DOI global change research aims to improve understanding of the processes associated with terrestrial-oceanic and terrestrial-atmospheric exchanges of water, energy, carbon, and nutrients; to describe, analyze, and monitor past and contemporary states, changes, and processes in the earth's physical, biological, geological, chemical, and ecological systems; facilitate access to and use of global change information for policy decisions, resource management, research, and education; and to develop the ability to predict the effects of global change on public lands and natural resources.
DOI programs include studies of the status and trends of the nation's surface and groundwater resources and analysis of natural and human factors affecting the quality of those resources; research on improved water treatment technology; studies of the availability and use of water resources throughout the nation, including regulated aquatic ecosystems; investigations of toxic substances needed to improve waste disposal practices and cleanup; studies of geologic and oceanographic processes affecting the health of coastal and marine environments including coastal wetlands change and transport and accumulation of contaminated sediments; and integrated investigations of critical processes in stressed aquatic ecosystems.
To provide information needed to reduce natural disasters, basic research is conducted on geologic (earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides) and hydrologic (floods, droughts, subsidence, and dam safety) hazards. DOI research also provides hazard and risk assessments on national, international, regional, urban, and local scales and develops monitoring networks and geographic information systems. The department is also responsible for transferring technology needed to enhance professional skills and expand technical capacity for mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, and recovery and the organization and conduct of postdisaster investigations.
DOI conducts geological, mineral, and energy resource assessments and environmental investigations and studies of the ecological, economic, and social factors involved in the development and management of offshore oil, gas, and mineral resources. DOI research includes development of new mineral recovery concepts that will safeguard workers and prevent environmental harm and research to conserve resources through recycling and preventing environmental problems or damage to the infrastructure. Inventory, monitoring, and conservation of living resources and their ecosystems, as well as research toward their sustainable development, are high-priority programs.
In the toxic substances and hazardous and solid waste area, DOI conducts research primarily directed toward improvements of waste-disposal and cleanup practices and the mitigation of contamination problems by addressing major types of contamination and developing new methods to reduce the volume and toxicity of processing wastes from mining and mineral operations and assessing the impact of contamination on fish, wildlife, and the environment. DOI also conducts research to understand the fate, transport, and effects of contaminants through ecosystems and the role of biological processes in the control and mediation of chemical speciation and to develop risk-based action levels of contaminants.
DOI air quality research includes the collection of data and information on air quality conditions and trends in national parks and wilderness areas, effects of air pollution on resources, the pollutants responsible for resource damage, sources of pollutants, and the effect of reducing emissions at these sources. Present monitoring and research programs are focused on acid deposition, ozone, and fine particles as they affect visibility including understanding and predicting the transport and chemical transformation of air pollutants.
Other DOT environmental research falls primarily in the areas of socioeconomic dimensions of environmental change and environmental technologies. This includes determining ways it can support the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. This project will develop critical information, data bases, and the analytic tools necessary to integrate mobility and environmental needs in a new generation of vehicles. This will include peer review of analyses and research plans and developing a comprehensive behavioral, economic, social science, and technology data base to support policy formulation.
The EPA develops improved risk assessment methodologies for both human health and ecological systems and the complex data needed to reduce scientific uncertainties for decisions. The human health research program focuses on developing the biological methods, models, and data needed to improve the EPA's ability to estimate health risks. Human exposure assessment research includes exposure measurement and monitoring programs, predictive models to characterize exposures to pollutants, and improved methods for data collection. The EPA has developed and manages the Integrated Risk Information System, an on-line data base used worldwide for human health risk assessment information.
The focus of the EPA's ecological risk assessment program is to reduce uncertainty at the watershed, regional, and national scales through monitoring, modeling, and assessment activities. The EPA is a major contributor to federal research on ecosystem protection, which is critical to effective government-wide policies on ecosystem management. For example, EPA research supports place-based ecosystem protection approaches for more effective management of ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, and south Florida. The EPA is developing methodologies for ecological risk assessment and through the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program is focusing its research to help develop ecological indicators of resource condition.
The EPA conducts a multimedia R&D program in risk management that both supports specific regulatory activities and leads to more cost-effective, innovative approaches to obtaining environmental improvement. This research addresses the full range of prevention, monitoring, control, and remediation technologies and approaches. The research spectrum is from fundamental research to field demonstration and evaluation. The research is intended to facilitate user-friendly dissemination of data and information to state and local governments and other industrial and community groups. Partnerships with industry, academia, and other agencies are an integral part of these R&D programs.
The EPA is currently restructuring its research programs to improve the quality of science and ensure that the focus is on environmental issues with the highest risk. One change is a significant increase in funding of extramural investigator-initiated grants to better incorporate the substantial expertise of the academic community. The grants will include a joint EPA-NSF effort that targets watershed ecosystems, pollution prevention, and socioeconomic issues, as well as an EPA effort that targets risk assessment methodology, global climate change, and air pollution. All EPA research will be supported by the extensive use of peer review for project selection and for results quality. The EPA is also greatly expanding its academic fellowship program to increase government support for academic training in environmental sciences. Under the restructured research program, the EPA will strive for an equal mix of short-term and long-term research to achieve a balanced program of support for agency activities that both meets immediate needs and keeps EPA at the cutting edge of science.
