September in EPA Research: Algae as a desalination method, air sensors in Puerto Rico, and more…

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September 2016
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Recently in EPA Research
desalination algae samples

Testing Salt-Tolerant Algae as a Desalination Method

There is a large volume of brackish water (salt water and fresh water mixed together) in many arid areas of the world, but current desalination methods are expensive and use a lot of energy. Recently, some of our scientists investigated the use of salt-tolerant algae – also known as halophytic algae – as a natural and sustainable method to decrease salinity in brackish water and seawater. Learn more about this research in the blog Using Green to Combat Saline: Testing Salt-Tolerant Algae as a Desalination Method.

Puerto Rico aerial Air Sensors in Puerto Rico

EPA researchers are working with a small community in Puerto Rico to install and maintain low-cost air monitoring devices. These devices will help community members analyze local pollutant levels and better understand local environmental conditions. Learn more about the project in the blog Air Sensors in Puerto Rico: Empowering a Community with Scientific Knowledge.

Paper map C-FERST: A Mapping Tool for a Sustainable Future

With current mapping technologies, navigating from point A to point B is easier than ever. EPA is bringing that kind of convenience to environmental decision making with the release of Community-Focused Exposure Risk and Screening Tool (C-FERST). The online mapping tool gives communities access to resources that can help them understand their local environmental issues, compare conditions in their community with their county and state averages, and explore exposure and risk reduction options. Learn more about the tool in the blog C-FERST: A New Tool to Help Communities Navigate toward a Healthier, More Sustainable Future.


EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Assessments: Ammonia and TMBs

There are a number of ways that humans can be exposed to ammonia. To characterize the potential health effects, EPA recently released an IRIS assessment that looks at the noncancer health hazards that may result from inhalation of ammonia. Learn more about the assessment in the blog EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System Assessment of Ammonia.

This month, IRIS also released an assessment on trimethylbenzenes (TMBs). IRIS assessments provide health effects information and toxicity values for cancer and noncancer health outcomes by using the best available scientific data. Learn about how to use the database in the blog Navigating a Newly Posted IRIS Assessment.


The Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition

Interested in helping protect our nation’s drinking water? EPA and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are joining forces to launch the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition for the development of new technology to detect arsenic in water. Learn more about the upcoming competition in the blog We’re Sensing a Change in Water Monitoring: Introducing the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition.

Osprey in Corvallis

Interconnections in the Web of Life

For the past five years, researchers at EPA’s laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon have been composting their food scraps. After noticing that large food scraps were being stirred-up overnight by something in their compost bins, they installed a self-operated camera inside one of the bins to identify the culprits. See who has been digging in and around our compost bins in the blog Interconnections in the Web of Life.

coastal ecosystem Climate Change and Coastal Ecosystems

For several EPA researchers, days spent on the coast aren’t just for rest and relaxation -they’re for scientific investigation. Researchers have recently published results of work examining how different impacts of climate change are affecting coastal ecosystems. They demonstrate how vulnerable these natural resources are to drought, sea level rise, and other impacts of a changing climate. Read about it in Andy Miller’s blog Climate Change… By the Seashore.


International Collaboration to Study Air Quality in South Korea

From May to June 2016, EPA scientists participated in the Korea-United States Air Quality (KORUS-AQ) Mission in South Korea. This study, led by NASA and the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research, was carried out to observe air quality across the Korean peninsula and surrounding waters using a combination of satellites, aircraft, ships, and ground-based monitoring sites. Read more about it in the blog The Korea-United States Air Quality Mission: An International Cooperative Air Quality Field Study.

rain barrel

Water Conservation and Reuse Grants

Recently, EPA awarded Science to Achieve Results grants to five institutions to support research on human and ecological health impacts associated with water reuse, reclaimed water applications, and conservation practices. Each institution is investigating different aspects of water reuse and their effects on the environment and public health. Read more about the important work the grants are supporting in the blog Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (our Water Sources): Water Conservation and Reuse Grants.

