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This Week in EPA Science

2014 December 12

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time for eggnog, cookies, and extended-family gatherings. Wondering how you are going to make small talk with your third cousin, twice removed this holiday season? Why don’t you share some interesting stories you’ve read on Research Recap!

Here are a few from this week.

Students Put EPA Stormwater Calculator to Work for Their Community

Students in Mount Washington, Kentucky applied an EPA tool to a construction project in their downtown neighborhood. They used EPA’s National Stormwater Calculator to make recommendations to reduce the stormwater runoff at a new library site. The original plans are now being re-drawn to incorporate many of the students’ suggestions! Read the blog about Bullitt East High School students.

EPA Finalizes Libby Amphibole Asbestos Health Assessment/Risk assessment

EPA announced the release of its final Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) health assessment for Libby Amphibole Asbestos (LAA). The assessment analyzes the potential cancer and non-cancer human health effects from inhalation exposure, and includes the final Toxicological Review of LAA. Read the press release: EPA Finalizes Libby Amphibole Asbestos Health Assessment/Risk assessment shows EPA cleanup has reduced cancer and non-cancer risks in Libby and Troy.

EnviroAtlas a major “Resource Hub” for Newly-released Open Source on Data.gov

EPA's EnviroAtlas

EPA’s EnviroAtlas

On December 9th, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell formally announced the launch of the U.S. Ecoinformatics-based Open Resources and Machine Accessibility (EcoINFORMA). EPA’s EnviroAtlas—a decision-support tool consisting of maps, graphs, analysis tools, and interpretive information about ecosystem services and their role in maintaining sustainable and healthy U.S. communities—is one of the new portal’s major “resource hubs.” Explore EnviroAtlas and the other ecosystems-related open hubs available at data.gov.

Society of Toxicology Announces 2015 Best Toxicological Paper Award

EPA researchers are being honored by the Society of Toxicology for publishing the best paper in Toxicological Sciences in the last year. The winning paper addresses complex chemical risk assessment issues. The Society of Toxicology also awarded EPA researchers Christina Powers and Yong Ho Kim with a 2015 Best Postdoc Publication Award.

 

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.

Students Put Stormwater Calculator to Work for Community

2014 December 12

By Marguerite Huber

The four Bullitt East High School students

Left to right: Bullitt East High School juniors Eliza Love, Isaac Shelton, Haley Steinmetz and Gavin Blain

This year, students from Bullitt East High School in Mount Washington, Kentucky, had the chance to apply an EPA tool to a project that will benefit their community.

The high school juniors are part of a student group called the Youth Chamber of Preservationists, whose mission is to focus on the preservation of Mt. Washington’s past, while caring for the future of the community. The group is sponsored by Dale Salmon of the City of Mt. Washington’s Stormwater Quality Program. Together they learned how to use EPA’s National Stormwater Calculator and recently, an opportunity came along for the students to put their stormwater skills to the test.

The Mt. Washington Library Board had purchased a plot of land to build a library in the downtown neighborhood. When Dale saw that the Library Board’s drawings for the new building didn’t meet the city ordinance for 80th percentile stormwater capture for new development, he found the perfect opportunity for the students to help solve a real environmental problem in their community.

The students got to work, using the Calculator to make low impact development (LID) control recommendations to reduce the stormwater runoff impact of the library site. The LID controls in the Stormwater Calculator include green infrastructure practices, like green roofs and permeable pavement, to mimic natural water flow processes to retain rainfall onsite. They measured the site’s current stormwater runoff and then used the Calculator to test LID controls and future climate scenarios.

The proposal the students developed for the County Library Board included bioswales, rain gardens, and a pair of 1,000 gallon cisterns that would be used to capture runoff from the roof of the new library, thereby decreasing the new facility’s water needs for irrigation. The result of the students’ proposal was a 5.37-inch reduction in annual stormwater runoff from the site. To put that in perspective, over a 20-year period the amount of stormwater captured by the green infrastructure practices in their design could fill 456 18-wheel tanker trucks!

There are additional benefits to using low-impact development in the new Library design: “Low impact design is more affordable, it’s attractive and easily maintained,” Dale declared.

The students presented their proposal to the County Library Board, and it was well received. With the full support of the County Library Board, the architect, and project engineer, the original plans are being re-drawn to incorporate many LID suggestions from the students!

