Research Tasks by Theme
- Human communities benefit from Great Lakes coastal ecosystems
- The goal of this task is to show decision-makers that land use practices can determine the sustainability of ecological, social, and economic benefits to coastal communities. Work begins with a description of the ecosystem goods and services from Great Lakes coastal systems that benefit communities. We then will demonstrate how land use practices, namely sediment remediation, affect ecosystems and thence, benefits to communities. This work will be validated across diverse ecosystems, and outcomes will be effective community-based land use decisions that sustain the benefits from coastal and other ecosystems.
- Mapping nitrogen sources and nitrogen-impacted ecosystems at scales for national, regional and local decisions
- Improved mapping and monitoring of nitrogen sources and nitrogen-impacted ecosystems and services. Improved uncertainties about loading of nitrogen to coastal waters by weight-of-evidence model comparisons. Guidance on best practices for reducing nitrogen impacts on ecosystems, ecosystem services and human well-being, incorporating Life Cycle Analysis.
- Peatlands ecosystem services: Linking carbon and nitrogen dynamics with regional-scale air and water quality protection (SHC 18.104.22.168)
- This task has four primary objectives: 1) quantify N removal by various classes of wetlands and their catchments; 2) investigate the role of microbial metabolism in peatland N removal; 3) link peatland ecosystem processes, through production functions, to cumulative ecosystem services derived from peatland; 4) collaborate with the US Forest Service and Department of Energy on a developing study assessing the effects of soil warming and elevated CO2 on peatland C, N, and P dynamics.
- Aquatic indicators of ecological condition and diagnosis (SSWR 1.1b)
- Development of improved biological, physical and diagnostic indictors for use in aquatic assessments made by EPA Office of Water and states, with a particular emphasis on improving the indicators implemented in the National Aquatic Resource Surveys and integrating sustainability principles into indicator development.
- Analytical tools for national and regional assessments (SSWR 1.1d)
- The task covers the full range of technical support that the Office of Water National Aquatic Resource Survey staff requires from ORD, both to implement the national surveys and to synthesize and interpret the data and publish a national assessment for each water resource (i.e., flowing waters, lakes and reservoirs, wetlands, and coastal waters). This task will contribute to the technical foundations necessary for the initial drafts of each national assessment.
- Evaluate and develop modeling (process-and empirical-based) approaches for management scenarios and alternative futures (SSWR 1.2b)
- The purpose of this task is to develop datasets, models, and decision support tools that can more accurately and efficiently inform water quality policy and management decisions at regional and national scales. Research will focus on the effects of land use and climate on abiotic aquatic stressors (nutrients, sediments, temperature, etc.) and their impact on biotic endpoints (food webs, endangered and commercially important species, etc.) within streams, estuaries, and coastal margins.
- Modeling the linkage of discharge and nutrients from the Mississippi River basin to Gulf of Mexico hypoxia (SSWR 2.3d)
- The objective of this task is the development of a modeling framework to predict how nutrient management decisions and future climate change scenarios will impact the size, frequency, and duration of the low oxygen, i.e. hypoxia, area that forms every summer on the continental shelf of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The proposed modeling framework includes a northern Gulf ocean model and a Mississippi River basin model.
- Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) Project (SSWR 7.1b)
- This project is a FY10 RARE-funded project titled “Functional Assessment of Peatlands and Role in Ecosystem Services” and a MED (Mid-Continent Ecology Division) project under the 2012 exploratory research plan titled “Alaskan Peatlands Project.” The goal of this work is to improve our understanding of functions that sustain peatlands, especially hydrology, peat decomposition, and nutrient cycling.
- Regional Forecasting Under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (SSWR 7.24)
- This effort will provide models, model forecasts, databases, documentation, and high-level presentations to water quality managers for decision-making regarding anthropogenic substances. It supports scientific accountability and reporting under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) with emphasis on progress made under GLRI, associated with programs and actions.
