This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circle

Are you in need of a good indoor activity this very snowy February? How about catching up on what’s been happening in EPA science!

Check out the research that we’ve highlighted this week.

  • New Model for Mississippi Nutrient Pollution
    EPA researchers developed the Coastal General Ecosystem Model to address the nutrient pollution flowing from the Mississippi River watershed into the Gulf of Mexico. The state-of-the-art model provides a wealth of important information to scientists and stakeholders seeking to better understand and manage nutrient pollution in the Gulf.
    Read about the model in this “Around the Water Cooler” blog.
  • Applying EPA Research to the Underworlds
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists are building on the work of EPA scientist Christian Daughton to study community health by monitoring sewage. Daughton published conceptual research in 2012 presenting his idea of Sewage Chemical Information Mining.
    Read about how an EPA Pathfinder Innovation Project inspired the MIT scientists.
  • Precision Medicine: Treatments Targeted to the Individual
    President Obama has outlined his vision for a Precision Medicine Initiative, “a bold new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease.” One EPA researcher has been at the forefront of this topic for more than a decade.
    Read more about that research in this blog.
  • Chasing the “WOW!” With Citizen Schools and EPA Science
    EPA staff have been volunteering in the “Citizen Schools” program to teach hands-on, after school apprenticeships. Agency student contractor Andrew Murray experienced many “wow” moments leading one, called “Power Play,” focused on studying various energy generation methods, and their relations to pollution and climate change.
    Read about Murray’s wow experience.
  • Breastfed Infants have Lower Arsenic Exposure than Formula-fed Infants
    A recently published study from the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth College, jointly funded by EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has found that babies who are fed by formula rather than breastfeeding may be taking in higher levels of arsenic. The findings suggest that breastfed infants have lower arsenic exposure than formula-fed infants, and that both formula powder and drinking water can be sources of exposure for U.S. infants.
    Read Estimated Exposure to Arsenic in Breastfed and Formula-Fed Infants in a United States Cohort (Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.140878).
  • Happy 20th Anniversary to EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research!
    EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research is celebrating 20 years of supporting high quality research by the nation’s leading scientists and engineers to improve the scientific basis for Agency decisions. EPA supports this research through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, fellowships, and research contracts under the Agency’s Small Business Innovative Research Program.
    Learn more about Agency support for world-class research and innovation.

If you have any comments or questions about what I shared 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Native Plants: Special Effects for the Environment

by Bonnie Turner-Lomax

Native plants from the mid-Atlantic area

Native plants from the mid-Atlantic area

Celebrating “the Magic of the Movies,” the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show opens this weekend at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Each year, the Flower Show provides a prelude to spring, and a temporary escape from the cold and snow of a typical Philadelphia winter for its hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Watching a good movie can provide a great two-to- three hour escape where the unreal becomes convincingly real. Whether it’s a fictional land inhabited by mythical creatures; a time and place long forgotten; or a futuristic world in a distant galaxy, movie magic and special effects can make anything and everything appear real.

This year, EPA’s Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit “Now Showing at a Garden Near You,” featuring a cast of aquatic plants including azaleas, laurels, dogwoods, pitcher plants, phlox, and many other varieties of flora native to the mid-Atlantic region, demonstrates a magical yet very real, healthy and balanced garden ecosystem.

Using native plants from your area can provide many benefits for the environment including a source of food and habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and other wildlife. Native plant communities also provide a sustainable way of fighting off colonization by those pesky invasive species.

Since natives require relatively little maintenance, they help save both time and money, and using native plants contributes to a healthy ecosystem that provides important ecological services like flood abatement, and filtering and replenishing groundwater.

If you plan to visit the Philadelphia Flower Show, stop by the EPA Exhibit and see how you can create a sustainable escape by applying “special effects” that will make your yard beautiful to look at, while reducing pollution and maintenance costs at the same time. The Philadelphia Flower Show runs from February 28 through March 8, 2015.

 

About the Author: Bonnie Turner-Lomax is the Communications Coordinator in the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

New Model for Mississippi Nutrient Pollution

By Marguerite Huber

Landsat image of the mouth of the Mississippi River

Landsat image of the mouth of the Mississippi River. (NASA Image by Robert Simmon, based on Landsat data provided by the UMD Global Land Cover Facility.)