In addition, the students had the chance to present their plans at the Kentucky Board of Education Student Technology Leadership Program’s annual regional competition, where they were selected as a finalist to compete in the state competition in Lexington, Kentucky, in March 2015.

Dale praised the students: “These young people have helped change the mindset on how we use and conserve water in our community. They have helped create a model of development that I can point to as an example of how to build without creating more runoff in our community, preserving the Salt River habitat.”

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

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

2014 December 5

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circle

It’s the first week of December which to me means it’s officially the holiday season. My next few weeks will be filled with lots of baking, shopping, decorating and general festiveness.

But don’t worry, EPA research doesn’t stop for the holidays. So spread the cheer, your Recap is here!

  • Designing a Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit for the Federal Government
    As part of his Open Government National Action Plan, President Obama called on Federal agencies to harness the ingenuity of the public by accelerating and scaling the use of open innovation methods, such as citizen science. One such effort, EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox, was highlighted in a White House blog post this week. The Toolbox empowers communities to monitor and report local air pollution.
    Read the White House blog “Designing a Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit for the Federal Government.”

  • Steps Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Future
    EPA’s Alan Hecht, Ph.D. spoke with thought leaders from several organizations about the connection between sustainability and resilience as part of a panel at The Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington last month. Their discussion emphasized pressing global challenges, including population growth, urbanization, and climate change.
    Read more.

  • Indigenous Health Indicators: What, where, when how, and why
    EPA-supported researchers are developing Indigenous Health Indicators to evaluate aspects of community health that are often left out of health impact assessments. The indicator set encompasses community health priorities such as self-determination, natural resources security, and cultural use and practice.
    Read more.

  • Driving Innovation While Ensuring Clean, Safe Drinking Water
    EPA’s Ramona Trovato participated in the announcement of a $4.1 million Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grant to support the establishment of the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
    Read more.

 

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.

Steps Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Future

2014 December 3

By Alan Hecht, Ph.D.

ResilienceThe connection between sustainability and resilience—defined as the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change—is an emerging theme among a host of environmental organizations.

I was happy to explore that important connection further with thought leaders from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Council for Science and the Environment, the Ohio State University Center for Resilience, and the United Nations Foundation as part of a panel at The Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington last month.

The event also highlighted the release of a special issue of Solutions Journal devoted to resilience.

Our discussion emphasized pressing global challenges, including population growth, urbanization, and climate change. Such pressures increase the risk of economic and environmental disruptions, including natural disasters, regional conflicts, and technological failures. To reduce their vulnerability, businesses and communities need to improve their resilience, enabling them to cope with stresses and recover quickly from unpredictable shocks.

Together, we talked about how sustainability and resilience are connected. Joseph Fiksel from Ohio State suggested that short-term resilience is a prerequisite for long-term sustainability, but he cautioned that there are trade-offs between resilience and sustainability.

We agreed on the urgency of taking positive action, including development of new business models; technological innovation; flexibility in regulations and policies; breaking down silos in government; and collaborative partnerships between business and government. We were happy to note recent developments in that direction, including the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, pioneered by the Rockefeller (look for a blog about our brand new partnership to support that initiative shortly).

Other examples include the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience which provides recommendations for how the Federal Government can effectively respond to the needs of communities dealing with extreme events and other impacts of climate change. New tools are available, including a web-based “Climate Resilience toolkit” that provides access to dozens of federal tools designed to help community decision makers.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has also announced a $1 billion program for disaster recovery, called the National Disaster Resilience Competition. This initiative will make $1 billion available to 67 communities that suffered a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster between 2011 and 2013. The money will fund “the implementation of innovative resilience projects to better prepare communities for future storms and other extreme events.”

In the research arena, the National Science Foundation has launched a grant program on Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems (RIPS).  It aims to (1) foster an interdisciplinary research community (2) enable the design of disaster-resistant critical infrastructure systems, and (3) create the knowledge to support infrastructure innovation.

Finally, here at EPA we are developing metrics and indicators for resilience and sustainability, as well as related decision support tools. Many other federal agencies are engaged in coastal protection, enhancement of ecosystem services, and reduction of stresses due to the energy-water-food “nexus.”  To be effective, agencies will need to reach across traditional boundaries and take an integrated, systems approach toward managing these issues.

