Monthly Archives: August 2013

Closing Thoughts, Reflecting on the Trip

By Julie Barker

The author enjoys a tow during the trip.

The author enjoys a tow during the trip.

Our Chequamegon Bay research cruise wrapped up Tuesday, one day early! Our early return was the result of a lot of hard work and the luck of great weather (except the heat, which we northerners are not accustomed to).

Here are some take-away facts of what we accomplished in 10 days:

  • 14 Benthic sleds (a sampling technique).
  • 274 Ponar grabs, which means…
    The Lake Explorer II

    Research Vessel Lake Explorer II

    • If you average three rounds of elutriation (separating the samples, as described in our previous post) per sample (normally our minimum), that’s at least 822 times we stuck our arms in sediments up to our elbows swirling round and round.  I must say, my right hand and arm are nicely exfoliated.
    • If you average 200 organisms per sample, that means we may have approximately 54,800 organisms to now pick out of woody debris, vegetation, or bits of sediment that didn’t get flushed out in elutriation.  Once picked, each organism will be individually examined under a microscope and identified as close to species as possible.
  • 830 person hours of work.
  • We filled out enough field sheets to fill a one-inch thick binder.
  • We collected approximately 28 gallons worth of samples (seperated out into varying sizes of sample jars).
    Sample bottles

    Sample bottles

In addition to accomplishing the goals of our study, we also had some fun adventures.  Last Friday we came across an unmanned boat while en route to a site.  It was evident that the boat got loose from its dock because the bow line had parted.  For the safety of others, we towed the boat to the nearest residential dock.  I had the pleasure of riding in the boat while we towed it, to keep it from fishtailing.  A nice lady answered our knock on her door, and agreed to let us leave the runaway boat at her dock for the coast guard.

All in all it was a productive and fun research cruise.  However, the work is just beginning.  We now need to process the samples in order to enumerate and identify all organisms.

Thank you for following our blog, we hope you enjoyed reading about our work!

Julie BarkerAbout the Author: Julie Barker is an ORISE fellow with EPA’s Midcontinent Ecology Division, part of the Agency’s Office of Research and Development. She has been participating in coastal field study assessments, and her research includes investigating how wetland-nearshore interactions affect coastal fisheries, and exploring novel ways to detect invasive species.

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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Back to School Time

Brittney Gordon-Williams

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Labor Day is upon us. Nothing illustrates the end of summer better than seeing kids back at the bus stop in the mornings, and if my Facebook feed is any indication, kids across the country are already strapping on those backpacks and heading back to class. For many parents, this time of year brings a sigh of relief, as the whole family gets back to a normal schedule. But, the coming of the new school year can also mean the return to higher energy costs. Here are a few ways that EPA can help your whole family save energy, save money and help prevent climate change as you head back to school.

  • These days kids of all ages use the computer to complete homework assignments, and your child will undoubtedly spend countless hours in front of the monitor. Make sure that your computer is ENERGY STAR certified, and you will use 30-65 percent less energy depending on how it is used. Take your energy-saving a step further and activate your computer’s power management settings. You can save up to $50 each year.
  • The return to school may also mean the return to late nights spent studying. Make sure that your family is saving energy as the kids burn the late night oil by using ENERGY STAR certified lighting. Bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR use 75 percent less energy and last 10 to 50 times longer. Cool fact: If you placed an ENERGY STAR certified LED in your child’s nursery room today, it would last until they were in college.
  • Do you have a student heading to college? Make sure they don’t forget all of the great energy-saving education you taught them, and be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR when outfitting their room. From TVs and soundbars to the mini-fridge and light bulbs, ENERGY STAR’s certified products have everything you need to make sure your student is being a good environmental steward, even when away from the nest.
  • Did you know that school buildings can earn the ENERGY STAR? In fact, Demarest Elementary in New Jersey won the ENERGY STAR National Building Competition last year, reducing its energy use by over 50 percent. Check out this year’s competition, and work with your child’s school to save energy all year long. Saving energy leads to saving money, which will add up to an even greater education for the students in your life.

Before the kids get too bogged down with homework, don’t forget to join Team ENERGY STAR! By joining the team, your family will get access to fun and educational resources from EPA to help make saving energy a lesson that lasts a lifetime.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team.

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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Around the Water Cooler: Be It Ever So Humble, There’s No Place Like Home

Reposted from It’s Our Environment.