EPA scientists are tackling one of the nation’s biggest water quality challenges, and I mean in physical size and importance: nutrient pollution flowing from the Mississippi River watershed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientific assessments have concluded that the nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed are the primary cause of the dramatic drop in oxygen levels (“hypoxia”) sparking the Gulf of Mexico’s summer time “dead zone.”

EPA researchers have built the Coastal General Ecosystem Model (CGEM) to help address that challenge.

Mississippi watershed (image courtesy of NASA)

Mississippi watershed (image courtesy of NASA)

The state-of-the-art Coastal General Ecosystem Model provides a wealth of important information to scientists and stakeholders seeking to better understand the dynamics of nutrient pollution in the Gulf. The model receives nitrogen and phosphorus data collected from the Mississippi River and then predicts how these nutrients trigger eutrophication and hypoxia.

Armed with that information, researchers and others can predict the impacts of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus on water quality in the Gulf, including estimating how much nitrogen and phosphorus reduction would be needed to achieve the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force’s goal of reducing the size of the hypoxic area from its current average size of 15,000 km2 down to 5,000 km2.

John Lehrter, research ecologist developing and working with CGEM notes, “Knowing that the goal is 5,000 km2, we can adjust the nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the model to estimate a range of reductions required to achieve the goal. Water quality managers and policy makers can then use this and other information to determine how to achieve these reductions.”

Additionally, a team of federal and academic scientists are using the model in the Coastal and Ocean Modeling Testbed. The Testbed aims to increase the accuracy and reliability of coastal and ocean forecasting products.

Overall, the model will help the states in the Mississippi River Basin demonstrate to stakeholders the link between nutrient loading and water quality impairment in the Gulf and show how nutrient reductions result in water quality improvement.

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

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Clean Power Plan: Protecting Public Health While Safeguarding Affordable, Reliable Electricity

Tom Reynolds Tom Reynolds

Since the day EPA began working on the Clean Power Plan, we have committed to cutting the carbon pollution causing climate change, while ensuring grid reliability. Misleading claims from a few special-interest critics may try to convince folks otherwise, but we know reliability is a top issue for states, utilities, and energy regulators. And that means it’s a top issue for EPA. As always, we are committed to working with stakeholders to make sure reliability is never threatened.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held the first in a series of technical conferences on electricity reliability to discuss this issue. We appreciated the chance to take part.

As our Acting Assistant Administrator for Air Janet McCabe said, “Over EPA’s long history of developing Clean Air Act pollution standards for the electric power sector, including the proposed Clean Power Plan, the agency has consistently treated electric system reliability as absolutely critical. Because of this attention, at no time in the more than 40 years that EPA has been implementing the Clean Air Act has compliance with air pollution standards resulted in reliability problems.”

We’re going to continue the constructive dialogue we’ve had with states, utilities, energy regulators, and the public as we finalize our proposal this summer to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. We worked carefully to make our proposal flexible, offering states and electric generators a wide variety of approaches to meet their pollution reduction goals.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Applying EPA Research to the Underworlds

By Dustin Renwick

stack white sewer pipes

Sewer pipes

Flushing a toilet eliminates waste, but when we flush information about our health circles down the pipes too. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists have launched the Underworlds project to study community health by monitoring sewage. The project builds on the work of EPA scientist Christian Daughton.

“If we could actually gauge the collective health of an entire community, that has profound implications,” Daughton says. “You’re achieving something that’s never been seriously considered before – examining communities as integral patients.”

Daughton published conceptual research in 2012 as part of EPA’s Pathfinder Innovation Projects program that explained his idea of Sewage Chemical Information Mining (SCIM). Now MIT associate professor Eric Alm will explore the data that travels beneath Massachusetts neighborhoods.

MIT team members found Daughton’s research when they were writing the proposal for Underworlds. The large project encompasses biological components, looking for viruses and bacteria, as well as Daughton’s ideas that Alm says “explained in exquisite detail how to mine sewage as an information platform.”

SCIM relies on biomarkers, scientific shorthand for certain biological compounds our bodies produce when something happens in our cells.

Think of the loading screen that pops up when your computer opens an application. That’s a visible sign that gives clues to an underlying process. In our bodies, stress and disease produce these same sorts of clues via biomarkers that include a group of chemicals called isoprostanes.

If the sewage mining concept is correct, the levels of isoprostanes will rise with increased stress in the community.

However, Alm and the MIT team first need to answer fundamental questions about data collection: where to take sewage samples, how frequently, and how do samples change depending on the source, the season, or the time of day?