Today’s problems and pressures are daunting, but events such as “Superstorm” Sandy have served as a wake-up call. It is evident that we have begun the first steps to creating a resilient society, one that is fit for the long and winding journey toward sustainability.

About the Author: A leader in sustainability research, Alan Hecht, Ph.D. 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.

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 — Thanksgiving Edition

2014 November 28

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap Graphic Identifier: Thanksgiving EditionWith Thanksgiving comes a long list of to do items: last minute grocery store runs, finding the perfect pumpkin pie recipe, cleaning the house before guests arrive, and of course roasting that turkey.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what this holiday is really about! That’s why for this special edition of Research Recap, we’ve asked our researchers what they’re thankful for in the field of environmental science.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

  • “I’m thankful for having my dream job where I get to work on exciting research projects to help support our environmental protection mission.”
    Terra Haxton, Environmental Engineer

 

  • “I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to be part of the greatest environmental protection organization in the world. We are not perfect, we are not always appreciated, and we often do not even recognize our own achievements. But we are the front line of environmental protection.”
    Heriberto Cabezas, Senior Science Advisor, Sustainable Technology Division

 

  • “I’m thankful for having an interesting job.”
    Paul Lemieux Associate Division Director, National Homeland Security Research Center

 

  • “I am thankful for the resources and organizational support to pursue research and development of green infrastructure technologies in urban core areas of the United States, and have the opportunity to interact with citizens and generally demonstrate our work in communities.”
    Bill Shuster, Research Hydrologist

 

  • “I am thankful that when I turn on a faucet, reliably clean water comes out! It is easy to forget all the science and engineering happening behind the scenes.”
    Gayle Hagler, Environmental Engineer

 

  • “I am most thankful for living and working in a country that has dedicated scientists, citizens, and programs that wonder over the environment and are always striving protect it from past and future harm. “
    Felicia Barnett, Environmental Engineer

 

  • “I’m thankful for my EPA colleagues who are smart, hardworking and excited about their research to understand and improve the world around us.”
    Jana Compton, Forest Ecologist

 

  • “I am thankful for our chemical safety for sustainability research team that has accelerated the pace of chemical screening and the transformative advances in our high throughput and computational exposure science research.”
    Tina Bahadori, Exposure Scientist and National Program Director

 

  • “I’m thankful to be working with colleagues who are passionate about their research.”
    Paul Mayer, Ecologist

 

  • “I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary and multi-organizational research community where we strive to understand how human exposure to various types of stressors (both chemicals and non-chemicals) affects human health and well-being. And how we can translate what we learn to help others in their decisions.”
    Nicolle Tulve, Research Physical Scientist

 

  • “I am thankful for the grace, vibrancy and inherent resilience of the natural world. The natural systems of our environment have a great capacity to adjust, recover and retain so much beauty, and for this I am grateful.”
    Jordan West, Aquatic Ecologist

 

  • “I’m thankful that I get to work with some amazingly brilliant people who are deeply committed to improving the environment and dealing with some of the major issues we have on the horizon, e.g. climate change.”
    Betsy Smith, Associate National Program Director for Systems Analysis, Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program

 

  • “I’m thankful for being part of the EPA family that provides the scientific foundation for decisions that protect human health and the environment. I am also grateful to work with highly talented and dedicated individuals!”
    Valerie Zartarian, Senior Exposure Scientist

 

  • “I’m thankful for having a wonderful family, living in a nice city and working with all of the great people at EPA in Cincinnati. I’m thankful that so many thoughtful people at EPA are looking out for public health in the United States.”
    Jeff Szabo, Environmental Engineer

 

  • “Being able to say, without irony or sarcasm, that we are doing the people’s work.”
    Ted Angradi, Research Biologist

 

About the Author: Student contractor Kacey Fitzpatrick is thankful for her new job writing about EPA research for the Agency’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.

Indigenous Health Indicators: What, where, when how, and why?

2014 November 25

November is Native American Heritage month. Throughout the month, we are featuring blogs related to Tribal Science

By Jamie Donatuto

The Youth Canoe is practicing for the Canoe Journey in the Skagit Bay, near Snee-oosh beach. Photo credit: Caroline Edwards

The Youth Canoe is practicing for the Canoe Journey in the Skagit Bay, near Snee-oosh beach. Photo credit: Caroline Edwards

For going on 15 years, I have been fortunate enough to be employed by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, a Coast Salish Tribe in Washington. Like most tribal employees, I “wear many hats,” meaning that when an environmental health-related project comes up, I will likely be involved in some way. This makes for an ever-engaging work environment.

