Imagining the Earth through Art

By Casey J. McLaughlin

Written descriptions of the earth can be quite informative, but all good Geographers (in my opinion) know and love pictures and maps of the earth.  National Geographic is an incredibly successful example of the visual appeal of our planet.  I am not a huge art connoisseur, but Conversations XIV: Water hosted by the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas had a few pieces that really jumped out at me and that I find relevant to human health and the environment.

The Big Blue Thread is rooted in the idea that the Missouri River ties the four states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) of Region 7 together.  Water is critical for our region’s population and agriculture.  The Spencer Art Museum introduces their water exhibit:

Water is timeless… or is it? This installation of works from the Spencer’s permanent collection explores contemporary artists’ perspectives on the elixir of life: H20. Many of the works assembled for this installation take an eco-critical approach to the subject matter, exploring pollution and scarcity, whereas others address water less literally and more symbolically, as a cleansing or destructive force. From this selection of 20th- and 21st-century works, a subtle visual dialogue emerges between the Kaw River of Kansas and the Yangtze of China.

Maple Tree and Stream

Maple Tree and Stream at the Spencer Art Museum (KU). Credit: Casey J. McLaughlin

Many maps depict water with various shades and hues of blue.  It seems universal from my bubble perspective, but Maple Tree and Stream from the Japanese Edo Time period (1600-1868) reminded me of the swirling muddy waters of the Missouri River. The piece is a folding screen, ink, color, and gold on paper — that’s the description provided by the museum anyway.  I have a personal affinity for nature scenes and I felt an emotional bond to this specific piece given my work with the Big Blue Thread.  Seeing the brown stream reminded me of the swirling waters where rivers meet (Kaw Point) and the green trees of the spring.

Bridge over the Yangtze River. (2001)

Bridge over the Yangtze River (2001). Credit: Casey J. McLaughlin

More poignant to Region 7 and protecting human health and the environment is the exhibit by Chinese artist Chen Zhiyuan, Changjiangg Xingzou—Jingti (Yangtze River Walk – Crystals).  I remember visiting the Yangtze River in graduate school and have studied the river a bit – plus my kids and I love The Story of Ping.  I can hardly imagine the journey that took Chen from Shanghai to Qinghai along the Yangtze River (also known as the Chang Jiang).   For 21 days he walked and drank river water.  At the end of each day he distilled the salt from his intake.  As noted in the Museum’s description, he was hospitalized at the end of his excursion.  The piece was behind some shiny plexiglass so I couldn’t get a good picture with my cell phone.  I was first drawn to the huge wall map with a simple blue stream winding on a white background broken by pictures of each stop he made.  In front of the wall map, Chen has displayed his collection of dark colored salt crystals in glass beakers.

I am unsure where in the museum my appreciation of the art moved into concern for the water quality, but it did.  EPA does a lot with water monitoring and you can find out more from the Big Blue Thread ( PAHs in the Water, What’s in Your Water, and most recently in Gone Fishin).  I really wonder what a trip from the upper reaches of the Missouri to St. Louis would look like both from a naturalist (Lewis and Clark) perspective (can it even be walked?) and from a water quality one.  How many salt crystals or other materials would be distilled every day?  Would 21 days of drinking Missouri River water necessitate hospitalization?

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EPA Region 7’s GIS VIP

By Shawn Henderson

After several attempts at college, including the part-time approach, I decided in the mid 2000’s to start taking full-time classes and finish up my degree.  I knew that I wanted computers to be my major, because I love technology, but I also had a strong affinity for geo-sciences.  Not knowing much about geographic information systems (GIS) at the time, it seemed to be the perfect mix of geography, geology, and computers and therefore tailored specifically to my interests.  I thought GIS was just going to be about map making, but I had a lot to learn.  I was in the first pure GIS class that my alma mater, Park University offered.  At the time there was no dedicated computer lab, and the text book was less than helpful, but it was interesting.  I remember that in the computer lab on the main floor of the science buildingpark there were only five computers with ArcGIS licenses; we had to fight other students who were working on reports in MS Word to get access to the software we needed.  Park’s Professor David Fox did the best with what resources were at his disposal, and he made the class really interesting and enjoyable.  I developed a good relationship with Dave.  One afternoon I was frustrated and fed up with the turn-over of professors in the Computer Science program back then, so I asked him if he would be my unofficial advisor. He agreed.  From then on, we were good.

