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EPA Research: April 11, 2017

Innovative Honey Bee Phone App Helps Monitor Hive Health

EPA kicked off a citizen science research project using the app HiveScience. The pilot program enables select beekeepers to submit hive health reports and honey samples to EPA for analysis. This data helps researchers investigate biomarkers of immunity found in honey, and relate that data to bee colony survival over the winter. Scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Bayer Crop Science are enthusiastic about this project because it provides an inexpensive, novel approach for beekeepers to assess the health of their hives with minimal effort. The project is launching a limited rollout with the Eastern Missouri Beekeeper Association, a regional group with a history of participation in honey bee-related citizen science projects. If successful, EPA may involve a larger audience later this fall. 

Announcing the Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge

EPA and partners announced a Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge seeking an accurate, lower-cost, and low-maintenance air quality monitoring system that can be used during a wildfire or controlled fire. The data provided by the sensor system will help federal, state, local, and tribal agencies protect the health of first-responders and communities affected by the smoke. Written submissions are due by November 22, 2017. The total prize pool is $60,000, which may be awarded to a single winner or divided into several awards. Challenge sponsors include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EPA, U.S. Forest Service, NASA, NOAA, and National Park Service. The non-profit organization, Tall Timbers Research Station, is also a partner.

Using Satellite Data to Track Water Availability in a Large Basin

EPA researchers used satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to measure changes in water availability over time. GRACE satellites fly 310 miles above Earth mapping Earth’s gravity field. The variations in gravity found in GRACE data show changes in water on Earth’s surface stored in snow, surface waters like rivers and streams, and groundwater. EPA researchers used nine years’ worth of GRACE and streamflow data to measure changes in water resources in the Columbia River Basin, which covers wide areas of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, as well as part of British Columbia, Canada. Read more about this research here.  

High-Resolution Maps Evaluate Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Mixed forest-urban watersheds that transition rapidly between undeveloped and developed land are at risk for poor water quality and flooding. Green infrastructure can help, but measuring the benefits of green infrastructure to a forest-urban watershed using widely-available, medium resolution maps can be difficult. That's why EPA, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Research Institute (University of Minnesota, Duluth), applied object-based image analysis to create high-resolution land cover maps of a mixed forest-urban watershed in Duluth, MN. In the study, watershed tree canopy overlapped approximately 10 percent of impervious surfaces. The high-resolution land cover maps were found to be highly accurate. This research set a foundation for the use of high-resolution mapping technologies to evaluate green infrastructure features across much larger extents. You can learn more here.

Public Release of Draft NOx, SOx, PM Ecological Criteria ISA 

On March 28, EPA publicly released the first external review draft of the Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) for Oxides of Nitrogen, Oxides of Sulfur, and Particulate Matter-Ecological Criteria. The ISA will be reviewed by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in a public meeting scheduled for May 24-25, 2017, in Research Triangle Park, NC. The ISAs provide a comprehensive assessment of the most policy-relevant scientific literature published since the last National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) review and are a critical part of the scientific basis used to support retaining or revising the NAAQS.