Some of my most meaningful learning experiences have come from working with community members, who have graciously shared their knowledge with me about the many, deeply-held connections between environmental and cultural health.

As an example, the annual Swinomish Blessing of the Fleet is a community gathering that occurs at the start of the fishing season and asks for the protection of the fishers. This celebration honors the aquatic natural resources that protect and sustain the people, especially the salmon. Also called the First Salmon ceremony by some Coast Salish communities, this gathering illustrates the strong relationships between people and the natural environment, as demonstrated through the culture.

While community members intimately understand the many connections between humans, the environment, their culture and community health, it is difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with tribal communities. It is even more difficult to equitably include the impacts that environmental changes may have on community health.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

Larry Campbell, Swinomish Elder and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and I have worked together for many years developing a set of indicators, the Indigenous Health Indicators, meant to evaluate aspects of community health that are often left out of health impact assessments. The indicator set encompasses community health priorities such as self-determination, natural resources security, and cultural use and practice. The indicators can be tailored to individual communities and may be useful for a number of purposes, including baseline community health assessments, climate change impact assessments and planning, natural resource damage assessments, and health risk analyses. Larry and I enjoy working with other tribal communities and are excited to share our work and learn from communities.

The Swinomish Canoe Family sings a blessing song for the salmon and for the safety of fisherman.

First Salmon Ceremony and Blessing of the Fleet. The Swinomish Canoe Family sings a blessing song for the salmon and for the safety of fisherman. Photo credit: Caroline Edwards

At the moment, much of my focus is on our EPA-supported project, “Coastal Climate Impacts to First Foods, Cultural Sites, and Tribal Community Health and Well-being.” This work involves both biophysical and social science. We are building a wave model to assess potential sea level rise impacts to Swinomish shorelines—areas with important aquatic habitats such as juvenile salmon, crabs and clams. These areas have been considered culturally important to the Tribe for countless generations and are still regularly visited today.

Based on the model’s findings, we will work with Swinomish community members to evaluate possible community health impacts for use in the Swinomish Climate Change Impact Assessment and Action Plans. We applied for the EPA grant with several years’ worth of background research and pilot-testing, the internal capacity, and the desire to move forward in our community health and climate change research. These new projects, coupled with the fact that we have some of the most dedicated employees working with a great community, are rewarding.

About the author: Dr. Jamie Donatuto is an Environmental Health Analyst with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, a federally recognized Tribe whose homeland is located in the Salish Sea (part of the Pacific Northwest). She and her colleague, Swinomish Elder Larry Campbell, collaborate on developing culturally meaningful and appropriate community-based indicators of indigenous health.

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.

Driving Innovation While Ensuring Clean, Safe Drinking Water

2014 November 24

By Ramona Trovato

Across the country, 94 percent of the 150,000 public drinking water systems are considered small systems, meaning they serve fewer than 3,300 people.  While many of these small systems consistently provide really good, safe and reliable drinking water to the people they serve, they face enormous challenges in their ability to maintain, replace, and improve their technologies.

EPA' Ramona Trovato (Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development) and Curt Spalding (New England Regional Administrator)

EPA’ Ramona Trovato (Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development) and Curt Spalding (New England Regional Administrator)

To address this issue, I recently participated in the announcement of a $4.1 million Science to Achieve Results, or STAR, grant establishing the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems (WINSSS) Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Along with Governor Deval Patrick, Chancellor Subbaswamy and EPA’s New England Regional Administrator, Curt Spalding, and others, we recognized the need for innovation in the water sector, specifically for small drinking water systems.

In New England, where the WINSSS is located, a total of about 10,000 systems are small which is about 90% of the region’s drinking water systems.

One of the biggest challenges is financial resources. Aging infrastructure needs to be maintained and replaced when there’s a leak. They also need to find ways to improve their infrastructure, but there just isn’t a lot of money for capital improvements.