By Phil Colarusso

Wednesday had been a long day in the field, and it was great to be home. It was early evening and I was processing the last seagrass sample. Seagrasses provide habitat for many organisms, so it is not unusual to find small invertebrates crawling around in our eelgrass samples.

I poured the last sample bag onto the sorting tray and separated the small rocks, shells and other material from the shoots of eelgrass. It was at this point I saw it: a small hermit crab lay motionless. It had ditched the snail shell it had been living in, which I subsequently found among a small pile of rocks. The crab was dead and I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt. Hermit crabs only leave the safety of their adopted shells, their homes, under periods of extreme stress. As I contemplated the poor crab’s fate, I wondered what extreme event it would take to make me leave the security of my home. I have lived in homes that survived hurricanes, the snow and coastal flooding of the Blizzard of 1978, and countless other events.

A sense of discomfort gnawed at me as my tired mind wandered. Our oceans are home to millions of species. Global climate changeocean acidification and eutrophication are some of the processes making our waters inhospitable to many plants and animals that live there. Warmer water temperatures change the normal distribution of animals and plants. Shellfish, which use calcium carbonate to build shells, will find that harder and harder to do as ocean pH levels continue to become more acidic. Sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, rapidly decline as waters near shore get over-enriched with nitrogen. What happens to all the fish that depend on those habitats? What do you do when you can’t go home?

Photo by Giancarlo Lalsingh (Tobago_Pictures on Flickr)

Photo by Giancarlo Lalsingh (Tobago_Pictures on Flickr)

As I was putting away my scuba gear, something fell out of my fin. In the dark it looked like a small rock. I picked it up off the garage floor with the intent of throwing it into the backyard. I realized it was not a rock, but another hermit crab, still tucked snugly in its snail shell. There was but one thing to do. I hopped in the car and drove the 15 minutes back to the nearest salt water. I returned this crab back to a safe location and he scrambled away. As he wandered away, I marveled at the resiliency of life. It reaffirmed to me the importance of the work I do. Nothing is more important than that place we call home.

Read more info on EPA’s work to protect ocean and coastal areas in New England.

Connect with EPA Divers on Facebook

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham, Massachusetts with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

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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Dr. King’s Dream and Environmental Justice

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Reposted from EPA Connect

By Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming

President Obama will mark the anniversary of the March on Washington today at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech 50 years ago.  As we all reflect on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his influence on American society, let’s also celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of social and environmental justice.

Dr. King was a pioneer on many fronts. He fought to raise awareness about urban environmental issues and public health concerns that disproportionately affect communities of color – issues that are still relevant today. We have made tremendous progress in the past 50 years, but our work is not done.

As I reflect on this anniversary, my thoughts go to scripture. I am reminded of the passage from Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

This sentiment of stewardship is what led me to join the Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, we work every day to safeguard our environment – the environment with which we have been entrusted – for future generations.

Something we don’t think about often enough is that ensuring basic environmental protections for all is a civil rights issue – one that we have yet to resolve. Our low income and minority neighborhoods suffer disproportionate health impacts, like asthma and heart disease, due to harmful pollution in the air, land and water.

We must work to correct these injustices now as we face one of the great environmental challenges of our time – climate change.

We know that our climate is changing. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, floods and drought are becoming more and more common. And low income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather because of aging infrastructure and limited means to escape the devastation.  Our nation’s poorest communities are already bearing the brunt of this devastation, and will continue to do so if we don’t act now.

President Obama recently announced a Climate Action Plan that calls for us to work together to improve the resiliency of our communities so that we can provide protection to those who need it most.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, let’s also reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. As Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must redouble our efforts to protect people’s health and the environment in all of our communities.

About the Author: Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming serves as Chief of Staff to the Administrator. Ms. Fleming was appointed by President Obama as Region 4 (Atlanta) Regional Administrator of the EPA in September 2010, the first African-American to hold this position. Previously, she served as the first African-American and first woman DeKalb County District Attorney and Solicitor General. She was the youngest ever elected as Solicitor General. Ms. Fleming is a New Jersey native and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Douglass College and she earned her law degree from the Emory University School of Law. Ms. Fleming credits her parents, Ursula Keyes, a retired registered nurse and her late father, Andrew J. Keyes, a former Tuskegee Airman, as the reason for her commitment to community service.

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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Bregando con la primera “erre”

Por Lina Younes

Siempre he alentado a mi familia a cumplir con los principios de las tres erres: reducir, reutilizar y reciclar.  Personalmente, siempre me he esforzado por reciclar sea en mi casa, el trabajo o cuando voy por la carretera. Si no encuentro un receptáculo para reciclar disponible para echar la lata o botella de refresco, me quedo con la lata y dispongo de ella cuando llego a casa.  Lo mismo hago con el periódico gratuito que normalmente leo en el metro.

Francamente, el reciclaje parece ser la más fácil de las tres erres. En mi opinión, la más difícil de implementar es la primera: el reducir los desechos desde el inicio. Es irónico que el principio más difícil que acatar, la reducción de desechos y basura, es el que tiene mayor impacto en el medio ambiente

¿Cuáles son algunos de los beneficios de reducir los desechos? Bueno, estos incluyen el prevenir la contaminación, ahorrar energía, el usar menos recursos naturales en el ámbito global. ¡Sin embargo, uno de los beneficios que todos podemos entender al nivel personal es que el reducir desechos en realidad nos ahorra dinero!

¿Cómo puede ahorrar dinero y tener menos cosas para botar en la basura? Bueno, compre productos con menos envolturas y empaques. Sé que los artículos que están envueltos individualmente parecen ser prácticos, pero a la larga, cuánta envoltura de papel o plástico termina en la basura? Me parece como un desperdicio innecesario de materiales y dinero.  Se me ocurre otra idea: por qué no optamos por platos, tazas, vasos, utensilios reutilizables para la casa y en el trabajo.

¿Antes de ir al supermercado, por qué no mira su nevera o alacena para ver qué realmente necesita? ¿Está seguro que esos vegetales en la nevera hay que echarlos a la basura? ¿Acaso no podría usarlos para hacer un guisado o quizás congelarlos para así no tener que echarlos a la basura? Recuerde: Deberíamos alimentar a las personas en lugar de alimentar los rellenos sanitarios.

Si planificamos bien, todos podemos colaborar para hacer una diferencia ¿Tiene algunos consejos para compartir con nosotros? ¿Ha hecho algo especial para reducir su huella de carbono? Nos encantaría escuchar su opinión.

 

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.

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Finding Balance in Alaska

This week, I was on a fact-finding mission across the state of Alaska, talking with families, business owners, tribes, and local leaders on the environmental and public health challenges they face. In particular, I spoke with Alaskans about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Alaska 2

On Monday, I visited the Portage glacier near Anchorage, and saw first-hand some of the very real impacts of a changing climate.

Alaska 1

As President Obama made clear in June, there is great urgency to reduce carbon pollution and adapt to climate change. With this urgency comes great challenge, but also immense opportunity. As I travel across Alaska and the country, I see enormous potential for innovation, new technology, and American ingenuity that will help us reduce carbon pollution, adapt to a changing climate, and spur our economy. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Tackling the First R

By Lina Younes

I’ve always encouraged my family to abide by the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Personally, I’ve always made an effort to recycle while I’m at home, at work or on the road. If I don’t find a recycling bin readily available, I’ll hold on to the soda can or bottle and then discard it in the recycling bin I have at home. I’ll do the same with the free newspaper I read on the metro.

Frankly, recycling seems to be the easiest of the 3R principles to live by. In my opinion, the most difficult one to implement is the first one: reducing waste from the outset. It’s ironic that the most difficult principle to live by, reducing waste, is the one that has the greatest impact on the environment.

What are some of the benefits of reducing waste? Well, they include preventing pollution, saving energy and using fewer natural resources in the big scheme of things. But, one of the benefits that we can all understand at the personal level is that reducing waste actually saves us money!

How can you save money at home and have fewer things to throw in the trash? Well, buy products with less packaging. I know that individually wrapped items might seem practical, but how much paper or plastic wrapping will end up in the trash in the long run? Seems like an unnecessary waste to me. Another idea: choose reusable silverware, plates and cups at home and in the office.

Before you go grocery shopping, do you check your refrigerator and pantry to see what you really need? Are you sure that the vegetables in your refrigerator need to be thrown away? Can you, instead, make them into a casserole or freeze them so they won’t need to be thrown in the trash? Remember: we should feed people, not landfills.

With some planning, we all can work to make a difference in our environment. Do you have any tips to share with us? Have you done anything special lately to reduce your carbon footprint? We love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual 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.