MTPE has produced the first global map of ocean circulation using a space-based radar altimeter. This information is crucial to the study of the periodic El Nino-southern oscillation events that affect precipitation and agriculture in the United States and many other nations. Using data from a space shuttle based multiple frequency/multiple polarization synthetic aperture radar, MTPE has produced images of geologic features under the sands of the Sahara, population-threatening mudflows around the Mt. Pinatubo volcano, and the lateral extent of flooding below the thick jungle canopy of Manaus, Brazil. MTPE has conducted research on the use of Global Positioning System arrays around the Los Angeles basin to detect ground shifts and map fault lines. Using a space-based thematic mapper instrument, MTPE has enabled the generation of a long-term global archive of land cover change that has found an enormous variety of applications of both commercial and scientific value. These data have been used to resolve a long-standing debate on the true rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
These and other data collection and scientific analysis efforts are enabling researchers to continue to fill in a conceptual model of the earth system with real understanding. In the coming few years, MTPE will be working to provide the data and analysis required to unlock the carbon cycle, resolve current questions in stratospheric chemistry, and develop the first integrated model of the global atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. Observations of global atmospheric ozone will continue, and new missions will investigate tropical rainfall patterns and ocean surface winds, which are crucial elements in understanding the earth system. An ambitious program of earth observation from multiple space platforms will provide a 15-year or longer data set of a wide range of parameters beginning in 1998, enabling a systematic investigation of global climate change. MTPE makes possible the study of regional-to-global scale changes and associated impacts on the environment and natural resources.
NSF addresses biodiversity and ecosystem function through support of biological surveys and inventories, research on the functional role of species in ecosystem processes and sustainability, long-term research on trends in natural resources, and international comparisons and scientific collaborations. Research is supported that improves knowledge about approaches for the management, conservation, and use of natural resources in ways that sustain or enhance terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the quality of life.
Research on air quality increases understandings of the causes of degraded air quality and provides information needed to improve remediation. Research includes studies of the chemical and physical processes that control tropospheric ozone concentrations over North America and the northern Atlantic Ocean. These activities will be coordinated with the North American Research Strategy for Tropospheric Ozone organization and include observational studies of tropospheric ozone and its chemical precursors, laboratory investigations of associated chemical kinetics and mechanisms, development of improved analytical instrumentation and sampling strategies, and construction and evaluation of relevant models.
NSF research related to toxic substances and solid and hazardous wastes focuses on development of technologies for pollution avoidance through minimization of the use and release of toxic substances. Among the lines of research supported are environmentally benign methodologies for the synthesis of chemicals and materials, the design and manufacture of materials that are durable yet degradable, and computational approaches to predicting the fate and persistence of chemicals in the environment.
Research on environmental technology includes studies of environmentally conscious design and manufacturing systems, remediation and restoration techniques and new environmental technologies; and new monitoring and assessment methods for the measurement and characterization of environmental problems and the analysis of better methods for technological responses.
Water resources research includes disciplinary and interdisciplinary research on topics such as hydrology, aquatic ecology, oceanography, and civil engineering that is often linked to questions that involve social and economic sciences, international dimensions, geochemistry, polar sciences, and other fields. Special emphasis is being placed on advancement of interdisciplinary science and engineering that takes a systems approach to questions involving water and watersheds.
Natural hazard studies improve understanding of the physical processes that underlie atmospheric, hydrologic, seismic, soil, and ground movement hazards; improved hazard prediction and forecasting methodologies; new and improved warning, evacuation, and response systems; new methods to assess risk, damage, and cost-mitigation methods; and enhanced understandings of recovery and reconstruction processes.
NSF supports fundamental research in social and economic sciences on the interaction between human and natural systems, with an emphasis on the social and behavioral processes that shape and influence those interactions. Examples of NSF-sponsored research include anticipatory and reactive adaptation and mitigation, resource use and management, global collective action, international trade patterns and global sectoral models, and the impact of the population on the environment. Special emphasis is being placed on research examining the role of institutions, cultural norms, values, and human actions on the formation, implementation, and evaluation of environmental policies.
Risk analysis, societal and public policy decision making, behavioral decision making and judgment, and decision making under uncertainty are supported with special emphases on judgment and decision processes; risk perception, communication, and assessment; and modeling of responses to risk.
Research is conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) on ecosystem responses to climate change. Studies and tropical biological diversity are carried out at NMNH and STRI to inventory and document species distribution in tropical forests, monitor changes, and identify physical and biological processes of growth and decline. Research is conducted to understand the response of species fragmentation and to understand and ensure the maintenance of the productivity of tropical coastal ecosystems.
Studies are also conducted on human interactions with changing ecosystems, focusing on the long history of human modification of ecosystems and human responses to changing environments.
Research is conducted on ground-level ozone, acid rain, air toxics, and climate change, including emission control strategies, characterizing ozone impacts on natural forest stands, and predicting forest response to ozone under varying conditions.
Technical assistance is provided on pollution prevention for agrichemical industries, including converting poultry litter into useful products, intercepting pollutants in surface water runoff to improve water quality and to protect shorelines through innovative techniques, characterizing and modeling watersheds for better decision making, and introducing alternatives to agrichemicals for controlling aquatic plants.
TVA biotechnology research develops and demonstrates new technologies for PCB remediation of contaminated areas, provides low-cost biofilter technology to private industry for removing air pollutants, works with private industries and other agencies to scale-up biomass conversion technology for ethanol and chemical production, develops low-cost environmental sensors to detect and measure chemicals for remediation and industrial process monitoring contaminants, and develops and demonstrates constructed wetlands for cleanup of wastewaters.
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