- Catalog and link chemical profile to models
- This Task will develop an MOA assignment methodology for ToxCast and other non-pesticide chemicals. New MOA-based QSAR models will be developed with the goal of reducing uncertainty in toxicity estimation for diverse chemicals for application in OCSPP risk assessments and hazard screenings.
- Adverse outcome pathway (AOP) discovery and definition
- An adverse outcome pathway (AOP) is a chain of events from the molecular level, through a series of steps, to an adverse outcome with population-level significance. AOPs are extremely useful tools for risk assessment. Research under this task will formalize and expand the description, inference, and dissemination of AOPs and AOP knowledge through a systems-level approach. The primary outcome will be the population and annotation of an AOP knowledge-base (Effectopedia) with both new and existing AOP knowledge.
- AOP-based effects monitoring and exposure reconstruction (CSS 2.1.2)
- This task focuses on the application of pathway-based effects data (e.g.,”omic” tools, medium- and high-throughput in vitro methods, and in vivo biomarkers), in conjunction with knowledge of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs), for effects-based monitoring and exposure reconstruction. Anticipated research applications include monitoring impacted ecosystems such as Great Lakes Areas of Concern and assessing the progress of remediation efforts, particularly where the chemical(s) responsible for adverse effects are unknown or no longer detectable.
- Data collection and computational modeling for the "virtual embryo" (CSS 2.2.2)
- This task focuses on the predictive toxicology of children’s health and development following prenatal or lactational exposure to environmental chemicals. The research is motivated by a computational framework of developmental toxicity to formally guide the generation, assessment, and evaluation of data, tools, and approaches focused on embryonic growth, morphogenesis, and differentiation. Research outcomes will be improved understanding of the molecular pathways and cellular processes leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes, and better ways to assess the impacts of prenatal and postnatal exposure to chemicals at various stages of development and scales of biological organization.
- Systems models linking reproductive and neurodevelopmental effects to endocrine disruption (CSS 2.2.3)
- This task focuses on the development and application of endocrine models as tools to be used in various regulatory contexts, including: (1) virtual screening of individual chemicals and chemical classes, (2) enabling quantitative predictions of hazard, (3) establishing the biological basis for rapid test development, (4) providing the necessary pathway knowledge to improve interpretation of in vitro assay results, (5) supporting decisions regarding the use of targeting testing, and (6) establishing the biological basis for cross-species extrapolation.
- Systems-based approach for assessing hazard and risk of manufactured nanomaterials and non-human species and ecosystems (CSS 2.6.2)
- This task focuses on the ecotoxicology of manufactured nanomaterials (particles or fibers that have at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nm. Work under this task will: 1) develop methods to work with a broad range of nanomaterials with the immediate goal of providing test guidance to regulatory Offices, primarily Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); 2) characterize and quantify toxicity of various nanomaterials in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial systems to provide Offices with basic toxicity information; 3) develop a basis to investigate chronic toxicity, mechanisms of action, toxic pathways, and initiating events; and 4) develop predictive tools to preclude extensive plant and animal testing.
- In Silico to In Vitro and In Vivo (CSS 6.1.1)
- The focus of this research is to develop predictive tools for EPA, especially for hazard characterization and risk assessment of chemicals for which little or no test data is available. These tools will improve the ability to extrapolate the results of in vitro assays to the corresponding in vivo outcomes by increasing our knowledge of the critical parameters that influence the activity of chemicals in these systems. This research also addresses the Agency need for tools to prioritize and rank chemicals for testing in the current Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).
- In Vitro to In Vivo exposure and effects (CSS 6.1.2)
- This task will provide extrapolation tools, methods, and models needed to utilize data from medium- and high-throughput in vitro screening assays in both human health and ecological risk assessments.
