Monthly Archives: February 2013

Nuestros amigos, las aves

Por Lina Younes

Desde el comienzo del año, le he prestado mayor atención a las visitas de las aves silvestres alrededor de mi casa. En las pasadas semanas, he escuchado un mayor número de cantos de aves también. Mientras no puede distinguir los gorgoriteos de las diferentes aves, reconozco que provienen de una amplia variedad de especies.


Como mencioné en una entrada anterior, hay una pareja de cardenalitos que visita mi patio con frecuencia. También he visto a la distancia unos arrendajos azules y otras aves en la arboleda detrás de mi casa, aunque no los he visto visitar mi jardín. Hablé del asunto con mis hijas y me sugirieron que pusiera comederos de alpiste. “Hasta puedes poner mantequilla de maní alrededor de una bellota. Así lo hicimos en la escuela”, proclamó la menor.
Francamente, yo me había resistido a la idea de poner los comederos para las aves. Pensaba que como había creado un entorno ecológico beneficioso para las aves en mi patio, éstas visitarían con frecuencia. Disfrutaba del hecho de que había sembrado arbustos y árboles que proveerían a las aves y otros polinizadores un hábitat, alimento, y áreas de descanso. Hasta hay un pequeño arroyo cercano que provee agua. Prefería optar por un enfoque más natural.  Personalmente no quería poner comederos porque no quería alimentar a las ardillas cercanas ni atraer otros roedores indeseados.
Alimentar o no alimentar, he ahí la pregunta. No obstante, con motivo del Mes Nacional de Alimentar a las Aves, finalmente decidí comprar unos comederos y alpiste para aves silvestres.  Los colocaré estratégicamente en mi jardín este fin de semana. Pongo énfasis en la palabra “estratégicamente” porque no quiero ponerlos en un lugar que ofrezca un acceso fácil a las ardillas impertinentes. Además, quiero colocarlos en una posición donde mi familia y yo nos podamos deleitar la vista con la visita de las aves coloridas que pasarán por nuestro jardín.
Espero poder tomar unas fotos de algunos de los arrendajos azules, orioles, gorriones y en el verano de los pinzones amarillos. También espero compartir la experiencia con ustedes en futuros blogs.
¿Tienen algunas sugerencias para admirar las aves? Nos encantaría escuchar sus ideas.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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.

Eco-Friendly Weekend Activities

The rain seems to be drying up, so there’s no excuse for staying home this weekend! Check out our sustainable suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Bagel Bark: Bring your furry friend to Central Park off-leash hours and enjoy free bagels, pastries and coffee while your dog plays with other pups. Saturday, March 2, 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.

Children’s Naturalist Program at Fort Tyron Park: Come explore and learn why heather is important in the Heather Garden at Fort Tyron Park. Appropriate for children ages 4-7. Sunday, March 3, 1-2 p.m.

Free Saturdays  at Red Hook Recreation Center: Every Saturday in March the Red Hook Recreation Center is welcoming the public for free family programming including fitness activities, board games, billiards, access to the cardio and weight rooms and more. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Million Trees NYC Tree Care Day: Head to Queens to learn to care for street trees harmed by Hurricane Sandy. In this special workshop, learn the basics of soil remediation and protecting root systems. Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. – noon.

NY Vegetarian Food Festival: Two days of food, fun, and veggie friendly activities. Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Orchid  Show at the New York Botanical Garden: The eagerly anticipated annual orchid show opens this Saturday. Visit the New York Botanic garden to see thousands of these fabulous blooms. This year storm-damaged trees from Hurricane Sandy will form part of the show’s design. Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (through April 22, 2013).

Topsy-Turvy: A Camera Obscura Installation: This Friday, Madison Square Park will be unveiling an interactive public-art project designed to transform how visitors experience the park. When people enter the walk-in camera obscura structure they will be able to view the Flatiron District and see surrounding trees and buildings projected upside down in an interactive lens. Friday, March 1 (through April 5, 2013).

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.

Green Heart: Spreading the Word about Air Pollution and Your Health

By Kathy Sykes

When I moved to Washington DC from my native Madison, Wisconsin, I missed the clean air that I had taken for granted.  Summers in DC with sweltering temperatures and “Ozone Action Days” made it feel difficult to breathe just walking to work.  On those days, a song kept playing in my head, “Pollution,” by satirist Tom Lehrer.

“Pollution, pollution, Wear a gas mask and a veil. Then you can breathe, long as you don’t inhale.”

I couldn’t see the harmful air pollution, but it weighed heavy on my chest on my daily jogs around Capitol Hill.   Even though my work at the time (for the Senate Aging Committee) included health issues, I never worked on raising awareness about air pollutants and their serious harmful effects on older adults, especially those living with heart disease.