 

One afternoon I had enough of my computer programming class and decided to go for a stroll to clear my mind.  I had been working on a user interface class but, the buttons and layout were not lining up. I wanted to throw the computer across the room.  I walked over by the library and found an advertisement for an EPA summer intern program.  At this point I had applied for a dozen internships and I chuckled to myself that I had absolutely no chance, but I also figured that I had nothing to lose.  It just so happened that I had a certification in MS Access, and a group at EPA was looking for an intern to develop a tracking database in Access.  I applied, the stars aligned, and I was accepted for the internship.

 

I quickly finished the tracking database, and I was able to detail into the Region’s GIS group and onto our Aqua Team with fellow colleagues like Roberta Vogel-Leutung and Laura Webb.  I transitioned into the Student Career Employment Program and was offered a full time position with the Agency after I graduated.  Sometime after that, my supervisor and I were brainstorming about GIS and we wondered if we could leverage my knowledge of Park’s program (which requires an internship) to offer their students a more robust GIS experience at EPA.   I approached Dave Fox with the idea, and he thought it was a fantastic approach.   Thus was born our GIS VIP (VOLUNTARY INTERNSHIP with PARK).  From there our program has blossomed with more than 15 students working on EPA GIS projects.

 

Map completed by Park Intern

Map completed by Park Intern

The experience of working with these students has been amazing!  There has been a variety of unique personalities come through the door.  I have had students that were worried and timid at the beginning, but by the end they were confidant and ready to save the world with GIS.  I’ve also had students come through to find out how much database/computer work is involved and realize that the real world experience of GIS isn’t something they want to head towards as a career goal.  In the end, not all the projects end up like we planned, but the experience the students and EPA staff get from these projects is invaluable.  Students have had the opportunity to work with EPA staff which provides them with professional experience and contacts.  In return the Agency gets a fresh look on things with young enthusiastic students and volunteer assistance on projects of substance.

Besides our work with Park, the Agency has several other voluntary opportunities.  Currently EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs, is seeking a volunteer intern to work on social media coordination who is motivated, hard-working, and interested in helping the EPA protect human health and the environment.   You can find out all the details here.  Additionally our Superfund program is seeking two volunteer interns to work on separate projects found here and here.  These are great opportunities to build skills and your resume.  Heck my old boss  Jeffery Robichaud, also a fellow blogger, did his own volunteer internship with EPA in Philadelphia 20 years ago.

Shawn Henderson is an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch of the Environmental Services Division. He is a part of the Aqua Team, and conducts water quality sampling around the Region’s four states.  He has a Computer Science degree from Park University and helped to develop the Region’s KCWaterBug app and kcwaters.org.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Who Ya’ Gonna Call?

If it is a spill and not a ghost then there is one number you should know…1-800-424-8802…the National Response Center (NRC).  The NRC is the federal point of contact for reporting all oil and chemical spills and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  When the NRC receives a call regarding oil or chemical releases it contacts EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinators. (Interesting side note…the Image on Wikipedia is of Region 7 OSC John Frey!)

Each year, thousands of emergencies involving oil spills or the release (or threatened release) of hazardous substances are reported in the United States, potentially affecting both communities and the surrounding natural environment.  Emergencies range from small scale spills to large events requiring prompt action and evacuation of nearby populations.  EPA coordinates and implements a wide range of activities to ensure that adequate and timely response measures are taken in communities affected by hazardous substances releases and oil spills where state and local first responder capabilities have been exceeded or where additional support is needed. Below is a video of Region 7 On Scene Coordinators conducting a decontamination exercise.

For the geospatial enthusiasts amongst you, it is possible to access the data regarding spills around the country all the way back to 1982.  You can download it here, although the NRC also provides for more specific queries by state and by county. The address matching might be tough, especially for those older years where addresses like ‘5 miles south on County Road WW’ were more prevalent.  I whipped up the following map of my county in just a couple minutes using ArcGIS Explorer and an Online Geocoder. I admit, I dropped about 30 or so that I could have included if I spent a bit more time cleaning up the data. 

