@EPAresearch

Earth Day 2013, and Beyond

 

By Aaron Ferster

Around EPA, we like to say that “everyday is Earth Day.” So what does that mean for us when it actually is Earth Day—like today? It will be a busy. Across the Agency, from our world class scientists and engineers to my fellow bloggers and science communicators, we are marking the 43rd Earth Day by making extra efforts to expand the conversation on climate change.

All this week and well into next, we’ll be highlighting EPA climate change research here on the It All Starts with Science blog, kicking it off with a Science Matters podcast/interview with our own Dr. Andrew Miller, the Associate Director for Climate for the Agency’s Air, Climate, and Energy research program and a member of the subcommittee on global change research for the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Anyone who wants to pose their own question to an EPA expert about what they can do at home, in the office, and on the road to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help protect the planet, is invited to join our Twitter chat today at 2:00 pm (@EPALive, follow #AskEPA). Dr. Miller will join the effort and field questions related to EPA climate research (@EPAresearch, also follow #AskEPA).

Other research highlights we will be posting include efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during clean up operations on Superfund sites (which often involve the use of heavy equipment), innovative ways to assess and evaluate potential low- and zero-carbon “breakthrough” technologies, efforts to protect wild salmon populations from a warming river in important spawning habitat, and explorations of the effects of climate change on watersheds and estuaries.

Be sure to check back throughout the week as we post these features, and more.

Coming into to work this morning, I began to think of what it might have been like to be part of the original Earth Day activities (although I’m not sure where I would have been heading, since EPA had not been established yet). It’s a pretty sure bet that the stream under the bridge I cross over to get out of my neighborhood would have been significantly dirtier, the car I drove to the metro would have been fueled with leaded gas, and whatever office I arrived at would likely be ripe with second-hand tobacco smoke.

I’m grateful to the work that has been done over the past 43 years to make our home, local, and work environments cleaner and healthier, and am thrilled to have the privilege of working to further those efforts today. But the lessons of the past have taught us that no single government agency or individual can tackle today’s environmental challenges—climate change especially—alone.

That’s why EPA is expanding the conversation to engage everyone’s help and to spur greater action to reduce the impacts of climate change, such as warmer temperatures, sea level rise, and an increase in strong storms and droughts. Join us today and for the next 40 years or so to make every day Earth Day.

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the editor of It All Starts with Science, and a frequent contributor.

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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Sister Blog: Let’s Talk About Climate Change

Do you have a science question about Climate Change and Water? Be sure to join the first “Earth Month” Twitter chat Monday, April 8, 2013. Our expert Dr. Suzanne van Drunick, the National Program Director for EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research Program, will be answering your science-related questions about climate change and water.

Feel free to join us on Monday using #AskEPA, or post your questions in the comments section below for Dr. van Drunick.

Here’s more information…

(Reposted from our “It’s Our Environment” blog.)

Let’s Talk About Climate Change

By Jessica Orquina

Earth Day is coming in a few weeks, and here at EPA we celebrate Earth Month all April. Every year, we have different ways for you to engage with us online. This year, we invite you to join the conversation on climate change we’re hosting via our Twitter chats on three Monday afternoons in April. For each chat, we’ll be talking about a different environmental topic and taking your questions. Here is the schedule for our Earth Month Twitter chats:

  • April 8th 2:00pm EDT – Climate Change and Water
    Experts from our Office of Water will join us to talk about how climate change is affecting oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems in the U.S. We will also be discussing how EPA is adapting programs that protect public health and water resources.

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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A Summer at the Edge

By Tyler Feitshans

Summer at the Edge (SATE), a program sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory and led by Research Director Dr. Rob Williams, brings together high school and college level students to develop technology that benefits both soldiers and citizens. This year at SATE, I was given the unique opportunity to lead a project with help from mentors at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

My team’s project, called Project Tricorder, originated from the idea of adding external hardware to smartphones and tablets to collect environmental data on a large scale.  I saw this as a clear opportunity to help monitor the world around us through specialized environmental sensors.  Our student team and our mentors from EPA’s Innovation Team shared an interest and excitement about developing this idea.

Sensor Prototype

The overall goal of our project is to develop a nationwide sensor grid, measuring everything from air pollution levels to water quality.  Project Tricorder aims to make the grid work with any sensor, but we are also developing a sensor prototype. This prototype, called a Tricorder, is a cheap sensor pod with removable sensor bays that allow users to quickly adapt the device to detect the information relevant in a given location. Testing of the prototype has included simple environmental measurements, such as temperature and wind speed, as well as information related to health monitoring, such as carbon monoxide and radiation levels.

Our sensor grid allows Tricorder users to upload data and photos from any location with cell phone access.  As data is gathered, it can be displayed in two ways: (1) a graph showing data trends over time; and (2) a map displaying locational data using Google maps.  The readily-available data from our project will help communities and policy-makers make quick decisions related to local air quality.

