Science Matters

Reposted: How EPA Research Supports Taking Action on Climate Change

Reposted from EPA’s Connect blog, the official blog of EPA’s leadership.

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. The central theme of EPA’s Earth Day activities this year is Taking Action on Climate Change, echoing our commitment to meeting today’s greatest environmental challenge. And just like our predecessors did decades ago, we are supporting those actions with the best available science.

Dr. Chris Weaver, an EPA scientist currently on leave to serve as the Deputy Executive Director of U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program, explains: “EPA has a major role to play in preparing the nation for change, through its critical responsibilities for ensuring clean air, clean water, and healthy communities and ecosystems. And EPA researchers, working in partnership with their colleagues in other Federal agencies and in the broader scientific community, are at the forefront of advancing understanding of the impacts of—and responses to—climate and related global change.”

Examples of that work include:

I invite you to read more about these and other examples in the 2014 Earth Day edition of our EPA Science Matters newsletter. It features stories on how EPA researchers and their partners are supporting Agency strategies and President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Our amazing scientists and engineers are providing the science that decision makers, communities, and individuals need for developing strategies to protect public human health and the environment in the face of a changing climate. Thanks to them, I am confident that future Earth Day events will celebrate how we were able to take action and meet the challenges of a changing climate.

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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Science Matters Podcast – Climate Change with Dr. Andy Miller

To celebrate Earth Day, all this week and well into next we will be highlighting EPA climate change research with special Science Matters feature articles and podcasts.

Dr. Andy Miller is the Associate Director for the Climate for the Agency’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program, and he is a member of the subcommittee on global change research for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates scientific research across 13 Federal departments and agencies to understand changes in the global environment and their implications for society.

Click the play button below to listen to Dr. Miller’s podcast about EPA’s research on climate change. Read the transcript of Dr. Miller’s podcast.

If the embedded podcast above does not work for you, please click here – Science Matters Podcast about Climate Change with Dr. Andy Miller.

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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Science Matters: Highlighting the Impact of EPA Research

By Aaron Ferster

Sunset on the Outer Banks.

What would you do with extra time?

What would you do with an extra five months? I’d want to spend it with my family, preferably hiking some scenic mountain section of the Appalachian Trail, or maybe the Columbia River Gorge. Any trail would do, really. A couple of weeks together on the Outer Banks watching the surf roll in would be nice, too. And a bevy of long, leisurely bike rides would be a must.

Nothing beats the gift of time, and five months worth is a generous one at that.

Five months is the amount of time added to our life spans, according to an EPA-supported study examining the benefits of clean air programs. The foundation of these programs is Agency research such as EPA integrated science assessments, which advances the understanding between air pollution exposure and its effects on human health.

In addition to longer life spans, the positive impact of EPA research can also be seen across the nation in cleaner air and water, healthier communities, and offices, schools, public spaces, and airplanes free from secondhand tobacco smoke.

Examples of such impacts are the focus of our latest newsletter, EPA Science Matters.

In the newsletter story featuring EPA’s landmark health assessment on the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Matthew L. Myers remarks, “The impact has been healthier kids, healthier parents, healthier workers, and an awareness that the science is clear: if you smoke around kids and other non-smokers, you threaten and endanger their health.”

Myers is but one of the many people who help tell the story of the impact of EPA research. Featured examples include EPA’s integrated science assessments, “green” infrastructure, community support for achieving cleaner air, enhancing emergency response capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack using anthrax, and several others.

I invite you to check out the newsletter to learn more. Although I’ve been working on the issue myself for the past couple of weeks, I plan to read it again in my spare time. Perhaps between hikes, or while enjoying an afternoon on the Outer Banks.

About the Author: When not planning his next vacation, Aaron Ferster works as the senior science writer-editor 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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Science Wednesday: Don’t wait for Wednesday—Get Science Matters!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Aaron Ferster

While “TGISW” (thank goodness it’s Science Wednesday) may never catch on like that more famous exclamation about everybody’s favorite workday, I’ve come to really enjoy my weekly task of getting EPA’s weekly science post ready for Greenversations. Even though we still have another one left before the calendar flips over to 2012, we’ve already shared more “Science Wednesdays” this year than there are actual Wednesdays.

Posts were “tagged” for a diversity of EPA science activities, including sustainability (six posts this year), green chemistry (four posts), clean air research (four posts), women in science (part of the Agency’s month-long activities Celebrating Women in Science during March, 2011), risk assessment (two posts), and a host of other subjects too numerous to fit into a single blog post. We even managed to work in something about bed bugs and a hedgehog!

EPA scientists eager to share insights on their work advancing environmental models launched a series called “Modeling Matters.”

A special thanks to all our readers and commenters, who joined the science “Greenversations” to the tune of some 191 comments.

By now you’ve noticed that we have a lot of science to share, way more that can fit into weekly “Science Wednesday” posts. That’s why I’d like to invite everyone again to sign up for our newsletter, Science Matters.

The December issue includes stories on: EPA efforts to measure sustainability, an environmental model for tracking mercury levels in fish and loons in lakes across New England, news about the latest release of the Community Multiscale Air Quality Model, a link to a podcast interview about EPA’s hydraulic fracturing study—and more. To have the newsletter delivered right to your inbox, click on the link below and add your e-mail address to the box on the web site: Subscribe to Science Matters.