NRC

Hopefully I can get one or two of our OSCs to write a blog entry in the future since they have some really interesting stories to tell.  That is if they aren’t too busy answering the phone.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998.  He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division, and also serves as one of the Region’s two Scientific Support Coordinator whose role is to serve as a science adviser to the Federal On-Scence Coordinators if requested to obtain consensus on scientific issues, communicate differing opinions and resolve conflicting scientific information.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

First Helping of Acronym Soup with a Side of Data

By Jeffery Robichaud

I was standing up in front of a class of students comprised mostly of seniors at Park University last Monday for their last class on U.S. Environmental Regulations.  One of the questions I asked of them was which environmental law do they believe is the most important and why?  Driving home after class I realized I’m not sure I could answer that question easily.

The reality is that it is tough to compare environmental laws, and even tougher to choose amongst those if forced to choose a single one.  So I won’t, however the drive home gave me the idea that I might highlight environmental laws and regulations in the context of data and information, particularly of the geospatial kind.   Most environmental regulations are better known by their acronyms; RCRA, SDWA, FIFRA, EPCRA, NEPA, etc.,  so today I bring you the first spoonful of environmental acronym soup.

My choice for the first environmental law was easy, since I briefly mentioned it in a January post.  The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was established in 1973 to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend.  It is administered primarily by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  You can find out more about the ESA by clicking here.  The Environmental Protection Act interacts with the USFWS regarding the ESA routinely, most notably around what is known as consultations (Section 7 of the Act for those that want to look it up).

In conducting our work it is important to ensure that our actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify critical habitat.  Regarding the latter, the USFWS has helped all of us out with a Critical Habitat Portal, which allows individuals to search for habitat based on a particular species.  You can download shapefiles and metadata for use in your own mapping projects or, use their convenient Critical Habitat Mapper to get some quick results (like the locations of Critical Habitat for the Topeka Shiner, a threatened and endangered (T&E) species here in Region 7).

Data on the locations of T&E species is a bit trickier.  They can obviously be inferred from the Critical Habitat Mapper and many states maintain information usually at the county-level regarding known and historic ranges of T&E species.  However, an organization called Nature Serve can provide more specific information regarding locations depending on the intended uses of the data and the project.    They serve as the repository for detailed and reliable locality data (“element occurrences”) from State Conservation departments documenting the precise locations of rare and endangered species and threatened ecological communities.  From time to time we need this information at a finer scale to ensure that a specific activity is mindful of the presence of these species.

So there you have it… the ESA with a side of T&E data.  I haven’t decided what acronym I want to tackle next, but I’m taking requests.  Be sure to tip your GIS specialist (with data of course).

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. Jeff’s favorite T&E species is the Gray Wolf but he also thinks the Plains Spotted Skunk is pretty darn cute.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Horse of a Different Color

By Cynthia Cassel

Well, it’s getting close to that special season again; when our view of the world around us goes from sepia to brilliant color and little flowers sing a welcome to us when we step out the door.  Oh, wait, either I’m having those annoying delusions again or I’m confusing real life with a certain movie.

Either way, I’m pretty happy that when twister season begins we can see it happen in all its powerful glory.  You may think I’m crazy (having delusions was kind of a hint), but I love to watch storms and particularly ones that portend a tornado.   Our tornado drill earlier this week also brought this to mind, although it was a bit strange to look out the window at fields of snow as sirens blared. 

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.  When the sirens beckon, I reluctantly take my snarling cat and my purring husband down to our safe place in the basement.  Maybe I got that last sentence backward, but you get my drift.

But before I head downstairs, I love to sit on the back porch and watch the sky.  The towering cotton balls of cloud standing in bas relief against a deep grey sky signal the beginning.  As the sky darkens, I’m always transfixed by how many shades of purple-slate nature’s ceiling can take on.  The best of all is when everything turns that bilious yellow-green like a dragon about to heave his last meal.  It’s scary and wondrous all at the same time.

And I watch with utter fascination as a line across the sky sends tendrils of cloud downward toward the earth.  I watch the bottom line of those clouds carefully and patiently to see which of those tiny tendrils might descend and grow, heralding the beginning of another anxious season.  I always feel a thrill when before my very eyes I witness the birth and death of a tornado as a tendril forms, descends, then is sucked back into its mother-cloud.

What makes twister season so enthralling to me is the overwhelming power of it all.  The simple fact that a cool breeze becomes a strong wind then becomes a force of such great destruction that it flattens whole towns.  I’m always gob-smacked by that feeling of breathlessness when suddenly the wind stops dead; the air becoming thick and heavy.  The humbling effect of clouds that are so very beautiful to behold can become so alarmingly black that street lights come on in a display of confusion.  How a lovely sunny day turns into an angry hissing mess that makes adults run to hide like little children. 

