchers Share Chemical Knowledge after Contamination Scare
RAFstamp2
In September, people living and working near an Australian air force base were warned that elevated levels of the chemicals Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Perfluorooctanoic Acid had been detected in the surrounding area. EPA researchers Chris Lau and John Rogers were recently interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about their expertise in these chemicals.

Read about their insights in the article US scientists reveal further detail about chemicals at heart of Williamtown RAAF contamination.

Water Security
Tap-Water
EPA is responsible for working with water utilities to protect water systems from contamination and to clean up systems that become contaminated. These systems can be contaminated by, for example, natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy or by individuals hoping to cause harm. To help address these science gaps, EPA researchers have developed the first-of-its-scale Water Security Test Bed.

Watch the video EPA and Idaho National Laboratory create first-of-its-scale Water Security Test Bed and learn more about our Homeland Security Research.

 

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Swimming with the Sharks

By Jim JohnsonShark swimming alone in a tank

The halls of EPA have been full of Shark-talk lately—or should I say Shark Tank.  Folks have been emailing around a clip from the hit show where a company named Pitt Moss, which developed a fertilizer alternative to peat moss, was funded $600K by investors.  Not only was it great to see a company trailblazing a new market which at the same time protects vital wetlands and the environment—I was thrilled to learn that EPA actually funded early stages of this product and company through our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts.  And Pitt Moss is not an outlier—EPA helps many great, environmentally-minded business ventures with potential, get the funding they need to get started.

With support from EPA’s SBIR Program, GVD Corporation created an environmentally friendly mold-release coating that makes indoor air healthier in manufacturing facilities by reducing the use of harmful chemicals. Okeanos Technologies, a recipient of one of EPA’s SBIR awards, is developing and testing a new energy-efficient seawater desalination technology that could provide “clean, cheap and plentiful water for everyone, anywhere”. The technology will cut costs to a point where desalination can take place off-grid, allowing it to be used where it’s needed most.

Solicitations for the next round of SBIR are now open. I can’t wait to see the innovations small businesses will bring to the table this time!  Shark Tank beware!

About the Author: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr. is the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. NCER supports leading edge extramural research in exposure, effects, risk assessment, and risk management by managing competitions for Science to Achieve Results and People, Prosperity and the Planet grants, STAR and Greater Research Opportunities Fellowships, and for research contracts under the Small Business Innovative Research Program.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.