EPA Science Matters

Universities Lend a Hand with Sustainability

By Michaela Burns 

EPIC group picture

San Diego State University geography students presented their proposed designs for the Ejido Matamoros park in Tijuana to community members who had the opportunity to provide their feedback on the designs.

There are hundreds of cities out there that can’t afford to commit staff or resources to social, economic, and environmental sustainability projects that could improve the health of communities. EPA is helping some of these cities leverage the expertise of local universities to reach sustainability goals by supporting Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) programs.

Through an EPIC program, cities can choose sustainability-related projects that university students can complete as part of coursework. This partnership has the double benefit of improving city health and giving students the chance to apply their knowledge to real-word problems.

Successful partnerships have addressed challenges such as storm water management, drought tolerance, and air quality.  I wrote about some of these successes for Sciences Matters. Check out my article to learn more about EPA’s work with these amazing programs!

About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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How EPA Research Supports Taking Action on Climate Change

By Lek Kadeli

As my EPA colleagues and I prepare to join millions of people from across the nation and around the globe to celebrate the environment on April 22, it’s a good time to remember how much we’ve accomplished together since the first Earth Day in 1970.

Forty-four years ago, it wasn’t hard to find direct evidence that our environment was in trouble. Examples of air pollution could be seen at the end of every tailpipe, and in the thick, soot-laden plumes of black smoke flowing from industrial smokestacks and local incinerators. Litter and pollution-choked streams were the norm, and disposing of raw sewage and effluent directly into waterways was standard practice. A major mid-western river famously ignited, sparking both awareness and action.
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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.

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Humpback Memories and Climate Change Research

By Aaron Ferster

Humpback whale breachingI was hooked the first time I saw a humpback whale leap out of the ocean. All that impossible bigness exploding through the waves, hanging in the air for a moment, and then crashing back down into the water. A cascade of sea mist and foam where a forty-ton animal just existed.

Within a few months of that first encounter I was a volunteer data collector on a whale watch boat; not long after that I was the ship’s first mate, devoting my remaining college summers to securing lines, swabbing the deck, and climbing to the roof of the wheelhouse to scan the horizon for the next sighting.

Why was I thinking about the whale watching days of my youth during the President’s recent climate change address? Because as President Obama talked about his Climate Change Action Plan and the need for innovation and low-carbon fuels, it reminded me that long before whales were a tourist attraction, for most people their primary value was as an energy source. Flames burning whale blubber and oil kept homes, businesses and streetlamps glowing long after dark. Early lighthouse beacons ran on the highly prized spermaceti oil of Moby Dick fame.

Back then, whaling was big business, the staple of the economy in coastal towns all up and down New England and elsewhere. The tide began to change when the light bulb and electricity came into favor, cheaper and more abundant than dwindling supplies of spermaceti.

When will the next generation of energy arrive? While the consequences are certainly more daunting and far reaching than centuries ago when energy was harvested with a harpoon, I liked hearing President Obama’s optimistic talk about the promise of American ingenuity and innovation being equal to the challenges of the day.

As an EPA science writer, I may be an easy mark for such talk, but I also have a front row seat to some of the engineers and scientists working on the research and technical solutions to address, mitigate, and adapt to climate change.

Some of that work is highlighted in the latest issue of our newsletter EPA Science Matters. The issue features stories on how Agency researchers and their partners are helping decision makers, communities, and individuals incorporate the latest science into strategies and actions designed to protect public human health and the environment in the face of a changing climate. I invite you to read the issue, and join the expanding conversation on climate change through this and other EPA blogs we have in the works about EPA climate research.

About the Author: Before joining EPA as a science writer, Aaron Ferster’s work experiences included first mate on a whale watch boat, assistant elephant trainer, and zoo exhibit writer.

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.