Once researchers can show that monitoring sewage systems is feasible, they can then develop parameters for a community’s “normal” biomarker range.

“If you have a community in the normal range and another far beyond it, you have some important questions to pursue at that point,” Daughton says.

Key factors could include healthcare availability and exposures to toxic substances or to physical stressors such as noise and heat. For a future best-case scenario, sewage streams would become reliable data streams that translate to change at ground level.

“In addition to cool basic science that I’m sure will come out of the program,” Alm says, “can we glean information that really helps make informed policies about what’s going on in their city?”

Kuwait City, Kuwait, will serve as the full-scale Underworlds testing site after MIT concludes work in Massachusetts in 2017.

“If Alm’s work proves successful,” Daughton says, “it will represent a significant advancement in the prospects for quickly and inexpensively monitoring public health in real time.”

 

About the Author: Dustin Renwick works in conjunction with the Innovation Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Another Way to Act on Climate: Getting Smart on Brownfields Reuse

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

For 20 years, the brownfields program has worked with local communities to help support reuse and development of former and current contaminated lands. Cleaning up brownfields has put a lot of land back into use, helping communities and boosting local economies. This work has another huge benefit, too: as we redevelop brownfield sites to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

In Milwaukee, a 5-mile strip that was once the site of several industrial facilities is going through an extensive cleanup. Over 60,000 tons of contaminated soil and more than 40 underground storage tanks have been removed. One of the community’s ideas for the land’s next use is building a green, linear park, with bike trails to encourage lower-impact forms of transit. The park will use green infrastructure elements to reduce stormwater runoff, protecting local waterways during storms that can be made more intense by climate change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Precisely Right

By Dustin Renwick

Close up image of a the inside of a pill bottle filled with blue pills.During his State of the Union Address a few weeks ago, President Obama outlined his vision for a Precision Medicine Initiative, “a bold new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease.” The proposal has received praise from universities, think tanks, and the National Institutes of Health.

One EPA researcher has been at the forefront of this topic for more than a decade already.

Christian Daughton—a recipient of three EPA Pathfinder Innovation Project awards—has focused his research on topics related to precision medicine, more commonly known as personalized medicine.

The basic premise: treatments targeted to the individual instead of the statistically average patient.

In the past, Daughton says, small-town doctors could know their patients and corresponding medical histories, which facilitated individualized treatments, prescriptions and doses. The White House effort updates that historical ideal.

“This new initiative from President Obama is making use of the latest advancements in clinical research to capitalize on making drugs more effective,” Daughton says.

His work at EPA explores the intersection of medicine and the environment. The drugs prescribed in the doctor’s office can eventually end up, in some form, in our waterways. They can contaminate our water resources and harm the species that call those aquatic environments home.

Pharmaceuticals typically enter the environment through human excretion and bathing, as well as improper disposal, such as dumping pills down the drain or tossing them in the trash.

“Human health is intimately connected with the health of the environment,” Daughton says. “If one is ignored, there can be ramifications for the other. But the connections—such as disposing of unused medicine or simply daily excretion and bathing—might not be obvious, and they might not be short-term. That’s why they often escape people’s attention.”

“If you optimize healthcare for treating the patient and the environment as one, you optimize the choice of medication, if any, as well as the dose regimen for the individual patient.”

When doctors tailor precise prescriptions for each patient, they can minimize leftovers, theoretically reduce costs throughout the healthcare system, and succeed in dispersing fewer doses to the environment.

That all adds up to a reduction in the amount of medication that finds its way down a drain or into landfills. Another major advantage: potentially reducing the incidence of recreational use and accidental poisonings among children.

“It’s hard to find any negatives to it other than it’s not easy to implement,” Daughton says.

But the White House has taken a first step toward that reality by making precision medicine a priority.

About the Author: Writer Dustin Renwick is a student contractor with EPA’s Innovation Team and a frequent contributor to “It All Starts with Science.”

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EPA Connects with Young Agricultural Leaders

KarlBrooks Karl Brooks
Karl Brooks

EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks

By Karl Brooks

I’m always excited about new opportunities to connect with young agricultural leaders in the Heartland and beyond. EPA recently participated in a Web-based discussion through Agriculture Future of America’s Online Network of Tomorrow’s Agricultural Professionals (AFA ONTAP). This online format is a learning tool and a chance for us to interact with university students interested in careers in agricultural-related fields.