That’s changed now that I’m at EPA, where I serve on the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Periodically, the Forum publishes a chart book of key indicators of well-being, including an indicator on air quality and older adults.

In 2012, the Forum released its fourth update on air quality and demonstrated progress made overtime with respect to the two most harmful air pollutants for older adults: PM 2.5 (also known as particulate matter), and ozone.  The chart book shows (click on the link for Indicator 27) the percent of people living in counties with air pollutants above the EPA health-based standards.

Each state monitors air quality and reports it to EPA.  The EPA then determines whether air pollutant measurements are above health standards.  In 2002, nearly half of the population lived in counties with poor air pollution. By 2010, about 40% of our population lived in a county with poor air quality for some period that year.

While we are making progress, more work remains to be done.

Another federal collaborative effort I devote my time to is the National Prevention Strategy (NPS) that was created as part of the Affordable Care Act.   Seventeen federal agencies work together to look at what we can do to advance health prevention.

Led by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, each federal agency announced commitment areas as part of the NPS.  One of EPA’s is through the Green Heart initiative which strives to educate people about air pollution and how they can reduce their exposure on poor air quality days.

The Green Heart initiative complements the Million Heart Campaign, an initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent a million heart attacks over five years.  The Green Heart Initiative has a simple message for people with cardiovascular disease: check the Air Quality Index and reduce your activity on days when the air quality is not good.

There is even an app that will notify you when the air quality is unhealthy. A fact sheet, Environmental Hazards Weigh Heavy on the Heart, for older adults and their caregivers can be ordered on-line on EPA’s Aging web page.

While there are still counties where air pollution is an issue, I’m glad to know there are actions we can take to protect our heart health.

About the Author: Kathy Sykes has been working for the EPA since 1998 where she focuses on older adults and the built environment and healthy communities.  In 2012, she joined the Office of Research and Development and serves as Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability.

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.

Our Friendly Feathered Friends

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

Ever since the beginning of the year, I have been noticing more the comings and goings of wild birds around my home.  For the past weeks, I’ve been hearing an increasing number of bird calls as well. While I didn’t quite recognize the distinct chirps or calls of the different birds, I can tell that they are coming from a wide variety of bird species.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there is a pair of cardinals that is frequently visiting my backyard. I’ve seen blue jays and other birds in the wooded area behind my house, but they don’t seem to come to my garden while I have been around. I discussed the situation with my children and they suggested that I put bird feeders. “You can even put peanut butter on an acorn. That’s what we did at school,” proclaimed the youngest.

Frankly, I had been resisting the idea of bird-feeders for the longest time. I thought that by creating a bird-friendly environment in my backyard birds would visit regularly. I’ve prided myself with planting flowering plants, shrubs and trees that will provide birds and other pollinators with habitat, food and rest areas. There’s even a little creek nearby to provide water. I was opting for a natural approach. Personally, I didn’t want to get bird feeders because I didn’t want to feed the area squirrels nor did I want to attract unwanted rodents.

To feed or not to feed, that was the question! So, in the spirit of National Bird-Feeding Month, I finally decided to get a couple of bird feeders and birdseed for wild birds. I will be placing them strategically in my garden this weekend. I stress the word “strategically” because I don’t want to put them in location that will give easy access to those pesky squirrels. Nonetheless, I want to have them in a location where my family and I may feast our eyes with the site of the colorful avian visitors that will be flying by.

I hope to take some nice pictures of some blue jays, orioles and in the summer, some golden finches. I am looking forward to sharing the experience in future blogs. Stay tuned.

Do you have any bird-watching suggestions? Would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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.

Cabin Branch: Let the Healing Begin

By Nick DiPasquale

Most of us who live in an urban or suburban setting really don’t know what a healthy stream looks like.  In some cases we can’t even see streams that run under our roads and shopping centers because they’ve been forced into pipes; out of sight, out of mind.

Cabin Branch pre cleanup

In 2005 a major volunteer cleanup removed 40 tons of tires and debris from Cabin Branch. (photo courtesy of Severn Riverkeeper Program)

The remnants of streams we can see have been filled with sediment and other pollution and the ecology of the stream has been altered significantly.  The plants and animals that used to live there have long since departed, their habitat having been destroyed.  This didn’t happen overnight.  The environment is suffering “a death by a thousand cuts.”

