Columbia University Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences launches MS track in data science

Read the full story from Columbia University.

The Department of Environmental Health Sciences has launched a new MS track, Environmental Health Data Science—believed to be the first program of its kind offered in the United States. Courses are taught by faculty who are recognized worldwide as leaders in the environmental health sciences and data science.

Most students will complete the MS over two years; there are also part-time and one-year options available. Applications for Fall 2023 are now being accepted (apply online).

Pollution Prevention Works: A Storytelling Challenge for Students

EPA has launched a challenge promoting innovation in pollution prevention at industrial and federal facilities. The Challenge invites high school and college students and to use the TRI P2 Search Tool to identify a TRI facility that has reported implementing source reduction practices and tell a compelling story about how those practices or techniques benefit the business and positively impact communities and the environment. The challenge is open now and all entries must be submitted by February 17, 2023.

NCSA leading $3.2 million project to make scientific data more discoverable

Read the full story from NCSA.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ (NCSA) Associate Director for Software Kenton McHenry will be the principal investigator of a newly awarded $3.2 million project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to standardize how scientific data is described, allowing for search engines for scientific data that not only support discoverability but also facilitate the usage of the data.

The Democratized Cyberinfrastructure for Open Discovery to Enable Research (DeCODER) project, which begins October 1, 2022, will expand and extend the successful EarthCube GeoCODES framework and community to unify data and tool description and reuse across geoscience domains.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information for Decision Making: A Framework Going Forward

Download the document and visit the interactive webpage.

Climate change, driven by increases in human-produced greenhouse gases and particles (collectively referred to as GHGs), is the most serious environmental issue facing society. The need to reduce GHGs has become urgent as heat waves, heavy rain events, and other impacts of climate change have become more frequent and severe. Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, more than 136 countries, accounting for about 80% of total global GHG emissions, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. A growing number of cities, regional governments, and industries have also made pledges to reduce emissions. Providing decision makers with useful, accurate, and trusted GHG emissions information is a crucial part of this effort.

This report examines existing and emerging approaches used to generate and evaluate GHG emissions information at global to local scales. The report develops a framework for evaluating GHG emissions information to support and guide policy makers about its use in decision making. The framework identifies six criteria or pillars that can be used to evaluate and improve GHG emissions information: usability and timeliness, information transparency, evaluation and validation, completeness, inclusivity, and communication. The report recommends creating a coordinated repository or clearinghouse to operationalize the six pillars, for example, by providing timely, transparent, traceable information; standardized data formats; and governance mechanisms that are coordinated, trusted, and inclusive of the global community.

EPA updates EJScreen

EPA has updated and added new capabilities to EJScreen, the Agency’s publicly available environmental justice screening and mapping tool. EJScreen 2.1 makes important improvements to better meet the needs of users, including the addition of new data on US territories, supplemental indexes, threshold maps, and refreshed demographic and environmental data. 

  • EJScreen now includes environmental, demographic, and index data for the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • In addition to the twelve existing environmental indicators and corresponding EJ indexes, EPA has created a set of “supplemental indexes” to highlight vulnerable populations that may be disproportionately impacted by pollution. These supplemental indexes use the same methodology and calculation as the EJ Indexes but incorporate a new five-factor supplemental demographic index. The five socioeconomic indicators considered are percent low-income, percent limited English-speaking, percent less than high school education, percent unemployed, and low life expectancy.
  • EPA has also included threshold maps. These threshold maps allow EJScreen users to look across all twelve indexes at once, providing a cumulative outlook on vulnerable populations facing higher pollution burdens. Threshold maps are available for both the EJ indexes and the supplemental indexes and are available for comparison at the national and state level, offering users the capability to take a broader view of the indexes to help highlight areas that may warrant additional consideration, analysis, or outreach.
  • This update also features the newest available 2016 – 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census. Some of the environmental datasets have also been refreshed. This update includes several enhancements to components of the methodology and underlying calculation for the EJ indexes and supplemental indexes. These were based upon user and expert academic feedback and will enhance the tool’s ability and provide greater transparency into the inner workings of the tool.

EPA is holding multiple training sessions and office hours for users on EJScreen 2.1. The training session will provide an overview presentation on EJScreen, a discussion of the new features, a demonstration, and a Q&A session. The office hours will be a chance for the public to talk with EPA EJScreen experts about many topics including how to use and apply the tool and technical issues. These webinars will be accessible via Zoom and registration is not required. More information can be found on EPA’s website.

EPA encourages you to test out EJSCREEN 2.1 to see how it can serve your needs and provide feedback on how they can continue to improve it.

Taking the pain out of data sharing

Read the full story in Nature.

Despite agreeing to make raw data available, some authors fail to comply. The right strategies and platforms can ease the task.

Toxic releases from industrial facilities compound Maryland’s water woes, a new report found

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

The EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory data for 2020 shows that industrial plants dumped tons of chemical waste and “forever chemicals” into Maryland’s waterways, slowing efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and endangering public health.

The Data Liberation Project

The Data Liberation Project is an initiative to identify, obtain, reformat, clean, document, publish, and disseminate government datasets of public interest.

It launched in September, so there isn’t a lot to explore yet, but this is worth keeping an eye on. You can view their current record requests here.

Toxic Fog: Known Unknowns

Download the document.

Planet Tracker’s Toxic Footprints report revealed the investors behind petrochemical toxicity in the US Gulf states of Louisiana and Texas. When assessing the petrochemicals and plastics industry, toxic emissions are often either ignored or forgotten by the financial markets. This follow-up research paper reveals the known unknowns of toxic releases, those issues hidden from the public’s and investors’ view and which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not permitted to reveal. We also highlight how the data could be made more user-friendly. Financial institutions should demand transparency for toxic emissions so that they can conduct a thorough risk assessment of their investments.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.