Small Funds Leading to Big Impacts

By Alyssa Edwards

Small funds don’t always mean small impacts. As the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant program has shown us, oftentimes, very small funds, when put in the hands of community-based organizations (CBOs), can achieve big results. Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1,400 CBOs have done just that. And we are proud to announce the selection of 36 more organizations that will be joining that cohort as recipients of the 2017 Environmental Justice Small Grant funds.

One example of how small funds can make a difference is seen in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In 2015, the tribe was awarded an EJ Small Grant in support of Project Oka (the Choctaw word for water). The goal was to protect and conserve local waters by helping residents reduce litter. The project has exceeded expectations. To date, the Choctaw Nation has collected and recycled more than 12,000 pounds of electronics and more than 1,800 tires. In addition, more than 400 students have been involved in educational and recycling activities. The tribe also created a disaster recovery plan to address disaster preparedness and adaptation strategies as a part of the project.

We know this year’s EJ Small Grants projects will add to the impressive list of community-driven solutions funded by EPA. A significant number will work to ensure clean and safe water, a strategic priority for EPA, as well as address public health concerns from contaminated land. Others will address lead exposure to create safer environments for children, environmental stewardship and conservation in under-resourced rural communities, and job training programs through green infrastructure projects.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership in Warren, Ohio will be working to reduce residents’ exposure to potential soil contamination from former industrial activities. Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña will work with the community of Buena Vista, Puerto Rico to manage rainfall runoff and reduce the threat of flooding – support even more necessary and timely as the island enters its long recovery from Hurricane Maria.

To expand the geographical reach of the program, during this past funding cycle, we placed a special emphasis on supporting projects in states where we did not have a significant funding history. We are excited that with this latest selection of EJ Small Grants, we will support efforts ranging from Dellslow, West Virginia to Waimea, Hawaii and many communities in between.

For a third of the EJSG recipients, this will be their first time receiving a federal grant. We are honored to support these communities as we know that an EJ Small Grant can be that much needed spark that allows organizations to access additional funding from government and the private sector as they pursue broader community goals.

Read project descriptions on the recently funded awards, as well as to learn more about EJ Small Grant projects from previous years.

In anticipation of the release of the Request for Proposals for OEJ’s Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement program, hear directly from two CPS grantees about their best practices and success with the program!

From Small Funds to Big Dollars: Best Practices for Leveraging Federal Funds

  • Date: 11/15/2017
  • Time: 2:00pm – 3:00 pm Eastern

Register Here

And be sure to subscribe to the EJ ListServ to receive up-to-date information about funding opportunities from across the federal government, including our soon-to-be-released grants competition for 2018, upcoming workshops, and related environmental justice topics.

About the Author: Alyssa Edwards is a Program Analyst in the Office of Environmental Justice.

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.

Smart Shots: How to Take Great Nature Photos With Your Cell Phone

By Chrislyn Johnson

Cell phone camera

Here in the Heartland, we have an abundance of beautiful natural scenes from Missouri’s Ozarks to the plains of western Kansas. By fulfilling our mission to protect the environment, all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors in its unspoiled glory.

You can create spectacular images of our pristine lands and waters with a familiar device nearly all of us carry every day. Cell phones are handy multipurpose tools, so why not take full advantage of their capabilities?

While earning my degree in photography, I learned how to capture on film the images in my mind’s eye, but sometimes my cell phone still throws me for a loop. Making a snapshot into an exceptional photo is a little more challenging with the limited controls of a cell phone, but it can be done. The key is to concentrate on the main elements of a good photograph: exposure and lighting, composition and subject, and focus and angle.

Exposure and Lighting

Exposure seems simple, because the camera usually does a pretty good job of metering (measuring) the light. However, the quality of the light can drastically change the mood of an image. With practice, you can learn to differentiate average from better lighting, thereby improving the look and mood of your photographs.

  • Get accustomed to overcast days. The muted light won’t cast strong shadows and can make colors more intense. Alternatively, go out early or late in the day to capture the golden light professional photographers love.
  • Use the color of the light to your advantage.
  • Learn how far your flash will reach and use it all the time for close subjects. It will help soften bright lights and add dimension to soft light.
  • If your subject is dark, try to direct your camera’s focus to another, darker object the same distance away. The meter will automatically adjust the lighting.

Composition and Subject

The subject of a photograph is not always a person, but sometimes a bird, an old gnarled tree, or a beautiful ice sculpture.