I recently got the chance to visit the Cabin Branch stream restoration project, not far from my neighborhood in Annapolis.  The project is being undertaken by the Severn Riverkeeper, and is one of many stream restoration projects taking place throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Keith Underwood outlines the progress of the Cabin Branch Regenerative Stream Conveyance restoration project for members of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources .  The project was initiated by the Severn Riverkeeper Program. (photo by Tom Wenz, EPA CBPO)

Keith Underwood outlines the progress of the Cabin Branch Regenerative Stream Conveyance restoration project for members of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources . The project was initiated by the Severn Riverkeeper Program. (photo by Tom Wenz, EPA CBPO)

Cabin Branch discharges to the streams and wetlands of Saltworks Creek and the Severn River, which carries the polluted runoff into the Bay.  Aerial photos taken after a modest rain are dramatic testament to a severely damaged ecosystem causing the Severn to run the color of chocolate milk. This same phenomenon is repeated in streams and rivers that run through thousands of communities throughout the watershed.

Polluted runoff is a major source of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Severn River and throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Projects like the one at Cabin Branch restore the natural habitat , slows the sediment erosion and allows more nutrients to be absorbed into the soil and plants. (photo courtesy of Severn Riverkeeper Program)

Polluted runoff is a major source of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Severn River and throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Projects like the one at Cabin Branch restore the natural habitat , slows the sediment erosion and allows more nutrients to be absorbed into the soil and plants. (photo courtesy of Severn Riverkeeper Program)

It was gratifying to see the Cabin Branch project first hand – one of many efforts to heal the damage done unknowingly over many decades of development.  Like many projects of this nature, the Severn Riverkeeper Program had to overcome some bureaucratic red tape to get the permits they needed, but their perseverance will be worth the impact in helping clean local waters and the Bay.

The structural features of these projects are designed to safely handle a 100-year storm, while at the same time maximizing baseflow in normal conditions.  The next step will include planting native plants and monitoring the post-restoration flow of nutrients and sediment.  (photo by Tom Wenz, EPA CBPO)

The structural features of these projects are designed to safely handle a 100-year storm, while at the same time maximizing baseflow in normal conditions. The next step will include planting native plants and monitoring the post-restoration flow of nutrients and sediment. (photo by Tom Wenz, EPA CBPO)

Fortunately, we are learning better ways to manage stormwater runoff through low impact development and use of green infrastructure which help to mimic the cleansing functions of nature.   It will take some time before this patient is restored to good health, but we are on the mend.

About the Author: Nick DiPasquale is Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors.  He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

You can also see this post and much more Chesapeake Bay content on the Chesapeake Bay Program 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.

SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest

The U.S. EPA’s SunWise program teaches students and adults about how to practice safe sun.  Overexposure to harmful UV rays in sunlight can cause health effects such as skin cancer, cataracts and a weakened immune system.  I especially know to practice safe-sun because of my fair skin, light eyes and red hair which make me more vulnerable to sunburn and other harmful effects from the sun.  Days at the pool as a kid always involved lots of sun screen and wearing a t-shirt over my swimsuit into the water.  Even as an adult, I still make sure I practice safe sun by always wearing sunscreen and sunglasses when going outdoors.   You can help raise awareness about the importance of practicing safe sun by entering the 2013 SunWise with SHADE poster contest. Students in grades K-8 can visit http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html to see previous winners and apply by April 1, 2013.  Participating students are eligible for prizes, including a grand prize of a family trip to Disney World.  While you are practicing how to protect yourself from the sun, share your ideas with other students in a creative way!

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

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.

Protecting the View from the Mountaintop

By Jessica Orquina

Previously, I served as a pilot in the U.S Air Force Reserves and had the opportunity to visit many places around the world. Throughout my travels, I gained an appreciation and respect for the vast variety of natural environments that exist around our planet.

Last week my husband and I took a trip to visit friends and go skiing. During my time as a military pilot, I had flown over these majestic mountains many times, admiring the shiny, snow-capped peaks from above. However, until last week, I never visited them at ground level.

The first day we went skiing we drove into the mountains, initially winding along the valley floor with peaks rising on either side. Soon we turned upward and followed winding roads switching back and forth along the mountainside to the ski slopes. There we parked our car, I put on my skis, and headed to the lift.

As I rode the chairlift even higher up the mountain, I watched the skiers and snowboarders below glide along the snow. At the top of the lift the view that met me took my breath away. The mountain top I was standing on was surrounded by more sparkling, snow-capped peaks – it was as if I had skied into a postcard. I took a moment to reflect on the natural beauty around me and was reminded how precious and fragile our environment is.

A photograph of my view from the mountaintop.

My View from the Mountaintop

Now, I’m back home thinking about the view I experienced on that mountaintop. It reminds me why the work I am part of here at EPA is so important. Protecting our environment will ensure that future generations will be able to experience this same beauty.