Until next time—TGISW!

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the editor or Science Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Want more? Get Science Matters!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Aaron Ferster

Last year, we shared 64 separate blog posts on “Science Wednesday.”

Topics ranged from green chemistry and sustainability (11 posts), to biodiversity’s links to human health (3 posts), clean air science (20 posts, including several about Air Science 40 activities marking four decades of scientific achievements supporting the Clean Air Act), the U.S.A. Science & Engineering Festival (5 posts), and a host of other subjects too numerous to fit into a single blog post.

A special thanks to all our readers and commenters, who joined the science “Greenversation” to the tune of some 378 comments.
The award for the Science Wednesday blogger who generated the most comments goes to EPA scientist Jeff Morris, the National Program Director for Nanotechnology in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Jeff’s February 10 post, Sheep, Goats, and Nanoparticles, not only provided a unique insight into nanotechnology research, but did so in a way that clearly sparked interest.

2011 promises to be another great year of sharing our science. Already in the works are regular Science Wednesday posts on green chemistry to help celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, and updates from the National Research Council’s efforts to help the Agency incorporate sustainability into all our programs. Stay tuned!

By now you’ve noticed that we shared more “Science Wednesday” posts than there were Wednesdays in 2010. We had to turn a few regular Tuesdays and Thursdays into Science Wednesday to share late-breaking or topical science news. And we still have much more to say! That’s why I’d like to invite everyone to sign up for our newsletter, Science Matters.

The January-February issue includes stories on near-roadway air pollution research, a project by EPA researchers exploring the impact of rain barrels and rain gardens on stormwater runoff, efforts to develop high-tech methods to monitor insect-resistant corn crops—and more.

To have the newsletter delivered right to your inbox, click on the link below and add your e-mail address to the box on the web site:

Subscribe to Science Matters

Thanks again for joining the Greenversations.

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the editor or Science Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Science Wednesday: Swapping Stories

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.
By Aaron Ferster

Last week science communication colleagues from across the Agency gathered together at a conference center outside of Washington, DC to talk shop and finalize a strategic communication plan for effectively sharing EPA research results and outcomes.

Paul Anastas, the assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the science arm of the Agency, has placed a premium on science communication. “Great work, done invisibly, cannot have impact,” he says. “Communication is essential in the design, definition, conduct, transfer, and implementation of the work we do if we are to have an impact.”

Dr. Anastas was not just talking to the members of the science communication team, but to everyone involved in research and development at EPA. Never the less, as you could imagine, as those on the front lines of communication we all found his words rather energizing.

While at our meeting, we reviewed communication plans and consulted with one another to identify best practices across EPA’s various research labs centers, and offices. We spent time discussing ways to quantify and track our work so we can make sure we set appropriate goals, effectively reach and serve intended audiences, and work efficiently.

As the science writer on the team, my favorite part of these meetings is always listening to stories about EPA research. This meeting was a good one for identifying great science stories. Just a few examples include:

  • EPA researchers working to build a computer model that simulates embryonic development, a “virtual embryo” that will serve as a screening tool for testing the toxicity of chemicals on the developing embryo.
  • n a research project already underway, an interdisciplinary team of EPA researchers and their partners are studying the effects of near-roadway pollution on human health.
  • Across the country, EPA ecologists and other experts are exploring ways to better understand and quantify “ecosystem services,” the myriad ways that natural ecosystems benefit human society.
  • One research project still in the planning stages will involve tapping advanced environmental monitoring technologies placed on commercial aircraft to gather data for analysis into important environmental such as tracking climate change and air pollution globally.

And these are just the first examples on my list of notes from the gathering. My colleagues and I will be working to share all of them through this blog, our Science Matters newsletter, EPA’s Web site, and other places over the coming weeks and months. Please stay tuned!

About the author: Aaron Fester is the lead science writer-editor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and the editor for Science Wednesday.

Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Science Wednesday: Science Matters

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

“Great work, done invisibly, cannot have impact. Communication is not merely transmitting our work; it is an essential part our work. Communication is essential in the design, definition, conduct, transfer, and implementation of the work we do if we are to have an impact.”

The above paragraph was part of The Path Forward ,  a memo Assistant Administrator Paul T. Anastas recently sent to me and my colleagues across EPA’s Office of Research and Development—the science arm of the Agency.

The memo outlines Dr. Anastas’ vision for leading EPA research, and lays out a set of principles for guiding our work into the future. As a science writer, I was thrilled to see that communication was an integral part of that vision.

It was good timing, too.

To help spread the word about EPA research, I’m happy to announce the launch of Science Matters,  an electronic newsletter devoted to sharing stories about the innovative environmental and human health science conducted by EPA researchers and their partners.

Science forms the foundation of everything EPA does. It provides the information, tools, and models the Agency needs to meet its mission to protect human health and the environment.

EPA scientists and engineers explore the complex interrelationships between people and our environment. At their core, they are problem solvers—devoting their efforts to deeply understanding problems. What they learn provides critical information for meeting the nation’s most pressing environmental and human health challenges.

The goal of Science Matters is to spread the word about that collective effort. After all, “great work, done invisibly, cannot have impact.”

Sign up!

Click here for a Science Matters e-mail subscription  (Just enter your e-mail address in the white box and hit the “go” button.)

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer-editor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and the editor of Science Wednesdays on Greenversations.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.