epa scientist

Join us for a nutrient Twitter chat today at 2:00 pm (ET)!

Questions and AnswersReminder: Join us for a Twitter chat today at 2:00 pm (ET)!
Got questions about how nutrient pollution affects our water? Join EPA scientist Anne Rea and other Agency experts today at 2:00 pm (ET).

Use #waterchat to ask a question or participate.

To get you started and introduce you to Anne, we’ve asked her to answer a few questions.

What is your educational background?
I have a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Michigan. I studied the biogeochemical cycling of mercury and trace elements in forested ecosystems. Since little work existed in the mercury realm, most of the literature and experts I worked with focused on nitrogen pollution.

How did you become interested in nutrient pollution?
After joining EPA, I wanted to work on the ecological side of things (versus human health) and spent several years doing ecological risk assessments. I then led a joint review of two air pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. This was the first time two pollutants were reviewed together, and the first time a “secondary” (public welfare) standard was separated from the “primary” standard (human health effects). I’ve always worked on multi-pollutant, multi-media problems, so was uniquely suited to lead the risk assessment for that review.

What’s the most interesting thing you have learned trying to solve this problem?
The dedication and commitment of staff across EPA is amazing. This is one problem the Agency is uniquely suited to solving from a scientific and regulatory perspective—but we can only do it together—across offices, regions and research programs in the Agency, and in collaboration with the states and other federal partners.

How can technology and innovation help solve the problem?
We’ve struggled to solve this problem for more than 40 years, and I think as an Agency we’ve made some progress. As the world’s population increases, there is a demand for increased food production and increased energy use—all of which releases nitrogen (and sometimes phosphorus, sulfur, and carbon) into the environment.

We are working across the Federal government to develop a ‘nutrients challenge’ which will challenge teams globally to come up with innovative ideas to reduce nutrients—either from the emissions source or from the waste stream.

We know we can’t solve nutrient pollution alone. What other federal agencies are we partnering with?
We are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service (NPS), and others, through jointly funded research, collaborations, cooperative agreements, etc. We work hard to share and use each others data and models as we work collectively to make an impact on nutrient pollution for the country.

Join us at 2:00 pm (ET) to Learn More!
Got more questions? Want to learn more? Don’t forget to join us for a Twitter chat today at 2 pm (ET). Use #waterchat to ask a question or participate. Not on Twitter but have a question? Please add it to the comments section below.

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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Scientist at Work: Robert Devlin, Ph.D.

February is American Heart Month! To help spread the word about heart health, EPA scientists and staff will write each week about the Agency’s Green Heart effort to educate the public about of the connection between air pollution and your heart. Be sure to check back each week to learn more, and for tips on what you can can do stay healthy!

Meet EPA Scientist Robert Devlin, Ph.D.

EPA scientist Dr. Robert Devlin’s main research interest is understanding the human health effects of air pollution. His research is used to characterize the effects that inhaled substances, such as air pollutants, have on human pulmonary (related to lungs and breathing) and cardiovascular (heart, lungs, and blood flow) health, and the physiological changes responsible for those effects.

When he retires Dr. Devlin hopes to become a star on the senior PGA golf tour as well as a movie reviewer for Entertainment Weekly.

How does your science matter?

I know my research matters because the results help set standards that protect people from real world exposures to air pollutants. As an example, we did a study Exit EPA Disclaimer a few years ago examining the lowest level of ozone that people could be safely exposed to and still be safe. Being able to conduct a study that ensures that our standards protect the public is important, and it makes you feel like your work means something.

We’re also interested in figuring out what we can tell people so they can protect themselves from air pollutants if they find themselves in a place with higher air pollution levels than EPA believes is safe (Editor’s note: for more information, also see EPA’s Green Heart web page: http://www.epa.gov/greenheart/). We just completed a study Exit EPA Disclaimer, in which we found a positive relationship between taking fish oil tablets and protecting yourself against some of the effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system.

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in Texas and got my doctorate from the University of Virginia Exit EPA Disclaimer in the area of developmental biology. My graduate research involved looking at genes that control the development of muscles in bird embryos using molecular biology approaches. I was on the faculty for Emory University Exit EPA Disclaimer for several years doing that research right after receiving my doctorate.

Keep reading Dr. Devlin’s interview here.

Read more Scientist at Work interviews here.

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.