We are forced to take cover, and yet, there is a longing deep in my heart to watch it all play out.  My husband thinks I should have chosen meteorology as my career path.  I have no desire to stand in a TV studio blathering on about the weather-I want to watch as it unfolds.  If I had to watch a screen I probably would watch the beautiful site Casey shared last year, where you can literally watch the wind from your computer.

Don’t even get me started about our booming Kansas summer thunderstorms.  I get up in the middle of the night to traipse out to the back porch and just sit in amazement at the show.  It helps that Mother Nature hasn’t included any obnoxious commercials with this fabulous production.

So, my friends come join me sometime while I watch and listen to one of the most amazing and terrifying events that our atmosphere has to offer.  I’ll put on a pot of coffee and you bring the cookies.  To really appreciate what’s happening you have to be willing to sit patiently for a while.  There’s plenty of room on my back porch and I’d welcome your observations in the “Merry Old Land of Oz”, home to over 3,700 tornados.

Cynthia Cassel is a SEE Grantee where, for 3-1/2 years, she has worked with the Wetland and Streams team in the Water branch.  Cynthia received her BS from Park University and lives in Overland Park where she regularly carries a bag of rocks so as to remain safely earthbound.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

How Accurate is Too Accurate?

By Jeffery Robichaud

In the world of GIS, accuracy is one of the names of the game.  A map is a two (and lately three) dimensional representation of the earth as well as important features found in our environment.  We expect maps and the underlying geospatial data used to develop maps to be accurate.   In fact we expect them to become more and more accurate as time passes due to advances in technology.  Older GPS units used to be notoriously inaccurate, with an accuracy and precision that sometimes could literally be described as in the ballpark, but many of today’s units have sub-meter accuracy.   There will always be issues associated with accuracy (or at minimum the illusion/perception of accuracy as Casey previously detailed), but are there situations where too much accuracy is a bad thing?  Yes.

If you have ever perused BingMaps or GoogleEarth you know there are certain spots across the country where imagery is not as accurate as it could be.  For instance in Washington, DC everything becomes pixilated at the corner of 17th H St NW, not because one moves into the world of Minecraft (if you are old like me…ask your kids) but because of homeland security concerns.  I used to drive down 17th when I lived in the Northwest section of DC, and believe me it’s there.

And a quick Google of thoughts and comments on Google Streetview will yield you a lively discussion on issues of privacy, oftentimes because of how accurate or inaccurate images can be.  In fact I understand that companies like Google and Microsoft go to great pains to ensure anonymity by fuzzing faces, license plates, and other personal information.

Homeland Security and Privacy are easy to point to as necessitating less accurate information for public consumption but what about the environment and natural resources? Is there ever a need to fuzz data?

Actually there is a data set that is just as important for those of us who care about flora and fauna; the locations of threatened and endangered species throughout the United States.  Their locations and ranges are important for federal and state organizations charged with protecting and restoring populations in accordance with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  But the presence of exact locations in the hands of individuals with less than scrupulous intentions could result in purposeful takes of species (what the ESA euphemistically calls the killing/harvesting of an endangered species).  Thankfully, governance of this sensitive data is tight and is coordinated through an organization called NatureServe.  Not all countries are so fortunate to have a coordinated program looking out for endangered species sightings.  In the past, well intentioned tourists to Africa have blogged/tweeted about their encounters with endangered mammals, providing poachers with timely and sometimes fairly accurate locational data as well as pictures documenting the whereabouts of Elephants and Rhinos.   This Story ran on NPR last December about elephants in Tanzania.  Hopefully Social Media continues to be used for positive purposes especially when it comes to protection of human health and the environment.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. Jeff freely admits to not “getting” Minecraft even though his kids have it on every device in the house.  He still thinks of the Creeper as a villain on Scooby Doo.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Whistling Pigs…

By Jeffery Robichaud

A Whistling Pig checking out a map courtesy of the TN Aquarium

Groundhog Day was just over a week ago. Apparently one of the more colorful names for these little guys is the Whistling Pig.  I showed my kids the movie for the first time on TV…I think we picked it up where Bill Murray is letting Punxsutawney Phil drive. Just like Phil Connors who spends over 33 years revisiting the same day, I thought I would revisit my Groundhog Day Post of last year.