Here are some things you can do every day to help protect our environment at your home, in your community, and while traveling. Why is protecting our environment important to you?

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

By Jessica Orquina

Previously, I served as a pilot in the U.S Air Force Reserves and had the opportunity to visit many places around the world. Throughout my travels, I gained an appreciation and respect for the vast variety of natural environments that exist around our planet.

Last week my husband and I took a trip to visit friends and go skiing. During my time as a military pilot, I had flown over these majestic mountains many times, admiring the shiny, snow-capped peaks from above. However, until last week, I never visited them at ground level.

The first day we went skiing we drove into the mountains, initially winding along the valley floor with peaks rising on either side. Soon we turned upward and followed winding roads switching back and forth along the mountainside to the ski slopes. There we parked our car, I put on my skis, and headed to the lift.

As I rode the chairlift even higher up the mountain, I watched the skiers and snowboarders below glide along the snow. At the top of the lift the view that met me took my breath away. The mountain top I was standing on was surrounded by more sparkling, snow-capped peaks – it was as if I had skied into a postcard. I took a moment to reflect on the natural beauty around me and was reminded how precious and fragile our environment is.

Now, I’m back home thinking about the view I experienced on the mountaintop. It reminds me why the work I am part of here at EPA is so important. Protecting our environment will ensure that future generations will be able to experience this same beauty.

Here are some things you can do every day to help protect our environment at your home, in your community, and while traveling. Why is protecting our environment important to you?

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.

Pensando en los seres queridos

Por Aaron Ferster
Como marido y padre de dos hijas, soy gran admirador del día de San Valentín. Las tarjetas. Las cajas de chocolates en forma de corazón. Las flores. Y quizás una copa de champán (o dos) por la tarde cuando mis hijas están en cama. Mirando el metro lleno de gente en camino al trabajo esta mañana, era obvio que no era la única persona que se sentía así. Una buena cantidad de personas cargaban ramilletes, o cajas llenas de pastelitos cubiertos en crema. Y todos vestidos de color rojo.

No cabe duda que las organizaciones públicas de salud en todo el país han escogido el mes de febrero – el mes marcado por el día de San Valentín – como el día de lucir el color rojo para recordar la importancia de la salud del corazón. El mes nacional del corazón es una llamada a la acción para crear consciencia acerca de lo que podemos hacer para prevenir las enfermedades cardíacas, la causa principal de muerte en mujeres y hombres en los Estado Unidos.

Hay un conocimiento creciente acerca de los pasos básicos e importantes que podemos tomar con respecto a la prevención: no fumar, hacer ejercicio regularmente y vigilar nuestras dietas.

Los investigadores de EPA y sus colaboradores han descubierto conexiones entre los factores ambientales, específicamente con la contaminación del aire, y las enfermedades cardíacas. Sus estudios y varios más muestran que la exposición a la contaminación en el aire puede provocar ataques cardíacos y las apoplejías, especialmente para las personas con enfermedades cardíacas.

Para ayudar a correr la voz sobre estos descubrimientos y las acciones que se pueden tomar para bajar los riesgos a su salud, EPA recientemente lanzó la Iniciativa del Corazón Verde. Por ejemplo, una acción importante es verificar con frecuencia los pronósticos del Índice de la Calidad del Aire (AQI, por sus siglas en inglés) en su comunidad. El AQI es una herramienta codificada por color para mostrar la calidad del aire, ilustrando cuán limpio o contaminado está el aire local. También, provee recomendaciones de los pasos que pueden tomar para reducir su exposición, como:
•    Si tiene alguna enfermedad cardíaca, es de la tercera edad, o tiene otros riesgos a las enfermedades cardíacas, tome los pasos recomendados para bajar su exposición cuando los pronósticos del AQI estén en el código anaranjado o más grave. Las medidas a tomar pueden incluir bajar su nivel de actividad (por ejemplo, caminar en lugar de correr), hacer ejercicio adentro de su casa en vez de al aire libre, o esperar a hacer el ejercicio u otra actividad hasta que la calidad del aire mejore.
•    Si es posible, evite el ejercicio cerca de carreteras concurridas (esto siempre es una buena idea).
•    ¡Y lo más crucial, si tiene síntomas de un ataque cardiaco o apoplejía, pare y busque ayuda médica inmediatamente!

Aunque EPA, los estados y tribus nativo-americanas están tomando acciones para reducir la contaminación del aire, creando controles de emisiones más estrictas para los vehículos y la industria y normas de calidad de aire que exigen más proteccion, hay pasos que pueden tomar para reducir su propio riesgo a la contaminación del aire.