During the webinar, we covered numerous topics including the Clean Water Rule, chemical safety, pollinator protection, pesticides, renewable fuels, water quality, and career opportunities. I highlighted the importance of the Clean Water Rule to rural and urban communities and EPA’s role in chemical safety as it relates to agricultural fertilizer facilities. Hopefully, we provided a snapshot of career opportunities in natural resources and how conservation of natural resources positively affects the agricultural industry.

From EPA’s standpoint, it is essential that we engage talented and committed young people with an agricultural background and encourage them to enter environmental protection fields in order to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we feed our families. Those of us lucky enough to live in the Heartland know that agricultural families feed the world and have made American agriculture a mighty engine that powers our nation’s economic strength.

We look forward to working with Agriculture Future of America for many years to come, and we really appreciated this opportunity to build a relationship and connect with young agricultural leaders.

Emily Page, Agriculture Future of America (AFA) event manager, hosted this ONTAP discussion and shared the following thoughts about our Web conference:

Iowa Farm

Iowa Farm

Through providing this Web conference in partnership with the EPA, we hope we’ve helped broaden students’ perspectives of the agriculture industry. As an organization that prepares agriculture leaders, we work with premier students from across the country who understand and value the importance of preserving natural resources. However, not all of them may consider natural resources as a potential agriculture career path. We wanted to help them see the connection between what they love and what federal agencies like the EPA do. We also wanted our students to walk away from this presentation with a greater understanding of the important policy issues in this area. We are thankful Karl and his team were able to join us to share their expertise.

We host the AFA ONTAP Web conference series on a monthly basis during the school year. Topics rotate between agriculture issues like natural resources, leadership insights, and professional development. To learn more about the program and view recordings of this and other broadcasts, visit www.agfuture.org/ontap.

More information about EPA and Agriculture Future of America:

www.epa.gov/region7/priorities/agriculture

www.facebook.com/eparegion7

www.agfuture.org

www.facebook.com/agriculturefutureofamerica

@AgFutureAmerica

 

Karl Brooks serves as the EPA Region 7 Administrator.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Fighting Climate Change, Starting with Education

Amber Nave Amber Nave

This is a guest blog by Amber Nave, one of the 2015 Champions of Change for Climate Education and Literacy, who was recently recognized by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Administrator McCarthy for her extraordinary work to enhance climate education and literacy in classrooms and communities across the country.

These awards honor those who are inspiring students, educators, and citizens to learn about climate change and develop solutions, equipping the 21st-century workforce with the information, knowledge, and training needed to make climate-smart decisions and grow businesses in the context of a changing climate.

Read more about her work and her passion for educating the next generation of climate leaders.

Administrator McCarthy meeting with the Champions of Change.

Administrator McCarthy meeting with the Champions of Change.

 

By Amber Nave

Early on, I knew I had a voice and that it had influence. During my youth, I had many opportunities to find my voice and use it with purpose. Whether it was speaking at the historical Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta or hosting a TV segment on Nickelodeon News, I was continually drawn to public speaking and the performing arts to effect change. These formative experiences come to mind as I reflect on my contribution to the field of climate literacy.

I remember growing up in Georgia. We had poor air quality and I suffered from childhood asthma. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized, as a person of color, this disease disproportionately affected me. It became even clearer into adulthood that the effects of climate change would touch my community in ways that were equally unjust. In response, I’ve leveraged my early exposure to the performing arts and public speaking to become a powerful tool for captivating audiences around the subject of climate change.

I began my career working as a radio personality, then found my true purpose: empowering youth to find their own powerful voices. Armed with a fresh vocation, I started my own company traveling across the country doing motivational speaking and goal-setting workshops for organizations like Boys and Girls Club of America, CNN, and local school districts.

In 2011, I found my current home with Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), the premier youth climate education organization in the country. ACE understands that young people have the most to lose when it comes to climate change and the most to gain by fighting it. My public speaking and performance art talents were immediately put to use as I began to deliver ACE’s live in-school assembly that combines climate science with pop-culture entertainment. Since 2008, nearly two million students have been educated with this tool.

After the assembly, we give every young person a chance to take action. For some, it’s a small lifestyle change. For others, it’s a chance to participate at a deep level through our yearlong Fellowship program.