I think the development of Tricorders that work with mobile phones will be a valuable tool in knowing what’s happening in the world around us and will create a number of environmental benefits in the future.  This technology also has a number of other applications, specifically in the realms of healthcare and security.

If you’re interested in learning more about our project, you can check out @EPAresearch today for updates from the end of the year SATE Open House. Our EPA mentors will be sending updates and photos of the event via Twitter.

You can also check out a video we made by clicking the link below.

Summer at the Edge – Project Tricorder Video

About the author: Tyler Feitshans will be a Junior Computer Engineering student at Ohio Northern University this Fall.   He is currently the Team Lead for Project Tricorder and began participating in the SATE program as a high school student.

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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A Breath of Fresh Air: EPA Air Research in the Latest Issue of Science Matters

By Katherine Portilla

It’s only the first month for me as a summer intern at the EPA, and I’ve already learned so much by working on the latest issue of Science Matters. The research that EPA dedicates to the study of the air we breathe is quite simply impressive, not to mention fascinating!

Over the past two decades, the US has seen significant growth in many areas. Between 1990 and 2010, the population grew 24%, energy consumption rose 15%, and gross domestic production increased by some 65%.  Additionally, the US has seen a lively 40% increase in motor vehicle use.

You’d think that with so much growth, especially in motor vehicle use, that there would be an increase in air pollution. So I was surprised to learn that levels of air pollutant emissions have actually dropped by more than 50%! Indeed, the country’s air has gotten a lot cleaner. This fact is even reflected in an estimated five month increase in life expectancy, based on an EPA-supported study.

To what do we owe this success, you may ask? Well, there’s science, for one, and a number of science-based air pollution regulations passed under the Clean Air Act in 1970.

EPA continues to make the air cleaner and healthier for communities across the nation by conducting research to address today’s complex air quality issues, including the interrelationship between air pollution and climate change. The latest issue of EPA Science Matters focuses on these ongoing efforts, with stories including:

Keep reading to learn about the nation’s first zero-emission, all electric school bus, which hit the streets of California’s San Joaquin to improve both air quality and the economy. And if you live near a major road, you can learn how EPA’s research is helping to protect you from traffic emissions.

All this, and more, is in the latest issue of EPA Science Matters, so don’t miss out!

About the author: Katherine Portilla is an intern with EPA’s 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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Twenty Thousand…and Counting!

By Melissa Anley-Mills

@EPAresearch 20,000 followers graphicI remember the day we started our twitter account, @EPAresearch. An amazing opportunity to tag along with an EPA researcher conducting ecosystems and human health fieldwork in the beautiful forests of Connecticut had just come up for myself and a fellow member of the science communications team.

As communications folks, we were salivating. We would take photos and write about the research with excitement and passion, but we also wanted to be able to bring EVERYBODY into the woods with us to have a peek into this fascinating EPA research project.

“Microblogging” and the “tweetosphere” were just gaining traction and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try. But I was a bit worried. Would I have cellphone coverage so I could tweet from the forest? Would it be possible? I decided to strap on my rubber boots and give it a try. It would be our field experiment.  (It turned out pretty good, I think: http://1.usa.gov/LSoUbq)

Since then we’ve live tweeted three years of EPA research news. Highlights have included People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) college student competitions on the National Mall, speeches of our VIPs, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (where we’ve given our Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award), and the fun and science learning from our booths at two USA Science and Engineering Festivals.

We’ve answered countless twitter questions, hosted behind-the-scenes lab tours for ScienceOnline participants, and just launched the My Air, My Health Challenge with HHS. We’ve shared our own research and learned about complementary efforts supporting EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment from our many EPA partners.

Today marks a milestone. We have reached 20,000 science followers!

To say thank you, we’re inviting you to send us (more) science and engineering questions via twitter. Tag them with this hashtag: #20Ksf. We will pick 20 questions to do something a little different from our usual tweeted responses. (Hint: it might involve audio of our scientists and perhaps a little creative artwork.)

Intrigued?  We’ll use our creativity to share our researchers’ answers.  Ask away using #20Ksf.

So stop the summer brain drain, think about what you might want to learn from an EPA scientist or engineer and ask us a question about science or engineering using #20Ksf!

Join us on twitter (www.twitter.com/EPAresearch) and be part of the online science conversation.  Don’t use twitter but want to be part of the discussion? We’ll also select some questions tagged #20Ksf from the comment section below.

Looking forward to your questions and to the discussions that we’ll have as we head for 40,000 enthusiastic science followers—and beyond!

About the Author: Melissa Anley-Mills manages the @EPAresearch twitter account and serves up information about EPA’s scientists and researchers 140 characters (or less) at a time!

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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