State primacy agencies also find it difficult to support the high number of small systems across the country. Small systems operators also need to stay up to date with treatment alternatives, regulations, health implications, and emerging contaminants. Many small systems would perform better using new and innovative technologies that are more affordable, last longer, and require less maintenance. Another challenge is access to tested and reliable technologies.

The WINSSS Center will ultimately help small systems produce safe drinking water and operate in the most efficient manner possible while providing information and access to these technologies.

The Center will:

  • Create standardized cross-state testing requirements so that new technologies can get to market faster at a less expensive cost.
  • Develop novel approaches to treating groups of contaminants so that we’re not treating one contaminant at a time. This will reduce costs and is more effective than treating contaminants individually. 
  • Create tools to simplify operations like an asset management application to help systems operators log all their assets and provide monitoring and notifications for maintenance.
  • Develop a database identifying technologies that are suitable for small systems use – taking into consideration energy use, regulatory requirements and system acceptance.
  • Build a network to share information with other small systems around the country.

The Center—and another we’ve funded at the University of Colorado, Boulder—will meet today’s urgent need for state-of-the-art innovation, development, demonstration, and use of treatment, information and process technologies in small water systems.

About the Author: Ramona Trovato is the associate assistant administrator 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

2014 November 21

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap Graphic Identifier: Thanksgiving Edition

I come from a big family so on holidays – Thanksgiving in particular – the kitchen can get pretty hectic. This inevitably ends with someone breaking, spilling, or burning something.

While a burnt turkey would be a major disappointment to some of us, it’s the least of kitchen worries for nearly half of the people in the world, who rely on the use of open fires and traditional cookstoves and fuels to cook their food. Cookstove smoke is a major contributor to dangerous indoor air quality, affecting the health of millions.

EPA is an international leader in clean cookstove research and we’ve highlighted some of those efforts this week.

  • Clean Cookstoves Research: An Opportunity to Benefit Billions
    Bryan Bloomer, Ph.D. joined EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other prominent leaders this week at the first ever ministerial- and CEO-level Cookstoves Future Summit, “Fueling Markets, Catalyzing Action, Changing Lives,” in New York City.
    Read more.
  • EPA Clean Cookstove Research
    EPA provides independent scientific data on cookstove emissions and energy efficiency to support the development of cleaner sustainable cooking technologies. EPA also conducts studies to understand the health effects from exposure to emissions from cookstoves.
    Read more.

And here’s some more research that has been highlighted this week.

  • Highlighting the Health-protective Properties of Alaskan Berries (your Elders already knew)
    Regions of the Alaskan arctic tundra are considered to be on the ‘front lines’ of climate change. The climate exerts a decisive impact on terrestrial plants, including the wild indigenous berries that thrive even above the tree line, the most hostile environments throughout the state.
    Read more.
  • UMass Amherst Receives $4.1 million EPA grant for Drinking Water Research
    EPA award a grant of $4.1 million to the University of Massachuessets, Amherst to establish the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems (WINSS), which will develop and test advanced, low-cost methods to reduce, control and eliminate various groups of water contaminants in small water treatment systems.
    Read more.

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: Student contractor Kacey Fitzpatrick is thankful for her new job writing about EPA research for the Agency’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.

Clean Cookstoves Research: An Opportunity to Benefit Billions

2014 November 21

By Bryan Bloomer, Ph.D.

I have long appreciated the ability to cook and heat my home with minimum risk of exposure to toxic indoor air pollution. But I am also painfully aware that more than 3 billion people around the world rely on inefficient, unsustainable and dangerous cookstove technologies for their everyday cooking, heating and lighting needs.

Display of clean cookstoves.

EPA’s Bryan Bloomer examines clean-burning prototypes at the Cookstoves Future Summit in New York City.

That is why I am so pleased to join EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other prominent leaders this week at the first ever ministerial- and CEO-level Cookstoves Future Summit, “Fueling Markets, Catalyzing Action, Changing Lives,” in New York City.

Traditional cookstoves typically burn biomass fuels such as wood, dung, crop residues, charcoal or the fossil fuel, coal. This causes a wide range of negative health effects to the people, primarily women and children, exposed to the smoke they emit. And there’s more. The use of traditional cookstove technologies also depletes natural resources, contributes to deforestation, and releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere that contribute to climate change at regional and global scales.

