Environmental Science

We Can All Benefit from Learning More About Our Environment

By Nneamaka Odum

When I was young, I wondered how the earth worked. It wasn’t until attending a special middle school, that I was able to begin my environmental education. As I continued to learn, my passion for the environment grew. My friends who learned with me were all interested in protecting the environment as well. We frequently talked about environmental news, and we especially talked about our future careers. Some of my friends, like me, have gone on to study environmental science, wildlife, and even conservation. I can imagine what it would be like if everyone received the education and resources we did.

Since starting my internship here, I’ve learned that EPA has lots of interesting publications on topics from climate change to asthma control, and much more. And, anyone can get these publications for free – this includes parents, teachers, and schools. So, order some for students and help them start learning about the environment today.

The more kids learn about the environment, and how the earth works, the more they’ll benefit.

Even as a senior in college, I now use these publications in my classes to brush up on environmental science knowledge and share public health information with my family members. Recently, I learned how high energy usage can not only be a result of using appliances, but it can also be caused by water usage in homes.

At any rate, even if you’re not a young student, it’s always good to stay informed!

About the author: Nneamaka Odum is a senior studying Environmental Science and Policy at University of Maryland. She works as an intern in EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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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Educational Resources & Activities

By Carly Carroll

Going into classrooms and sharing environmental has always been my favorite part of being an environmental educator. One of my favorite experiences was participating in EPA’s Science Day at an elementary school in North Carolina. The teachers and students were always so happy to open their doors and let EPA scientists and community volunteers come in and share a hands-on activity with them. My favorite activities were those that really got the students involved and doing something – like measuring how much electricity various appliances used, or measuring lung capacity and learning about air quality. Seeing these activities lead to teachers asking if EPA had any resources they could use in to bring more environmental science into their classrooms. The answer is yes!

In addition to what EPA has already developed in the past, The Office of Environmental Education is working with various program offices to develop resources highlighting upcoming important issues and monthly themes.

  • October is Children’s Health Month! Check out our series of resources and activities on protecting children’s health at home and at school!
  • Students can learn how to protect their own health with activities on lead, mold, and indoor air quality.
  • All of EPA’s student and teacher resources are in one easy place! Check out the recently updated Students and Teachers page for games, factsheets, teacher resources, activities, and more!

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education and outreach.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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A Global Effort

By Erica Arnold

In August, I had the incredible opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas on sustainability with students from Japan, Poland, and Thailand. At the Toshiba Youth Conference 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand, four other students, two teachers and I had the honor of representing the US at a week-long environmental science seminar sponsored by the Toshiba Corporation.

The seminar theme, “Achieving Harmony with the Earth,” enabled us to understand that even with today’s reliance on technology and consumer goods, it is still possible to live at peace with the environment. Truly immersing ourselves in nature, we slept in tents surrounded by the beauty of Thailand’s tropical forests. We even ate our food wrapped in huge banana leaves and drank from hollowed bamboo shoots. In this inspirational setting, we presented the most pressing environmental problems of our countries and discussed solutions we could work towards in the future.

At the conference, we also focused on breaking our dependence on using finite resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Keeping the many services nature provides for us in mind, we practiced ways to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable manner. At a farm just east of Bangkok we made our own biodiesel fuels from leftover cooking oil, used earthworm urine to create natural fertilizers, and even learned how to calculate the amount of CO2 certain trees absorb from the atmosphere.

Continuing on our adventure, we spent a day at the Royal Nature Conservation Center, a learning center for the development of sustainable agriculture and energy generation. There, we constructed our own waste water purifiers from microorganisms. It was inspiring to see the Thai people teaching others how to live simply off the land.

As inspiring as the hands on activities and magical ambiance of the Thai landscape was the passion of the conference executives. I realized that everyone, even high school students, can help planet Earth.

We all aren’t engineers or scientists with the skill sets to develop new eco-friendly technologies. And we all do not live in environments where we can use leaves as plates. However, if we exchange ideas and learn to work with people across the globe, we can come up with better solutions that move us all towards a greener tomorrow.

Find out more about sustainability

About the author:  Erica Arnold is a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois and plans to study environmental engineering in college next fall.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Follow That Green Path!

By Erica Arnold

In high school, we learn how to study on our own, flirt with that cutie two desks down, and balance school with family, sports, and a social life.  These skills helped me during the past three years.  I have, however, been fortunate to take from  high school something that I think is even more important than a good looking prom date or even a high grade point average.  I have found both a passion and a career path: environmental science.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by our planet and have always enjoyed spending time outdoors.   Now, I consider myself a true environmentalist.

What made the difference?  Taking AP Environmental Science in my junior year.  My teacher, Mr. Jensen, lives what he teaches. From the first day of class, his enthusiasm and belief that each of us can make a difference captivated us. We learned about the dangers of pollution, global climate change, the crucial role each ecosystem plays in Earth’s cycles and why we should protect biodiversity.  Trips to a waste water treatment center and nature conservatories further inspired us to become environmentally active in our communities.

