Statistics

How’s the Bay Doin’?

By Tom Damm

When the late New York City Mayor Ed Koch wanted to get a sense for, “How’m I doin’?” he’d ask people on the street.

Bay Barometer Cover ImageThe Chesapeake Bay Program takes a more scientific approach when it considers the state of the Bay and its watershed.

It crunches all sorts of statistics and produces an annual update on health and restoration efforts called Bay Barometer.  The latest one is now available.

So how’s the ecosystem doin’?

The science-based snapshot shows that while the Bay is impaired, signs of resilience abound.

A number of indicators of watershed health, like water clarity and dissolved oxygen levels, point to a stressed ecosystem.  But other factors, such as a smaller than normal summertime dead zone and an increase in juvenile crabs entering the fishery, provide a brighter picture.

Recent restoration work and pollution cuts also offer signs of progress for the nation’s largest estuary.

Learn more about Bay Barometer or read the full report.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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: EPA and World Statistics Day

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

By Barry D. Nussbaum

Today, October 20, 2010 is World Statistics Day. Gosh, that might not be noteworthy for most, but as EPA’s chief statistician, it has a large significance to me. Today EPA is inundated with data arriving by satellite and monitoring devices as well as mounds of administrative data. Plenty there to roll up one’s sleeves and analyze for important relationships. But that wasn’t always the case. Early on, we had to settle for very little data, but what we did with it was crucial. I learned that I never met a datum I didn’t like. One very vivid situation, a legal case, sticks out in my mind.

Early in my career, EPA had some indications that a large number of motor vehicles (pretty big muscle cars with 360 and 400 cubic inch engines) had excessive carbon monoxide emissions. Many meetings with the auto manufacturer proved fruitless, so the enforcement case ended up with the United States as the plaintiff in administrative law court. In preparation for the case, I realized that the “United States” did not mean that the attorney general was the lead prosecutor; it was a young lawyer in our own division. And, as for the statistical expert, that was me. With lots of interaction and preparation among EPA’s legal, technical, policy, analytic, and statistical employees, we WON the six-week court case. The manufacturer had to recall 208,000 vehicles. And how many samples did we have to win this case – – – ten. Yep, with data on only ten cars we proved victorious. I knew that ten was enough, but convincing a lay judge took every adrenaline kick I could muster.

The case was a huge success for EPA. For me it demonstrated the power of statistics; but for the country, this victory was even larger. One outcome was a large deterrent effect for the automakers. They built cars more carefully with respect to emissions after that case. And when you realize on this World Statistics Day that there are 230 million vehicles in the US traveling 240 billion miles annually, the fact that each one is just a little bit cleaner makes a BIG difference. I’d like to think I had something to do with that.
And why did they pick today for World Statistics Day? Using the international notation of day/month/year, today is 20.10.2010. You gotta love numbers!

About the author: Barry D. Nussbaum joined EPA in 1975. He has worked in both the Air Office and the Policy Office prior to becoming the Chief Statistician of the Agency in 2006.

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: Statistics and Science Improve Water Quality

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

You can’t talk science without talking about statistics! EPA’s statisticians are scattered throughout many different programs and their work supports the work of EPA’s scientists. We even have several statisticians who have been designated as Fellows of the American Statistical Association, a prestigious honor in our field. It’s a great feeling to know that a national statistical organization values the contributions of EPA’s statisticians, and it’s a heady experience to know that I can just pick up the phone or send an email to ask for help from one of the Fellows. They’ve always been very generous with their time and it’s fascinating to hear about their projects. We also have access to talented statistical contractors, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

After 20 years at EPA, I still find my job exciting and challenging. In the Office of Water, statisticians work with scientists and engineers. We move from project to project, learning about the subject matter and figuring out the best way to collect and analyze the data that’s needed. Because we use statistical techniques to select facilities for our surveys, our data analyses produce statistically valid estimates about water conditions for the entire country. Often, we have to find a different statistical technique than we’ve ever applied before for these surveys and data analyses. And then, because we strive to be transparent in statistics and every other aspect of a project, we spend a lot of time writing. Federal Courts have even referred to our documents in upholding water pollution regulations. We also participate in international statistics conferences to share what we’ve done and what we’ve learned about the environment by applying statistical techniques in collecting and analyzing data. We may not be considered a federal “statistical agency” like the Census Bureau, but statistics is very much a part of science at EPA.

About the author: Marla Smith works as a statistician in EPA’s Engineering and Analysis Division within the Office of Water. The Division works to reduce industrial and municipal impacts on water bodies and aquatic life by identifying technological solutions.

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.