Composition is the arrangement of visual elements in your work. This arrangement can be accomplished through selective focus on the subject, a change in the angle you are shooting from, or strategic placement or contrast within the photo. However, the easiest shortcut is to use the Rule of Thirds.

This rule involves imagining two lines running vertically and two horizontally to divide the scene into three sections each way. The ideal subject placement for beginners is along or at the intersection of these lines.

  • Practice using the Rule of Thirds.
  • Find uncommon patterns and angles to create interest.
  • Get in close and at the subject’s level, and get a good view of their eyes (especially if you can see a reflection in them).
  • Be sure the subject is sharply in focus.

Focus and Angle

Where you focus within the scene and where you aim your camera can change a lot within a photograph. Focus can involve placing certain parts of the scene in sharp contrast as others fade into the distance, or finding that a shot is in focus from the foreground to the horizon. The camera’s angle and the placement of a photo’s focus are important in directing the viewer’s eye to the desired location. This can be performed through the lens, or by using an app to provide the illusion of a shallow depth of field (not much is in focus). The goal when making a remarkable image is to artfully accentuate the parts you choose.

Ferns in various light

This series demonstrates how altering the camera angle and focus can change a photograph. Left: From above, the fern is uninteresting. Center: The camera is focused on the fronds and at a lower angle, while the background fades away. Right: The eye is drawn through the image toward the waterfalls in the background. The lighting has also changed and is more golden in this last image, which changes the mood as well.

  • Consider the subject and overall composition, and the “feel” you want to portray. Where do you want the viewer to look? Take a different angle and focus there.
  • Different settings can provide different moods. A bright, sunny day calls for sharper focus, whereas an overcast day with muted colors begs a softer touch.
  • Use photo editing apps to further edit your images.

It’s not enough to simply possess the knowledge of how to take excellent photographs or to have the best equipment. The ideal strategy is to practice the art, take feedback and learn, and enjoy it. I still prefer my digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) camera for the best photos. However, more and more I find that my cell phone does the trick for most of what I want to accomplish: capture precious memories!

About the Author: Chrislyn Johnson is a Life Scientist with EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. She holds degrees in biology and photography from the University of Central Missouri. Chrislyn loves all things nature.

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.

Improving IRIS: Please Join the Conversation

By Kacee Deener

IRIS graphic identifier

Over the past few years, EPA has embraced a major new effort to enhance its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency, and improve productivity. IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. Information from IRIS is used by EPA and others to support decisions to protect human health.

We think we’ve made terrific progress so far, and we were thrilled that the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) agrees. They spent the past two years reviewing IRIS, and in May 2014, they issued a report highlighting our progress and offering recommendations on keeping the progress moving forward (Assistant Administrator Lek Kadeli recently wrote about this on EPA Connect, the Agency’s leadership blog).

In their report, the NRC commended EPA for its substantive new approaches, continuing commitment to improving the process, and successes to date. They noted that the IRIS Program has moved forward steadily in planning for and implementing changes in each element of the assessment process. They also provided several recommendations which they said should be seen as building on the progress we’ve already made.

We are happy to announce that we are taking additional steps to improve the IRIS Program. In October, we will hold a public workshop to discuss specific recommendations from the NRC’s report, which fall under the three broad topics below. We invite you to provide early input by commenting on this blog post, which is the first in a new IRIS blog series geared toward generating online scientific discussion about issues relevant to the IRIS Program. We plan to use blog posts like this more in the future to get your input.

