ESA Policy News: December 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS PASSES BILL FUNDING AGENCIES THROUGH FY 2012 The week of Dec. 16, Congress passed H.R. 2055, an omnibus bill which funds the government through the remainder of the current fiscal year (FY) 2012, which ends Sept. 30, 2012. The bill passed the House by a vote of 262-121 and the Senate by a vote of 67-32. The omnibus bill incorporates the remaining nine appropriations bills that were not included in the “minibus” that passed earlier this year (P.L. 112-55). The new omnibus bill includes funding for the Departments of Interior and Energy as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy and Water Overall, energy and water programs are funded at $32 billion for FY 2012, a $328 million increase over FY 2011. For Department of Energy science programs, the bill includes $4.9 billion, an increase of $46 million from FY 2011. The bill also includes $769 million for nuclear energy research and development, $43 million above FY 2011. For environmental management activities, the bill includes $5.7 billion, a $31 million increase over FY 2011. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funded at $5 billion, a $145 million increase from FY 2011. The FY 2012 funding level for the Corps is also $429 million above the president’s request, one of the few agencies to enjoy this distinction this year. Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $8.4 billion for FY 2012, $233 million below FY 2011.The conference agreement cuts $14 million (six percent) in clean air and climate research programs; $12 million (9.5 percent) in EPA’s regulatory development office; and $14 million (five percent) to air regulatory programs. The bill also reduces the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund by $101 million. Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion, $5 million below FY 2011. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.5 billion, $28 million below FY 2011. National Park Service: $2.6 billion, $32 million below FY 2011. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement: $60 million (this agency was formalized in FY 2011). Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $76 million, including $15 million for oil spill research for this agency, formalized in FY 2011. U.S. Forest Service: $4.6 billion for the Forest Service in FY 2012, $91 million below FY 2011. Department of Defense Research and Development: $72.4 billion, $2.5 billion below FY 2011. Click here for the House summary of the omnibus bill or here for the Senate summary of the omnibus bill. A comprehensive listing of policy riders included in the bill...

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From the community: ESA annual meeting in the news

Last week at the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) 95th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, scientists presented research on the foraging behavior of bushbabies, the effects of RoundUp herbicide on amphibians, the benefits of microbial communities inside the human body and the global issues surrounding invasive species, pollution, global warming, elevated nitrogen and hypoxia, among others. Here is just some of the research from ESA’s annual meeting.

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ESA Policy News: July 2

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp.

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Ecology meets technology in a mechanized planet

It goes without saying that the world as we know it is becoming increasingly infused with technology. Besides the everyday devices—computers, cell phones, cameras, cars—huge advances are being made on a daily basis at the intersection of biology and technology. Areas like biorobotics, nanotechnology, geoengineering, genetically engineered organisms and global monitoring, for example, are gaining steam. In biorobotics, which also includes advances in medicine through nanotechnology, engineers draw on the processes of locomotion and navigation to design biologically-inspired robots (see above video), some of which have contributed to military aircraft designs. Just this week, physicists have found a way to extract water from air using lasers—a discovery that geoengineers propose could produce rain clouds. Genetically modified organisms, such as cotton plants in India containing a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that codes for a protein toxic to insects, are being engineered to grow larger and faster and to be resistant to predators and diseases. With satellites and remote sensing, global monitoring is becoming more precise—such as NASA’s Earth Observing System, which was most recently used to track the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One could easily argue that technology also played a role in  the ecological disaster in the Gulf region, and it is a technological innovation that BP is proposing to use in an effort to mitigate the spill. According to a BBC article, the containment chamber is a 40 foot steel box—ready to be installed this week—that will be placed over the leaking pipe to siphon a projected 85% of the oil into a tanker (see below video). As Felicia Coleman mentioned in Monday’s Q&A, we are living in a world of trade-offs. That is, if society is going to continue inventing machinery and expanding technologically on a global scale, then collaborative systems to assess, control and mitigate any potential consequences should also be taken into account. In biotechnology, as with any emerging field, questions will arise as quickly as advancements are made. Some will be specific (what is the potential impact of nanoparticles introduced to a stream ecosystem?), while others will address the biosphere as a whole. For example, how do we sustain a world that has been so altered and influenced by human development? How can we balance the Earth’s resources with present demands for energy, water and food? But perhaps the most notable inquiry to address is what will happen in the future because of our actions now. In other words, are we adapting to life on a mechanized planet, or are we becoming reliant on it? The upcoming series of posts entitled “Mechanized Planet” will explore the current state of and advancements in such areas as...

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