 

Punxsutawney Phil be Darned…We’ve Started Spring Cleaning

My kids are hooked on Storage Wars (they love Barry and despise Dave) and my wife and I enjoy Hoarders, probably since it makes us feel like better housekeepers than we really are. At EPA in Kansas City, we are preparing for a transition from one building to another and many of us are beginning to grapple with our pack-rat tendencies and being forced to open long forgotten storage cabinets. Such an endeavor should be easy; and the most important part of it is. Records are saved, stored, and managed in accordance with requisite policies and procedures. Unfortunately scientists tend to amass collections of journal articles, data sets, guidance documents, and even specimens that, while not records, represent a life-time of learning and serve as a record of an individual’s career spent protecting human health and the environment.

Which gets me to the hackneyed phrase, one person’s junk is another’s treasure. Case in point; a colleague of mine uses a discolored booklet which is older than I as a prop for employee training. I grabbed it from him one day and realized the title was, “Everyone can’t live upstream: a contemporary history of water quality problems on the Missouri River, Sioux City, Iowa to Hermann, Missouri.” It just so happened we were working on a Missouri River project, and boom there it was, information not present in EPA’s databases or easily accessible at the time in any library. We were able to use this secondary information to fill in historical gaps for our project. Secondary data analysis, using information collected by someone else for another purpose, can be a fantastic way to provide additional context and relevance to a project as well as save costs assuming the information meets your data quality requirements.

As we all continue our march from the paper age to the electronic, consider making your old information and data available through sites like Data.gov, Socrata, or any number of other open data websites. Although this may be sacrilegious to say, all science doesn’t necessarily make its way into published journals. I’ll be giving this a shot as I clean my cabinets. Who knows, something old and dusty may still be valuable to another person in the future for an entirely new reason. Now if I can just convince my wife that this is the case for my Star Wars lunchboxes.

Well we are all moved in at our new locations, but the point remains the same.  We need to keep our eye on data management and continue to find ways to make it accessible to others.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  One of his life regrets is never driving over to Punxsutawney while attending school in Philadelphia.  He also just learned that Bill Murray was bitten three times during the filming of Groundhog Day.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Judas Fish

By Jeffery Robichaud

Invasive Species are a big problem in the United States and throughout much of the world.  Here in the Midwest, we have our fair share including the zebra mussel, the bush honeysuckle, and the autumn olive.  However none gets more attention than our pal the Asian Carp, perhaps because of their flying feats. Several years ago, I wrote for Greenversations about these problematic Pisces.

They continue to be a nagging invasive in our rivers, as well as in those of our sister Region (5) to the east.   Staff routinely spot them when we are out on the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers conducting sampling activities (check out the video below).  It almost seems comical, but we have had to amend our Health and Safety plans to add the threat of fish strikes as a potential hazard. Here are our folks on a slooooooowww day.

Our scientists have had lots of discussions on how one might safely and effectively reduce their populations, but apparently scientists in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, have come up with a novel solution: introduction of a Judas Fish.  From an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which describes the work of Peter Sorensen, director of the new Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota:

They are called “Judas” animals because, as the biblical reference implies, they betray.  Sorensen said the lessons learned elsewhere using “Judas” animals to locate and kill unwanted species could be used here to fight Asian Carp.

Radio-collared Judas pigs, sheep and goats have been released into the wild, then tracked until they lead officials to difficult-to-find herds of the same unwanted species.

This week, he will use Judas fish implanted with tracking devices to locate the common carp in Staring Lake in Eden Prairie. Though carp are dispersed in lakes during the summer, they congregate in the winter, and the Judas fish reveal to researchers exactly where they are.

A commercial fisherman then will net the mass of unwanted carp, estimated at about 26,000 fish, which root up vegetation, causing lakes to go turbid. Water quality and fish habitat usually improve after carp are removed.

Sorensen started using the method in 2008 as part of his carp research.

“It’s been very successful,” he said. “Carp are really social animals – one will always lead you to another.”

Sorensen said officials could apply the same method to seek out and destroy Asian carp.