- Dosimetry, metabolism, and PBPK/PD modeling (CSS 6.1.3)
- The primary goal of this task is to reduce uncertainty in the interpretation and extrapolation of data generated by in vitro, small-scale in vivo, and in silico systems designed to test interactions of chemicals with biological pathways or targets. This task will generate products that will directly address these uncertainties, yielding improved approaches for in vitro-to-in vivo extrapolation of dose-response relationships for both humans and ecological species.
- Process for design and delivery of program-specific decision support tools (CSS 7.1.1)
- A process is needed to efficiently develop and deliver dashboards and decision support tools to EPA Program Offices and Regions.This activity involves collaboration with these entities to identify and integrate Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) products into their workflow where appropriate, providing technical guidance and scientific expertise where requested, and on-going communication to identify and reduce information gaps and uncertainties in use of existing and new tools through appropriate targeted research and continued technical support.
- In-use tools are supported and upgraded (CSS 7.1.2)
- ORD has developed large data repositories that are currently in use across EPA and in the public sector, specifically ECOTOX, ExpoCastDB, MetaPath, ToxRefDB, ToxCastDB, and ACToR. These tools have a diverse client-base and support a wide range of Agency regulatory requirements (e.g., CWA, FIFRA, CERCLA, RCRA). This task focuses on continued maintenance of existing non-CBI data collections and software, and systematic updates of databases to include newly released data that meet QA/QC requirements. Building linkages across the various databases will be an important component of this task.
- Predicting ecological outcomes from exposure to chemicals and other stressors (CSS 2.4.1)
- In this task, ORD and Program Office staff will collaboratively address high priority needs for Tier II and III level ecological risk assessments that require methods to integrate environmentally realistic chemical exposures into the prediction of effects at the levels of the population, community, and ultimately, whole ecosystems.
- Extrapolation from individuals to populations (CSS 6.2.3)
- This task focuses on the development and delivery of models to translate wildlife toxicity test data into a currency useful for population-level risk assessments, by estimating the degree of change in demographic parameters (i.e., survival and fecundity rates) resulting from specific chemical exposure scenarios. A portion of this task will explore how improvements in the experimental design of fish toxicity tests and incorporation of new endpoints increase understanding of Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP) and improve the ability of toxicity translator models to quantify effects on demographic parameters.
- Improved approaches for assessing and predicting long-term changes in toxicity and contaminant concentrations in biota
- EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, and Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) need: a) ways to evaluate contaminated site remedy effectiveness; b) to better understand the effects of contaminants before and after remediation; c) research on food chain bioaccumulation modeling to predict long-term changes in tissue contaminant concentrations, particularly following remediation; d) improved sediment toxicity test assessment methods for pre- and post-remedial conditions; and e) standardized measurements for routine use in assessing sediment toxicity and sediment bioaccumulation measurements with benthic invertebrate test species. In this task, research efforts are addressing these above needs of the Superfund program and GLNPO.
- MED Respirable Elongated Particle Dose-Response Research (SHC 22.214.171.124)
- MED respirable elongated particle (EP) dose-response research supports the recent EPA need to acquire toxicological data for evaluation of health risks associated with amphibole EPs in Libby, Montana.
- Chemical and microbial contaminant grouping for evaluating ecological and human health (SSWR 2.2a)
- This task will investigate the occurrence of multiple analytes (both chemical and microbial) in water matrices (potentially wastewater, surface water, ground water, and drinking water) and determine the ecological and human health effects that result from exposure to these contaminants.
- Assessing and predicting the ecological effects of elevated ions/conductivity associated with mining and other land uses (SSWR 2.4c)
- This task takes a multi-faceted approach to fully understanding the causes of the adverse effects associated with different mixtures of elevated dissolved ions (i.e., Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl-, SO42- , HCO3-) often measured as increases in conductivity or total dissolved solids in streams and other freshwater ecosystems. Increased conductivity can result from many land use practices, but has been strongly associated with mineral and energy extraction practices, such as mountaintop mining, the valley fill construction during coal mining, and oil and gas activities. Task results will be synthesized into a unified assessment.