Day: January 23, 2013

EpiCollect

EpiCollect.net provides a web application for the generation of forms and freely hosted project websites (using Google’s AppEngine) for many kinds of mobile data collection projects.

Data can be collected using multiple mobile phones running either the Android Operating system or the iPhone (using the EpiCollect mobile app) and all data can be synchronized from the phones and viewed centrally (using Google Maps) via the Project website or directly on the phones.

What can you use it for?
Anything you wish to collect data for: eg wildlife or plant surveys, questionnaires, locations of favorite places, keep a record of where you’ve been etc.. It is also being used for epidemiological studies e.g. mapping cases of disease in Africa.

Data collected on the phones is stored on the phones internal database until synchronized with the central project website. At the website, and for projects created at http://www.epicollect.net, data is stored on Google’s AppEngine – a free and open repository for storing data. EpiCollect apps can also send data to any server. You will need to have a web server with a database setup and scripts in place to accept (and return) data.

The EpiCollect mobile application DOES NOT require mobile network access for data collection. You can collect entries, use the GPS and camera in remote areas and synchronize data when you do return to an area that has mobile network coverage or when connected to a wireless network.

For further information please see the following publication:

Aanensen DM, Huntley DM, Feil EJ, al-Own F, Spratt BG (2009) “EpiCollect: Linking Smartphones to Web Applications for Epidemiology, Ecology and Community Data Collection”. PLoS ONE 4(9): e6968. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006968

Including Alternative Resources in State Renewable Portfolio Standards: Current Design and Implementation Experience

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Currently, 29 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have instituted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). An RPS sets a minimum threshold for how much renewable energy must be generated in a given year. Each state policy is unique, varying in percentage targets, timetables, and eligible resources. This paper examines state experience with implementing renewable portfolio standards that include energy efficiency, thermal resources, and non-renewable energy and explores compliance experience, costs, and how states evaluate, measure, and verify energy efficiency and convert thermal energy. It aims to gain insights from the experience of states for possible federal clean energy policy as well as to share experience and lessons for state RPS implementation.

Residential Feedback Devices and Programs: Opportunities for Natural Gas

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Behavior-based approaches have been a growing interest in the energy efficiency field over recent years and the use of residential energy feedback has garnered particular interest. By providing an increased level of detail, feedback can greatly increase a consumer’s understanding of how energy is used in their home. This project reviewed the existing body of research on electricity feedback to identify parallel lessons for gas, discussed the benefits and challenges of different types of feedback, and identifying three feedback options that show strong potential for natural gas savings.

Home Energy Displays: Consumer Adoption and Response

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The focus of this project was to investigate the factors influencing consumer adoption of Home Energy Displays (HEDs) and to evaluate electricity consumption in households with basic HEDs versus enhanced feedback methods – web portals or alerts. We hypothesized that providing flexible and relatable information to users, in addition to a basic HED, would make feedback more effective and achieve persistent energy savings. In Phase I, we conducted three user research studies and found preferences for aesthetically pleasing, easy to understand feedback that is accessible through multiple media and offered free of charge. The deployment of HEDs in 150 households planned for Phase II encountered major recruitment and HED field deployment problems. First, after extensive outreach campaigns to apartment complexes with 760 units, only 8% of building’s tenants elected to receive a free HED in their homes as part of the field study. Second, the HED used, a leading market model, had a spectrum of problems, including gateway miscommunications, failure to post to a data-hosting third party, and display malfunctions. In light of these challenges, we are pursuing a modified study investigating the energy savings of a web portal versus alert-based energy feedback instead of a physical HED.

Practices and Processes of Leading High Performance Home Builders in the Upper Midwest

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The NorthernSTAR Building America Partnership team proposed this study to gain insight into the business, sales, and construction processes of successful high performance builders. The knowledge gained by understanding the high performance strategies used by individual builders, as well as the process each followed to move from traditional builder to high performance builder, will be beneficial in proposing more in-depth research to yield specific action items to assist the industry at large transform to high performance new home construction. This investigation identified the best practices of three successful high performance builders in the upper Midwest. In-depth field analysis of the performance levels of their homes, their business models, and their strategies for market acceptance were explored. All three builders commonly seek ENERGY STAR certification on their homes and implement strategies that would allow them to meet the requirements for the Building America Builders Challenge program. Their desire for continuous improvement, willingness to seek outside assistance, and ambition to be leaders in their field are common themes. Problem solving to overcome challenges was accepted as part of doing business. It was concluded that crossing the gap from code-based building to high performance based building was a natural evolution for these leading builders.

PHOTOS: Crews inspect large dock on Washington State coast

Read the full post at the Marine Debris Blog.