I’m not sure how well this will work in our Big Rivers where we see large populations, but if Carp are indeed a schooling fish this might be one of the most efficient approaches to controlling the species.  I checked online and could not find any efforts underway to map populations on Region 7 Big Rivers, an activity which might help in maximizing the efficiency of Judas Fish introduction.  If you have seen any hot spots, on the Missouri River, let us know with a comment below.  Perhaps if enough interest is expressed, we can start a twitter hash tag campaign to collect lat/longs of Carp hotspots on the river, eventually building a crowd-sourced map.  I smell another blog post…or maybe it is just the fish.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. Jeff has never incurred the wrath of a flying fish. Perhaps his aversion to meals of aquatic animals is sensed by these cantakerous critters who thus leave him alone

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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December 24th Geography

By Jeffery Robichaud

If you have read any of my blog articles, you know I have two rugrats.  As both a scientist and an amateur geospatial enthusiast, I often find myself in the awkward position of having to try and describe the physics of a one Mr. Pere Noel’s  trip to my boys about this time every year.  Thankfully, all sorts of films have taken a stab at trying to explain a certain flight every December 24th.  My favorite  growing up (possibly because it starred Jacklyn Smith albeit as a parka wearing mom) was “The Night they Saved Christmas,” where elf Paul Williams explained such futuristic concepts as Santa’s Reindeer Zephyr and instant People Mover as well as some gizmo that slowed time.    Last year’s “Arthur Christmas” had a more modern take.   I think we probably will never really know how Sinterklaas does it… plain old magic I suppose.

But even though every year I am unable to break down the science for my boys, I am able to help out with the geography thanks to the fine men and women at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

 

 

If you log into the NORAD Santa Tracker website on the 24th you can track Kris Kringle across the globe.  My kids have loved it, and in my experience it has a couple of extra benefits.  First it helps to pass a day full of anticipation since if they get antsy, I ask them to go check on Santa. Second it sneaks a bit of education into a mindless winter break filled with sweets and video games.  Finally, it serves as an extra incentive to go to sleep on time as we watch Old Saint Nick creeping closer and closer to Kansas City (it’s amazing how fast they move when he hits St. Louis).  This year they have switched from Google Maps to Bing Maps so I hope everything goes smoothly.  If it crashes you can always check out Google’s own Santa Tracker (and hint…it doesn’t work properly in Internet Explorer)

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our posts these last several months on EPA’s newest blog.  Here is wishing all of you a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  Cool gifts which Jeffery can remember Santa bringing include the Micronaut Biotron, Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer and a Playskool Holiday Inn (shameless cross-promotion and marketing before it was gauche).

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Remembering a Colleague

By Jeffery Robichaud

I’m a couple of years younger than the Environmental Protection Agency, which had its 40th birthday back in 2010.  There aren’t many charter members of EPA still working for the Agency today.  Here in Kansas City I think we might be down to our last one.  Most have retired.  Unfortunately, we lost one last week, Les our former videographer.

I will always remember the time I spent working with Les on a video almost a decade ago in 2003.  The next year (2004) marked the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the Corps of Discovery.   A set of men were going to re-enact the entire two year journey as the Corps of Discovery II and the National Park Service was creating a travelling exhibit to accompany Corps II.  The Park Service had reached out to its Federal Partners to help with educational activities.  Since EPA doesn’t have field offices along the route, we decided to develop a video that could accompany the travelling exhibit, led by Les.

Les attacked the project with vigor.  I marveled at what he was able to do with a shoestring budget, working with A/V equipment that was a cross between home and professional, and a rag tag bunch of folks willing to help on the side.  A few of us had a chance to moonlight with Les to develop a script, storyboard shots, and collect footage all while continuing with our normal work.   Somehow Les found a way to pull it off, even managing to capture footage of the Corps II in St. Louis, work the footage into the end credits, and cut copies of the DVD before they began their journey up the Missouri.  The DVD was the Agency’s contribution to the Tent of Many Voices which served as the centerpiece for educational activities of the Corps over the next two years.

Large festival-like celebrations greeted the Corps II at big cities like Kansas City and Omaha, their schedules jammed with local speakers and exhibits, including Les’s video as a small piece of a tremendous program.  But as the keelboat moved further upriver and away from the cities, the speakers and the festivities waned yet Les’ video stayed with the Tent of Many Voices.  It was seen by children and teachers at small towns all along the historic route.  Towns like Kamiah, ID, a small village on the Nez Perce Reservation, where young children were able to watch the following video, which still holds up today.

By the time the Corps II returned through Kansas City two years later, I had moved into a different position and didn’t really get a chance to circle back with Les.  I wish I had told him how amazing I thought it was that his efforts were seen by thousands…and how important it was in helping to show kids how history can be relevant to them, and to protection of the environment.  Thanks Les.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.