This is why clean cookstoves research is a top EPA priority. Our goal is to transform the sustainability and health impacts of the energy infrastructure in ways that will not only improve the health of billions, most of them disadvantaged women and children, but improve the global environment as well.

We conduct and support cooperative research to identify gaps and deliver practical solutions from a wide array of stakeholders. The Agency is leading an international clean cookstove research effort, helping to support the development of international cookstove standards, conducting trusted independent research on the energy efficiency and emissions of cookstoves, and improving our understanding of the negative health impacts from exposure to cookstove smoke.

In March 2012, EPA announced the funding of six universities to address residential burning and its effects on human health worldwide. This group of researchers is developing innovative technologies to quantify the impacts of cookstove emissions on climate and air quality.

Moving forward, we and our many partners in this global effort will focus on translating these results into the field, primarily bringing innovative, consumer-driven and life-saving technologies to individuals worldwide.

Turning research results into welcomed solutions is the topic of this week’s Cookstoves Future Summit. The summit presents a unique opportunity to further develop a thriving and sustainable clean cookstove market. Such a market will mean substantial progress toward preventing the more than 4 million estimated indoor air pollution related deaths due to traditional cookstoves and fuels.

The clean cookstoves challenge encompasses a number of health, social and environmental issues. Such a pressing and compelling problem presents us with a significant opportunity to improve livelihoods, empower women and protect the environment for generations to come.

About the Author: Dr. Bryan Bloomer is the director of the Applied Science Division at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. He works with grant managers that support scientists and engineers through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants program, to improve EPA’s scientific basis for decision on air, climate, water and energy issues.

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.

Highlighting the Health-protective Properties of Alaskan Berries (your Elders already knew)

2014 November 19

November is Native American Heritage month. Throughout the month, we will be featuring blogs related to Tribal Science

By Mary Ann Lila

I was ecstatic when the EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program put out the request for applications for the study of tribal resources and climate change. My office mate was a rural sociologist, so we put our heads together and wrote up a plan for research that we’d been hoping to tackle for years: wild Alaskan berries.

Native Alaskan elder and researcher examine a wild plant.

“Wildcrafting” with a Native Alaskan.

Regions of the Alaskan arctic tundra are considered to be on the ‘front lines’ of climate change. The dramatic consequences of climate-related shifts are most evident around coastal areas. For example, the retreating glaciers, and the shrinking sea ice that diminishes hunting territory for walrus and polar bears.

But in the arctic, the climate also exerts a decisive impact on terrestrial plants, including the wild indigenous berries that thrive even above the tree line, the most hostile environments throughout the state. Frequently these berries (mossberries, salmonberries, bog blueberries and more) also proliferate around Alaska Native communities, where they are one of the only wild edible resources from the land (most other foods are obtained from the sea or as shipped-in commodities).

Berries that have adapted to flourish in the arctic are able to survive environmental insults by accumulating a cornucopia of defensive, natural plant chemicals.  The chemicals help to buffer the berries against the ravages of climate extremes, but once ingested, these same chemicals can be healthy. They help Alaskan natives resist many insults of chronic diseases, including the power of the berry to inhibit diabetes symptoms.

Will climate change have an effect on this revered native resource? On the one hand, moderating temperatures may allow berry harvests to occur more routinely. On the other hand, the moderating climate may lead to competing species invading berry habitat.  And perhaps most importantly, will the berries fail to accumulate protective plant chemicals at such high concentrations? The answers aren’t immediately clear, and only long-term, sustained studies will begin to unravel the true impacts of climate change on the berry resources.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

In our work, the Tribal communities around Point Hope, Akutan (in the Aleutian Islands) and Seldovia have been gracious hosts to the analyses, and have been receptive to learning more about how science tests demonstrate the power of the berries against disease targets.

Not only have the Elders joined in the science based studies, but they’ve gladly contributed the background traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about how berries have been historically valued and used in their communities, as a control of blood glucose and a healthy metabolism. Elders have been happy to show the youth in the Tribal communities, with their own eyes, that modern science agrees with, and validates TEK.

About the Author:  Mary Ann Lila is the Director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University. Her research team has worked for nearly a decade in Alaska with the berries and other native wild plants, which she considers to be the prime example of how plants’ adaptations to harsh environments ultimately protect human consumers of that plant.

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.