Scientist at Work: Dermont Bouchard, Ph.D.

EPA Scientist Dermont Bouchard, Ph.D., is working to better understand how tiny nanomaterials might be released into the environment. What he and his research partners are learning helps regulators and other decision-makers lower risks and better protect human health and the environment.

How does your science matter?

My research focuses on the fate of nanomaterials in the environment—tiny materials measured on the “nanoscale” that are about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The field of nanomaterials, which is relatively new, uses the unique properties of nanoscale materials to develop new products and technologies, including many used in our homes.

My colleagues and I are developing techniques to measure and model the fundamental processes that determine where these nanomaterials end up in the environment.

One of our roles as scientists is to supply some of the basic information about nanomaterials: their properties, persistence in the environment, and the state of these materials, so that regulators can make informed decisions to protect human health and the environment. We are working to identify which materials would be most likely to be released into the environment so we can focus on them for additional study.

If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would you choose and what would you like to ask them?

Carel J. van Oss, a Dutch scientist who has made a lot of significant contributions to colloid science Exit EPA Disclaimer. Colloid science is really the foundation for a lot of the nanomaterials work that is done right now.

On top of being such an accomplished scientist, he was also a talented forger. While he was in the Netherlands at the start of WWII, he forged documents that assisted hundred of Jews in escaping Nazi occupation. I would like to ask him how he dealt with the occupation and how he got to where he is today.

Keep reading Dr. Bouchard’s interview here.

Read more Scientist at Work profiles here.

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.

Scientist at Work: Eric Villegas, Ph.D.

Eric Villegas, Ph.D. is a research microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. His recent work focuses on next generation sequencing technology to better understand risks associated with waterborne parasites.

Dr. Villegas is on the Editorial Board for The Scientific World Journal Exit EPA Disclaimer. He is a member of the American Society of Parasitologists, the American Society for Microbiology and the American Water Works Association.

How does your science matter?

My research primarily focuses on parasites in water. We’re working to determine the levels of these parasites as they relate to human exposure risks. In order to provide that data, we have to develop tools that enable us to detect the parasites. The tools we have developed now allow us to better assess the risks associated to these pathogens and provide insights on how to mitigate these issues.

If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would it be and what would you like to ask them about?

My choice would be the two “Steves” who started Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. I’d like to ask them what were their inspirations and driving forces behind their development of the Apple computer. Do they have any words of wisdom for the next generation scientists and engineers?

Click here to keep reading Dr. Villegas’s Scientist at Work profile.

Read more Scientist at Work profiles.

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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Scientist at Work: Mark Strynar, Ph.D.

Dr. Mark Strynar is a Physical Scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. His research interests include developing methods to measure and analyze the movement and fate of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and other xenobiotic compounds (chemicals found in organisms that are not normally expected to be present) in biological and environmental media.

When not at work, he enjoys spending time with his family and volunteering at his local church and various community programs. He is also an avid hunter, woodworker and welder who spends countless hours in his workshop creating furniture, contraptions, sawdust, and metal filings.

How does your science matter?

For the past eight years or so, I’ve focused on perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFCs are chemical compounds used to make products resistant to stains, water, or heat. Most people would recognize them as the compounds that keep food from sticking to pans or stains from ruining carpet.

Unfortunately, the same properties that make PFCs useful in kitchenware and fabric also make them highly resistant to degradation, which means they stay in our environment for a long time after we are done using them. We have found that PFCs are also widely dispersed in human beings.

My job is trying to figure out the different ways that PFCs get into your body. Each avenue of exposure: water, fish, air, food, house dust, etc., requires a different way (“analytical method”) for us to measure for PFCs and other chemicals of interest.

My research supports human risk assessment studies. It matters because if PFC exposure levels are too high we can help people take action. For example, in Decatur, Alabama, we found that levels of PFCs were too high in water and we were able to put people on alternate sources of drinking water. I can see an immediate impact from the work I’m doing to protect people’s health.

If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would it be and what would you like to ask them about?

I would say Louis Pasteur Exit EPA Disclaimer, who was one of the first to do a lot of microbial work and discover that the root causes of many diseases are biologically based in microrganisms. I would like to ask him what made him begin to suspect that microbes are the root cause of diseases.

To keep reading Mark’s interview, click here.

To read more Scientist at Work profiles, click here.

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.