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Health and Wellness at Home and in the Workplace

Hooks_2

I just walked off the racquetball court and as I try to catch my breath, I can’t help but think about how much I enjoy and need this exercise. I have always been athletic, playing football and running track in high school. Throughout my life I made a conscious decision to make sure that I participate in individual or group exercises four or five times a week. Between playing basketball, racquetball and doing some aerobic exercises in my basement, I consider this physical activity to be essential for my health and wellness.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Send Your Showers to Boot Camp

By Christina Catanese

Saving water doesn’t have to be blood, sweat and tears.  Lately, I’ve been trying something called a Navy shower, an easy and effective way to cut down water use from showering.  Here’s how it works:

Turn on water.  Get in shower.  Get wet.Showerhead
Turn off water.  Soap and lather.
Turn on water.  Rinse off.
Turn off water.  Done!

Basically, it’s as simple as only running the water when you need to rinse, and having it off for the parts when you aren’t.

With a Navy shower, you can have the water running in your shower for as little as two minutes!  Depending on your showerhead’s flow rate, that can be as low as 3 gallons, compared with 150 for a 10 minute shower.  Since showering is one of the leading ways we use water at home, practicing Navy showers will help your water use (and bill) beat a hasty retreat.  And the bathroom at your house might even seem a little less crowed during the morning rush.

If you have water conservation in your sights, try this out: First, test your fixtures and see how much water you’re using with every minute of your shower. Then, test yourself: Time your normal showers to get a baseline, then see how much time and water you can shave off.

And once you’ve challenged yourself to close the ranks on your shower’s length, you can also change your fixtures to low flow showerheads.

You don’t have to be in the Navy to have military discipline about your showers.  And practicing Navy showers most of the time will make you feel better about taking the occasional long, luxurious shower!

As the old saying (sort of) goes, never leave a gallon behind.  How are you taking your water use to boot camp?  Would you try a Navy shower?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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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Maps Begin with Data

By Scott Malone

This summer, I worked with the Environmental Protection Agency, in Lenexa Kansas as a voluntary intern.  I learned that making a time-series map takes more than just getting data and putting it into ArcGIS.  For my summer project, I created a time-series animation of water quality trends using data from the Kansas City Urban Stream Network.

KCwaterbug LogoHosted at KCWaters.org, the project is “dedicated to promoting greater awareness about the quality of water in the Greater Kansas City Area.”  Using data acquired every 15 minutes over a 4 month time period (March 1st through July 10th, 2013) I created an animation showing water quality trends over our wet spring and early summer months.  The process of constructing a visually informative and appealing animation from raw data was full of challenges.  Unlike the canned projects I was accustomed to from my GIS courses in college, this project involved a significant amount of data manipulation before I was able to ever open up an Arcmap project and begin map-making.

Track stream conditions hourly using KCWaterbug.  Find out more.

sondeThe Urban Stream Network consists of eighteen sites spaced across sixteen streams in the Kansas City metro area.  Each site consists of a stream probe and telemetry box which collects readings on water temperature, conductivity, turbidity, and water depth. The readings are transmitted via satellite and compiled into a database using software called WISKI from a company named KISTERSE Coli data is modeled for each stream (you can find out more at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5014/) based on other variables collected by instrumentation.  With readings done every fifteen minutes over four months, I worked with an initial dataset of over 700,000 records grouped by station by each parameter all wrapped into one fun text file.  I definitely experienced the joys of taking data and running through multiple processing steps before enjoying the fruits of my labor in a GIS friendly database.

 

telemtry_table

Not quite formatted for ArcGIS

First, I removed the header information (station name, number, other identifiers) provided for each parameter and converted it into a spreadsheet friendly format.  I painstakingly created a spread sheet for each stream (16, remember), transposed data, added stream names, and added parameter names.  With over 40,000 records for each stream (16, remember) the process was time consuming.  Unfortunately such data processing can become necessary when working from data extracted for purpose different than my own.  Once each stream was standardized, I combined them back together into a GIS usable table.

Adding time, or rather converting time, was another detail that I learned wasn’t always simple.  Of course, creating a time-series map necessitates time stamps that ArcGIS can use for creating a time-aware dataset.

After running through this data manipulation exercise, I now have a much greater understanding of data management.  I completely value having data in databases and extracting it out for an intended purpose.  I also appreciate that the *I* in GIS is there for a very important reason!  My next post will review how I took the telemetry data and started looking for interesting and useful trends.

Scott Malone is a graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in Environmental Studies.  He spent part of summer 2012 as a voluntary intern with the Environmental Services Division where he worked with LiDAR, land cover, and water quality telemetry data.

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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