In recent years, my high school has also taken steps to “go green”.  We have our own battery recycling system, encourage resource conservation, installed water bottle fillers in our drinking fountains and sell reusable mugs and cups. Our recycling club collects and sorts recyclable materials from each classroom.

If we ALL decide to make SMALL changes throughout the year, together we can start making a BIG difference!  What can you do?

  • Take a reusable bag while shopping for school supplies or groceries
  • Use both sides of the page when taking notes
  • Bring lunch or snacks in reusable containers
  • Drink from reusable bottles
  • Use a flash drive instead of printing and toting assignments to and from school
  • Save gas and make friends by carpooling
  • Use a desk lamp for late night studying; don’t light up a whole room

When I go back to school as a senior, I’ll use that environmental inspiration and knowledge to initiate more sustainable practices in our school and community.  Where will this passion for the environment take me? I plan to go to college, study environmental engineering and, someday, solve some of our issues with pollution and waste.

About the author:  Erica Arnold is a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois and plans to study environmental engineering in college next fall.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.


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.

Women in Science: Montira Pongsiri

By Marguerite Huber

As part of Women’s History Month, I recently spoke with EPA scientist (and occasional Greenversations blogger) Montira Pongsiri, who studies the connections between environmental change and human health.

Dr. Pongsiri focuses on the benefits that healthy ecosystems provide, and how changes we make to the environment affect our health. Things that we do to change the environment, such as climate change and deforestation, can lead to changes in biodiversity, which in turn can affect the transmission of human disease. She is studying these relationships, and from that understanding, working with colleagues to identify tools and strategies to better manage and protect ecosystems and reduce risks to public health.

After studying neuroscience, Pongsiri went on to complete graduate work in environmental sciences and infectious diseases epidemiology at Yale. She was attracted to the discipline of science in approaching and solving problems, but I was amazed to learn that Dr. Pongsiri had not envisioned a career in environmental science until her later graduate school years. It was at that time that she met an environmental risk and policy professor who influenced her to change direction and bridge the connections between environment and human health. It didn’t help that the environment and public health programs were on opposite ends of campus.

In her dissertation work, she studied the tradeoffs between the use of pesticides and malaria. Coming to EPA out of graduate school, Dr. Pongsiri found that EPA challenged her to think about how science can be applied to solve real world problems. She enjoys working with a committed team to address issues at the intersection of ecosystems and human health through the Biodiversity and Human Health initiative, which is the first of its kind at EPA.

“People value good ideas, especially innovative ideas that come from a diverse set of perspectives that can help solve longstanding problems,” Pongsiri said. She believes that it is up to scientists to play a primary role in getting more girls involved with science. They need to be able to show how their work benefits society, from the individual to the community. Additionally, teachers have a responsibility to peak their interest, as her professor did for her. Had it not been for him, she would be working in a different field. Good thing, because we need scientists out there working on environmental health issues, especially because this is something that affects us all.

About the author: Marguerite Huber is an intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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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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: “OnAir”: News and Views on Latest Air Science Research

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

I joined the Air Team at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research this past July. Fresh out of a dual masters program in Environmental Science and Digital Media Journalism at Columbia University, I was excited to start and, frankly, to have a job at all.

I read up on EPA extensively, but still wasn’t sure what to expect. What was EPA going to do with a science journalist?

I was thrown head first into a whirlwind of scientific papers and air quality regulations. I was stalked by a rapidly multiplying army of acronyms (Areal Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres = ALOHA) and struggled to keep the identities of all the Barbaras in our office straight (there are at least three).

But soon I began to get a clearer picture. NCER provides funding to conduct research that health care professionals and policymakers use to protect public health. While unlimited funds would be nice, the finite allowance means having to determine what science is most critical.

As it turns out, the air research funded by NCER is pretty exciting. Results have emerged showing that air pollution increases mortality risk, air pollution exposure can lead to heart attacks, the diabetes community may be more susceptible to air pollution risks than others, and air quality improvements thus far have lengthened human lives by seven months— just to name a few.

So… why am I here?

This exciting science needs to be communicated so that folks without a PhD in atmospheric chemistry can understand these groundbreaking results. We want the research to be as transparent and accessible as possible so that everyone can understand the science behind the air they breathe.

I am beginning a tour of research labs across the country. To start, I’ll be visiting the five EPA-funded Particulate Matter (PM) Research Centers, where scientists work together across disciplines to address the health risks of air pollution. I’ll also be visiting EPA’s own scientists and labs, where innovative in-house research on air pollution is taking place.

I’ll use Science Wednesday as a venue for sharing some of what I find— interesting projects, intriguing personalities, and exciting results.

I’ve recently returned from my first visit to the Southern California Particle Center; posts from the trip are coming soon.

image of authorNext stop… Harvard.

About the Author: Becky Fried is a student contractor with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, part of the 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, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Year of Science Question of the Month

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. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas.

Ponder. Observe and discover. We are all born scientists, naturally curious to figure out more about the world around us: how we affect the environment, and how the environment affects us.
2009 is the Year Of Science, the Year of Science theme for February is evolution.

How do you think environmental science is related to evolution?

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.