El ayudar a correr la voz sobre lo que podemos hacer para promocionar un medio ambiente más sano para nuestros corazones y los de nuestros seres queridos es una manera perfecta para celebrar el día de San Valentín. ¡Y aunque no se me pasará comprar una caja de chocolates en camino a casa, el año que viene pienso que luciré el color verde!

Sobre el autor: Aaron Ferster es escritor científico para la Oficina de Investigación y Desarrollo de EPA, y el editor de “Todo empieza con la ciencia.”

¡Aprenda más! (en inglés):  El esfuerzo de Corazón Verde: http://www.epa.gov/greenheart/

Esta entrada en el blog en español de EPA (Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente) es una traducción del reportaje publicado en una reciente edición del blog “Todo empieza con la ciencia.”

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.

Textile Recycling in the City

By Jacqueline Rios

Recycle Unwanted Textiles Sign

Recycle Unwanted Textiles Sign

Recently, I did some pre-spring cleaning in my apartment and took down my old cloth shower curtains. How can you give new life to old textiles and clothes? In New York City, you can take them to one of 19 greenmarkets that accept clothing and textiles for recycling. The program, which is operated by the nonprofit GrowNYC, accepts everything from linens and fabric scraps to belts and paired shoes. They sort and redistribute the textiles to markets where there is a demand for wearable clothing or other materials. Recycled textile fibers can be used for stuffing mattresses.

I have taken old linens (towels, sheets) and unwearable clothing to the drop-off locations. It used to be that the recycling location closest to me was about a mile away and only open on Fridays, but since April 22, 2012, the textile recycling drop-off program has expanded and become more convenient for many New Yorkers. Now, a greenmarket is only five blocks away from my apartment and it’s open on Sundays to take used textiles. They also collect food scraps for composting.

The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles in the trash each year. The program has collected over 1.8 million pounds of textiles since 2007. For more information on the program, including a list of the drop-off locations across the city, visit their website. It is good to know that when I have clothing and linens that have outlived their useful life and are not nice enough to donate, that there is another option to a landfill.

About the Author: Jacqueline Rios is an engineer with EPA Region 2 working on Clean Water programs.

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.

It’s Not Exactly Rocket Science but…

By Matthew Colip

EPA Scientific Diver trainee Matt Colip returns to the surface following SuperLite 17K Diving Helmet and drysuit training.

Being an EPA Scientific Diver is a lot like being an astronaut; you’re trained with a specific skill-set to “float” through an often unpredictable environment with the purpose of gathering data to advance science and help people.  For me, becoming an EPA Scientific Diver has expanded my scientific capabilities to work in an environment that occupies 70% of the planet and that we all depend on: water.

EPA’s Scientific Diving Program can be traced back over 40 years to a group of divers formed to support the need for diving expertise in contaminated waters for the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration, the predecessor to EPA.

Today, EPA has scientific diving units at strategic locations across the country conducting scientific work for a myriad of federal, state, and local programs.  EPA scientific divers work in both marine and freshwater environments. 

For example, EPA recently conducted a freshwater mussel survey in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.  The divers conducted 12 dives and reported information on the habitat conditions at the river bottom to the surface via wireless communication.  In addition, live and dead mussel shells were collected for species identification.  Ultimately, the information they collected will add to the data Pennsylvania is gathering on the ecological health of the Susquehanna River.

Since joining EPA as a biologist, I’ve wanted to use my recreational SCUBA diver experience to become a member of the Agency’s Scientific Diving Program.  Scientific diver trainees must successfully complete EPA’s Scientific Diver Training Program, which emphasizes safety and includes extensive safety training and drills.

Studying the physics of water pressure and its effects on human physiology, the proper use and handling of oxygen-enriched air, and the unique challenges of diving in polluted waters help us learn important concepts that prevent accidents.

In addition to general safe diving concepts, EPA scientific diver trainees also learn skills to gather data and survey underwater environments. We learn how to use underwater cameras, electronic communications equipment,  conduct a basic benthic survey, sampling techniques for water and sediment, as well as underwater navigation and sampling site survey methods for zero-visibility diving. 

Simply stated, EPA’s Scientific Diver Training Program transforms recreational divers who are scientists, engineers, law enforcement personnel, and/or academics, into EPA-certified scientific divers who use underwater environments as their sampling laboratory.

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at: facebook.com/EPADivers.

About the Author: Matthew Colip works as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Enforcement Officer in EPA Mid-Atlantic Region’s Water Protection Division, NPDES Enforcement Branch.

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.