My Action Fellows receive special training in media, storytelling and the performing arts. The product of this work has been extraordinary. Some recent examples include one of my top leaders, Lauren, testifying at EPA in support of a strong Clean Power Plan proposed rule, or the inspirational “Planet Savers” anthem, a youth-written and performed song.

I was honored to receive the Champions for Change Award for Climate Education and Literacy. The award serves as a powerful reminder that this work has not gone unnoticed. I’m thankful to EPA and President Obama for their strong commitment to climate education for all.

Our student leaders were star struck this week when Administrator McCarthy made an appearance at a student climate education roundtable hosted by the White House. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to brainstorm with Administrator McCarthy regarding the best ways to engage their generation on climate change. This type of collaboration was recognized as a strong commitment by the Administration in giving youth an equal seat at the table.

Receiving this prestigious award and meeting Administrator McCarthy has reignited my drive to empower teenagers to fight climate change, starting with education.

Administrator McCarthy meets with students during the climate education roundtable.

Administrator McCarthy meets with students during the climate education roundtable.

 

About the author: Amber Nave, Georgia Program Manager, Alliance for Climate Education, Atlanta, GA. Amber Nave serves as the Georgia Program Manager for the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Through her work, Amber educates high-school students about climate science and inspires them to take action to combat climate change. To date, Amber has educated more than 45,000 students in the State of Georgia and managed over 75 climate action projects on the campuses of local middle and high schools. Amber co-managed the Youth Digital Media and Storytelling Hub at the 2013 National Powershift Conference, facilitated a Youth Media Training on climate solutions at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, and coordinated a youth letter writing campaign in support of climate action. In 2014, she and students from Dekalb School of the Arts produced an inspiring song called “Planet Savers,” which not only empowered students at their school to take action, but has also inspired thousands of students at ACE Assemblies nationwide.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Chasing the “WOW!” With Citizen Schools and EPA Science

By Andrew Murray

Students share their final presentations.

Students share their final presentations.

When I was first asked to lead an after school Citizen Schools apprenticeship, I was fairly apprehensive. Sure, I had taught plenty of episodic classroom presentations and felt comfortable around kids, but committing to teach the same 20 students every week? It was a bit intimidating at first, especially since I’ve never been trained as a teacher and just graduated from college myself.

I was quickly reassured that Citizen Schools is all about having non-teachers teaching; thus the reason it’s called “Citizen” Schools. Volunteer “Citizen Teachers” teach after school hands-on apprenticeships on topics from their careers and expertise. The apprenticeships are taught for 90 minutes, once a week, for 10 weeks, with a final showcase at the end of the semester. The Citizen Schools program targets low-income middle schools to close the “opportunity gap” through academic enrichment and career insight. EPA has been participating in the Durham, NC Citizen Schools program for seven years, at both Neal Middle School and Lowe’s Grove Middle School.

Last fall, I was lucky enough to join a team of veteran EPA employees teaching at Lowe’s Grove. Our apprenticeship was called “Power Play,” which focused on studying various energy generation methods, and their relations to pollution and climate change.

Once we decided on what we were going to teach, we pitched our apprenticeship at the Citizen School Apprenticeship Fair. The students then get the opportunity to sign up for the apprenticeships that interest them. I watched the veterans pitch the apprenticeship a couple of times, and then took my first swing at it. After seeing the kids get excited, my own excitement and confidence grew and, suddenly, I was hooked.

Over the following ten weeks, we would meet with the students every Wednesday after school and teach them about energy and the environment. We built solar ovens, wind turbines, and water wheels, and learned about energy consumption and modeling through an Energy Generation board game developed by EPA colleagues.

"GENERATE!" board game developed by EPA researchers.

“Generate,” a board game developed by EPA researchers.

Every week was mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding. It all lead up to the final presentations – the WOW! event where the students had the chance to “teach back” to the public, their teachers, and their families. For me, the WOW! was what made teaching the apprenticeship addicting. After seeing what the students took away and how excited they were to present it and teach it to the public, I realized what a difference the citizen teachers make in the lives of these students.

The new semester of Citizen School is about to start, and I will be teaching with the same team again at Lowe’s Grove. We will be leading an apprenticeship on “Making Sense of Air Quality,” while another team leads an apprenticeship at Neal on “Environmental Sensing.” I’m so excited to get back in the classroom to make a difference in the lives of another class of up-and-coming environmental experts!

About the Author: Andrew Murray is a Student Services Contractor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in 2009, and a received B.S. in Environmental Science from NC State University in 2014.

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