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Ecosystems Research

Übertool: Ecological Risk Web Application for Pesticide Modeling

Issue

Pesticides are used extensively in present-day agricultural practices to prevent food production losses from weeds, pests, and crop diseases. EPA regulates their use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and must also consider the potential harm from pesticides for species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Ecological risk from pesticides is quantified using data from a number of independent models that have evolved over the past 30 years on various technical platforms. The current process is resource intensive, requiring additional procedures to ensure data quality, and additional documentation to inform data/model processing transparency and reproducibility. An updated process is needed.

Action

EPA scientists have developed a prototype übertool cloud-based web application platform that integrates ten heavily-used EPA regulatory models and supporting datasets into an automated system that improves the efficiency and transparency of modeled data informing ecological risk assessments. Research is planned to migrate additional models into the übertool over the next few years.

Models in the übertool web platform include a range of aquatic, terrestrial, and atmospheric deposition fate and transport models used to estimate pesticide exposures and effects to ecological receptors. They are used to determine if a pesticide can be approved, provide labeling information to determine safe levels of pesticide application, and, in certain situations, assess impacts to endangered species.

Current übertool development is focused on providing the ability to iterate/batch repetitive modeling runs, extract label information from pesticide formulation labels, overlay geographic areas of expected effects with locations of listed species, assess impacts of localized pesticide use modifications on listed species effects, and preserve a record of use modifications so existing Endangered Species Protection Program tools can make enforceable label use instructions.

Results/Impact

The übertool promotes efficiency and sustainability by using inter-operable databases and models and consistent approaches. Its open-source platform accelerates the rate of development and will facilitate new and improved models, including spatial and temporal applications. Additionally, the übertool is expected to have a harmonizing effect by making models available to registrants, academia and other governments.

Technical Contact: Tom Purucker

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