  • Topic 1 – Refining systematic review methodology, including methods to evaluate risk of bias. The NRC stated that EPA should continue to document and standardize its process for evaluating evidence and recommended EPA develop tools for assessing risk of bias in human, animal, and mechanistic studies that are used as primary data sources. The NRC noted the limitations of available approaches for use with observational (nonrandomized) studies, and advocated exploration of differences in applying methods for evaluating epidemiological studies to controlled experimental in vivo and in vitro studies. They noted that these approaches will depend on the complexity and extent of data on a chemical and the resources available to EPA, and that additional methodological work might be needed to develop empirically-supported evaluation criteria for animal or mechanistic studies.
  • Topic 2 – Advancing methodology to systematically evaluate and integrate evidence streams. The NRC stated that EPA should continue to improve its evidence-integration process incrementally, and to enhance its transparency. The committee provided several alternatives for organizing evidence of hazard potential and recommended that the IRIS Program should either continue with the guided-expert-judgment process for evaluating evidence, but make its application more transparent, or adopt a structured approach with rating recommendations. The committee also encouraged the IRIS Program to simultaneously expand its ability to perform quantitative modeling, specifically using Bayesian methods, to inform hazard identification.
  • Topic 3 – Combining quantitative results from multiple studies, presenting appropriate quantitative toxicity information, and advancing analyses and communication of uncertainty. The committee encouraged the IRIS Program to continue its shift towards the use of multiple studies for dose-response assessment, but with increased attention to judging the relative merits of mechanistic, animal and epidemiologic studies, with an ultimate goal of developing formal methods for combining studies and deriving toxicity values in a transparent and replicable manner. The NRC stated that it is critical to consider systematic approaches to synthesizing and integrating the derivation of a range of toxicity values in light of variability and uncertainty. Integral to this latter goal is the NRC recommendation to develop methods to systematically conduct uncertainty analyses and to appropriately communicate uncertainty to the users of IRIS assessments.

We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about the NRC recommendations above. For example, do you have ideas about how we should move forward to address the recommendations in these topic areas? Do you have scientific suggestions for the IRIS Program to consider related to these topics? Do you have suggestions for who we should ask to speak at the workshop? Please add your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions in the comments below and join the conversation!

About the Author: Kacee Deener is the Communications Director in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment.  She joined EPA 13 years ago and has a Masters degree in Public Health.

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.

March Madness and Dancing… Did you know……?

By Jim Callier

The NCAA basketball tournaments just concluded.  None of our local schools made it very far in the “big” dance, although a shout-out does need to go to the Central Missouri State University Mules men’s team for winning the NCAA Division II Championship.  In this spirit, I want to pose a couple of interesting intercollegiate sports questions to introduce one of our Region’s noteworthy institutions.  Below are three questions relevant to the geographic area of EPA Region 7.

1) Player and Coach, Chauncey E.  Archiquette, is credited by Dr. James A. Naismith, originator of basketball, for introducing the zone defense into the game.  Can you tell me the school associated with Mr. Archiquette?

2) Milton P. Allen, the son of Forrest C. (Phog) Allen, famous University of Kansas basketball coach, coached basketball at what school in EPA Region 7?

3) Can you name the school whose gridiron team lost only 3 homes games in a 34 year period of time? (Hint:  approximately 1898 to 1932).

So, how did you do with these three questions?  The answer to the questions is “Haskell”, currently referred to as “Haskell Indian Nations University.”

EPA and Haskell have a special relationship dating back a number of years.

Since its inception, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission has been focused on the protection of human health and the environment.  The EPA Region 7 (EPA R7) recognizes that participation from all citizens is essential to support effective environmental policies, problem solving, and sustainable practices. In an effort to encourage student participation and study in the field of environmental science, a partnership was established, in the form of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between EPA R7 and Haskell.  The purpose of this MOA is to formalize and strengthen the relationship between EPA and Haskell while enhancing their educational programs/activities and increasing their institutional awareness of the environment through training and consultation.  Through this partnership, students from Haskell have worked at EPA R7 as part of the intern program, and many of these students have gone on to become employees of the agency after graduation.

Last year, Amber Tucker blogged twice about a special environmental conference at Haskell focused on mercury deposition and mercury in fish tissue, where students and scientists learned about these issues facing their communities.

For more than 130 years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been sending their children to Haskell, and Haskell has responded by offering innovative curricula oriented toward Native American cultures.  Today, Haskell has an average enrollment of over 1000 students each semester, with multi-tribal student representation from rural, reservation, ranchero, village, pueblo, and urban settings.  The Haskell campus spans over 320 acres in Southeast Lawrence, KS, and is home to 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Haskell Memorial Football Stadium.  Haskell offers baccalaureate degrees in Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Business Administration, Elementary Education and Environmental Science.

We feel that minority colleges serve an integral part to their specific cultures and communities. They fulfill a vital role in maintaining and preserving irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions, in offering a high-quality college education to younger students, and in providing job training and other career-building programs to adults and senior citizens. Haskell clearly offers a rich resource to provide the required institutional framework to address the problem of under representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics fields. Additionally, it provides a platform for EPA to aid in the development of an environmentally-conscious campus through direct consultation and training.

haskell

Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

 

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

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.