Group photo of participants in the SBIR road tour

Small Business Innovation Research Hits the Road

EPA’s own Paul Shapiro recently participated in a bus tour with representatives from the ten other federal agencies that have Small Business Innovation Research programs, traveling across the Mid-West to share information and success stories from the program. Read more about it in his blog Small Business Innovation Research Hits the Road.

Forest and river

Considering Ecosystems in Risk Assessments

Science provides the foundation for the decisions that EPA makes to protect public health and the environment, and ecological risk assessments play a large part. Recently, EPA released guidelines and a technical paper to help risk assessors and others better incorporate the many benefits people receive from ecosystems, referred to as „ecosystems services,“ when conducting ecological assessments. Read about it in the blog Considering Ecosystems in Risk Assessments.

family on beach at sunset

Water Quality Research Grants

This month, EPA announced funding to six universities to work with local communities to better understand the economic value of water quality. This research will provide a critical link between water quality science and the monetary value of the services that healthy waterways provide. Learn more in the press release.

household products

Indoor Chemical Exposure Research

Semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) are chemicals that are found indoors in the air and on surfaces that can come from cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides, furnishings, and electronics. SVOCs have been associated with negative health effects, including asthma, allergies, and endocrine and thyroid disruption. Given the significance of these health effects, EPA is funding research to learn more about SVOC exposure and how to reduce it. Learn more about this research in the blog Indoor Chemical Exposure: Novel Research for the 21st Century.

Meet the Researcher!

Learn more about what it’s like to be a scientist at EPA in our Researchers at Work profiles.

Mary is an ecologist at EPA and the technical lead for EPA’s


Jana is a research ecologist at EPA. Her research focuses on water quality and the impacts of nutrient pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, on water quality. Learn more about her work by watching the video

. Read her Researchers at Work Profile, too!
Joachim Pleil Researcher Joachim Pliel, Ph.D.

EPA scientist Joachim Pliel is known as the „breath guy,“ and he was involved with the founding of the International Association of Breath Research and the Journal of Breath Research. Read more about him and his work in his Researchers at Work profile.

Upcoming Events: Get Involved and Learn More!

Interested in getting involved or learning more? Try to catch one of the following webinars or events going on in October.

Check out our Events page for even more!

Photo of a finger touching a computer chip

EPA Tools and Resources Webinar Series

Wednesday, October 19, 3:00-4:00PM ET

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) hosts a Tools and Resources webinar the third Wednesday of each month to share our research, demonstrate tools, and seek input from our partners. These webinars are geared for representatives of state environment and health agencies, tribes, local governments, communities, and others interested in learning about EPA tools and resources available to help inform decision making. Learn more.

water tower Small Drinking Water Systems Webinar: Legionella Control in Large Building Water Systems

Tuesday, October 25, 2:00-3:00PM ET

This monthly webinar series provides a forum for EPA to communicate directly with state personnel and other drinking water and waste water professionals, which allows EPA to provide training and foster collaboration and dissemination of information. October’s webinar is on Legionella Control in Large Building Water Systems.

Green roof in city

Water Research Webinar Series: Green Infrastructure Modeling Software

Wednesday, October 26, 2:00-3:00PM ET

Every other month, EPA hosts a webinar covering innovative research and sustainable solutions for complex, 21st century water issues. These solutions will help ensure that clean and adequate supplies of water are available to support human health and resilient aquatic ecosystems, now and into the future. October’s webinar will discuss a toolkit of available EPA green infrastructure modeling software.

Microphones at a panel meeting

Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Public Science Meeting

Wednesday, October 26

At IRIS Public Science Meetings, EPA encourages the scientific community and the public to participate in discussions on IRIS draft assessment materials. The scientific information and perspectives from the meeting will be considered as assessments progress. At the meeting in October, the IRIS Program is inviting public discussion on the draft assessment for Ethyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (ETBE). Register and see the meeting materials.

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Science Matters is produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development. All content is copyright free and can be reprinted without permission.

Comments, feedback, and suggestions for future Science Matters articles are welcome. Please contact Samantha Linkins (linkins.samantha).



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