A team from federal and state agencies, including NOAA, ventured out today during a period of calm weather to re-inspect a 65-foot dock that washed ashore last month on a remote coastline in Washington State. It is one of several docks that were swept away from a fishing port in Misawa, Japan during the March 2011 tsunami.

NOAA Announces New Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) Funding Opportunity for Building Capacity of Informal and Formal Educators

NOAA’s Office of Education (OEd) has issued a request for applications for projects designed to build the capacity of informal educators (including interpreters and docents) and/or formal educators (pre- or in-service) to use NOAA data and data access tools to help K-12 students and/or the public understand and respond to global change. Successful projects will enhance educators’ ability to use the wealth of scientific data, data visualizations, data access technologies, information products, and other assets available through NOAA (plus additional sources, if desired) to engage K-12 students and/or other members of the public in a minimum of two U.S. states or territories.

This funding opportunity identifies two priority categories of eligible applicants, both of equal importance. Eligible applicants for Priority 1 are collaborative teams of two or more U.S. institutions. Eligible applicants for Priority 2 are collaborative teams of two or more non-profit U.S. aquariums, of which at least one must be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Collaborative applicant teams in both Priority 1 and Priority 2 are strongly encouraged to include at least one applicant that has not previously received a grant from NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Grants program. Proposed projects in each priority must be between two and five years in duration and have combined federal requests of $500,000 – $1,000,000 for all years of the project.

Deadlines

The deadline for applications to this funding opportunity is 11:59:59 pm EST on March 12, 2013. Applications must be submitted online via http://www.grants.gov. It is anticipated that awards under this announcement will be made by September 30, 2013 and that the projects funded under this announcement will have a start date no earlier than October 1, 2013.

Informational Webinar

Two informational webinars with the program officers will occur on February 5, 2013 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm EST and February 6, 2013, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm EST. By noon EST on February 1, 2013, interested applicants should register by contacting oed.grants@noaa.gov and including in the Subject line of the email: “Register for Educator Capacity Building FFO Webinar” and providing the interested party’s name, institution, telephone number, email address and preferred webinar date in the body of the email. You will receive an email response from oed.grants@noaa.gov with the log-in information and date for the webinar. Whenever possible, individuals from the same institution should try to join the webinar from the same computer/phone line.

Additional Information

To read the full funding announcement, visit www.grants.gov.

EPA’s 2011 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline / Total toxic chemicals increase as result of mining

Total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report published today.

The annual TRI provides citizens with vital information about their communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.

“The Toxics Release Inventory provides widespread access to valuable environmental information. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Since 1998, we have recorded a steady decline in the amount of TRI chemicals released into the air, and since 2009 alone, we have seen more than a 100 million pound decrease in TRI air pollutants entering our communities. This remarkable success is due in part to the TRI program and concerted efforts by industry, regulators and public interest groups to clean up the air we all depend upon.”

Among the HAPs showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.. Releases into surface water decreased 3 percent and releases to land increased 19 percent since 2010, with the latter again due primarily to the metal mining sector, as explained below.

Many of the releases from TRI facilities are regulated under various EPA programs and requirements designed to limit harm to people’s health and the environment.

The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010. The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined – which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases – can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally. Other industry sectors also saw smaller increases in releases, including the hazardous waste management sector.

EPA has improved this year’s TRI national analysis report by adding new information about facility efforts to reduce pollution, insights into why air releases are declining, and an enhanced analysis of releases on tribal lands. With this report and EPA’s web-based TRI tools, citizens can access information about TRI-listed toxic chemical releases in their communities and across the country.

Facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA under the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by the beginning of July each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals. Also, EPA’s TRI mobile application, myRTK, geographically displays nearby facilities that report to the TRI program, as well as facilities with EPA air, water or hazardous waste program permits.

Lower nitrogen losses with perennial biofuel crops

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Perennial biofuel crops such as miscanthus, whose high yields have led them to be considered an eventual alternative to corn in producing ethanol, are now shown to have another beneficial characteristic — the ability to reduce the escape of nitrogen in the environment. In a 4-year University of Illinois study that compared miscanthus, switchgrass, and mixed prairie species to typical corn-corn-soybean rotations, each of the perennial crops were highly efficient at reducing nitrogen losses, with miscanthus having the greatest yield…

“Reduced Nitrogen Losses after Conversion of Row Crop Agriculture to Perennial Biofuel Crops” was published in an issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality. In addition to Smith and David, Corey Mitchell, Michael Masters, Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, Carl Bernacchi, and Even DeLucia contributed to the research.

Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios

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Canada can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of current levels while maintaining or improving living standards and quality of life, according to Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, an international review released today by the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP).