Lessons in Finance for Sustaining Biological Infrastructure
Jan30

Lessons in Finance for Sustaining Biological Infrastructure

Sustaining Biological Infrastructure training course, 9-11 June 2015 Living stocks, field stations, museum collections, data archives – a wealth of material and data infrastructure support the everyday activities of biologists. Collections and tools require steady funding to maintain materials and services and infrastructure managers must also be able to innovate, developing their resources to get the most value for users. But funding this essential infrastructure is not as sexy as developing new projects. As government agencies cope with tight budgets, the traditional funding support for infrastructure is feeling the pinch. Project directors face the need to diversify their approach to funding and manage long-term planning given diverse and sometimes unpredictable revenue streams. ESA’s training course in Sustaining Biological Infrastructure is customized to help directors of biological databases, field stations, museum collections, living stocks collections and other biological infrastructure expand their financial toolset. Participants will learn strategies for enhancing the financial stability for their projects and programs and communicating effectively with funders, users, and providers.   Call for participants: Applications for the June 9-11, 2015 SBI training course are due Friday, February 6, at 5:00 pm EST. Who should apply: Ideal applicants include experienced directors and principal investigators of biological infrastructure projects (such as digital data resources, museum and living stocks collections, field stations, and marine laboratories) that have been established for at least two years. More information is detailed on the training course website. 2015 Instructors: Lynda Ramirez-Blust, Financial Management Strategist and Coach, LSRB Consulting Jon Anderson, Senior Research Scientist, LI-COR Biosciences Marilyn Hoyt, Consultant, Nonprofit Consulting SBI Advisers: Kevin McCluskey, Curator, Fungal Genetics Stock Center Helen Berman, Former Director, Protein Data Bank (PDB) Bill Michener, Project Director, Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) Mary Klein, President and CEO,...

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Congressional briefing highlights climate adaptation, mitigation efforts in Midwestern United States
Jul22

Congressional briefing highlights climate adaptation, mitigation efforts in Midwestern United States

On July 17th, the Environment and Energy Study Institute held a briefing entitled “Climate Impacts in the Midwest: Becoming More Resilient.” The briefing showcased a variety of climate change effects happening now in the Midwest as well as various local efforts to mitigate and adapt to these environmental changes. Rosina Bierbaum, Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan, outlined the impacts of climate change occurring now on agriculture, transportation and infrastructure, natural resources, human health, and economic well-being. Bierbaum was also a contributor for the US National Climate Assessment released this spring. Her presentation noted that in the short-term, rising CO2 levels and warmer temperatures will benefit farmers by longer growing seasons and increased crop yields. However, more days of warmer temperatures will also increase the number of weeds, disease-carrying organisms, and insect pests. Over the long-term, the detrimental effects of climate change will ultimately decrease agricultural productivity, Bierbaum noted. For human health, negative impacts outlined in Bierbaum’s presentation included increased heat waves, degraded air quality, longer allergy seasons, increased “pest” insects and reduced water quality.  She also noted that throughout the entire US, “very heavy” precipitation events are expected to increase, although the frequency of such events will be markedly higher in areas that traditionally experience a great amount of precipitation, such as the northeast and Midwest regions of the US. Carmel, IN Mayor James Brainard  highlighted the actions Carmel is taking to reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy effceincy. Brainard is one of four Republicans serving on President Obama’s Climate Change Task Force. In 2008 he received the US Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Award. Mayor Brainard discussed the city of Carmel’s 80 roundabouts, which replace traffic stops at road intersections. National studies state that, in addition to reducing injurious traffic accidents, roundabouts reduce pollution by less idling-time for cars and less gas being burned. Additionally, Mayor Brainard touched on his success in increasing access to public transit in Carmel and designing walkable-bikeable paths in the city community. Larry Falkin, with the City of Cincinnati, Ohio Office of Environment and Sustainability, emphasized the many local effects of global climate disruption. For example, in extreme weather events, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, effects included food shortages, energy shortages and displaced populations. He also mentioned his office’s Green Cincinnati Plan, intended to help the city cope with the effects of climate change. Recommendations in the plan include preparing for prolonged heat, choosing plants for “growing zones,” mitigating the urban heat island effect and installing stronger infrastructure in anticipation of more intense storms. Jeremy Emmi, with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,...

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ESA Policy News May 17
May17

ESA Policy News May 17

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. NSF: FORMER DIRECTORS EXPRESS CONCERN WITH DRAFT PEER REVIEW BILL On May 8, six former officials who headed the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Board during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations sent a letter to the leadership of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee expressing concern with the High Quality Research Act. The draft bill would require the NSF Director to provide Congress with information certifying research projects meet certain national interest requirements before they can be funded, which has been interpreted as negating NSF’s existing scientific peer-review process for funding research. “We believe that this draft legislation would replace the current merit-based system used to evaluate research and education proposals with a cumbersome and unrealistic certification process that rather than improving the quality of research would do just the opposite,” the letter states. “The history of science and technology has shown that truly basic research often yields breakthroughs – including new technologies, markets and jobs – but that it is impossible to predict which projects (and which fields) will do that.” The High Quality Research Act, proposed by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), has yet to be introduced and there is no indication yet whether or when the committee will move on the bill. The draft legislation has already met strong opposition from scientific societies and universities as well as House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who asserted that the bill would “undermine NSF’s core mission as a basic research agency.” View the directors’ letter here. NOAA: CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS REACH NEW MILESTONE The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have peaked above 400 parts per million (ppm), the first time since measurements began in 1958. According to NOAA, the global carbon dioxide average was 280 ppm in the 19th century preceding the industrial revolution and has fluctuated between 180-280 ppm over the past 800,000 years. The agency asserts that a concentration this great has not been seen in at least three million years. The news got very little reaction from key leaders on Capitol Hill, on either side of the aisle in both the House and Senate. The exceptions were Democratic leaders on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “We know that the Earth is warming, sea ice is disappearing, the glaciers are receding, the oceans are acidifying, and sea levels are rising. We know all of this from climate...

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Managing water with natural infrastructure: win-wins for people and wildlife

By Terence Houston, Science Policy Analyst The US Senate is moving forward with a new Water Resources Development Act, a comprehensive bill that authorizes funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects related to flood management, environmental restoration and other water resources infrastructure issues. The bipartisan legislation (S. 601) is sponsored by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA). In light of this, the Consortium for Aquatic Science Societies recently held a congressional briefing that highlighted problems with aquatic invasive species and “natural infrastructure” solutions. David Strayer, Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies discussed the varied ways in which invasive species can harm ecosystems, recreation and tourism for communities living alongside major waterways. Invasive species cost the US economy $100 billion a year and cause significant lasting ecological changes, often hindering  recreation and leading to proliferation of less desirable  wildlife. Among the most costly of these is the zebra mussel, which has cost industry and business billions since its initial introduction to the United States several decades ago. The mussels damage boats, invade water treatment and power plants and clog pipes. Strayer also highlighted nutria, plant-eating rodents that can severely erode river banks,  leaving surrounding communities more vulnerable to floods; Japanese knotweed, which crowds out native plants and damages existing infrastructure; and didymo (commonly known as “rock snot”), which – in addition to its obvious aesthetic damage to otherwise scenic landscapes – alters streambeds and cuts out food sources for native aquatic species such as trout. Strayer noted that reservoirs, alteration of water flows in rivers and streams and fish stoking (which can unintentionally include contaminants and undesirable wildlife) can buttress proliferation of invasive species. He praised language in the new WRDA legislation that would establish a program to mitigate invasive species in the Columbia River Basin and manage invasive plants in the northern Rockies and urged support for an amendment recently incorporated into the bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would seek to restrict invasive species from dispersing into the Great Lakes. Emma Rosi-Marshall, also with the Cary Institute on Ecosystem Services, focused her presentation on the general ecology of rivers. Many animals, including salmon and sturgeon, adapt their migration and breeding patterns on the dynamics of rivers. She also expanded on the important role of natural infrastructure such as wetlands and floodplains in mitigating floods and controlling erosion. Dams, while providing services such as water storage and power generation, can also disrupt wildlife migration and alter the manner in which sediment and nutrients are delivered along waterways. These alterations can impact fish abundance as well as...

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Northwest leaders: coal export proposal deserves environmental review

This post contributed by Terence Houston, ESA Science Policy Analyst A proposal to develop new marine coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington, which could ship between 75 million and 175 million tons of Powder River Basin coal annually to Asia, has drawn concern from environmentalists in the region. The National Wildlife Federation and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders have released a report outlining various environmental concerns to local communities brought on by coal production in the region. The six export terminals would be located in Cherry-Point, Grays Harbor, Longview, Port of St. Helens, Port of Morrow and Coos Bay. In the report, entitled “The True Cost of Coal,” the authors state that the proposed projects would pose threats to public health and set back decades of successful environmental recovery efforts in the region.  Among the detriments cited in the report are air pollution from coal dust, noise pollution and congestion from increased train traffic, increased risk of invasive species from tanker traffic as well as mercury deposition and ocean acidification, which could lead to the loss of salmon and steelhead, critical to the regional economy. A number of local communities and organizations, including Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force and the American Indian Yakama Nation tribe, have called upon Governor John Kitzhaber (D-OR) to delay any coal-export projects until a comprehensive health impact assessment is completed. The effort is being pushed by mining corporations, including Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy and Ambre Energy North America. The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, which advocates for the aforementioned entities, contends that “the proposed terminals would create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of millions in additional tax revenue for schools and other services in Washington and Oregon. The group’s website further maintains that the six proposed coal export terminals “can be built in a safe and environmentally responsible way.” The issue has garnered attention from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has introduced H.R. 6202, the True Cost of Coal Act. The bill imposes a $10 per ton tax on coal and establishes a Coal Mitigation Trust Fund to mitigate potential negative environmental impacts of coal transportation. The bill is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled House. Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT), both supporters of Powder River Basin coal production, have been joined by leading Republicans and some Democrats in calling on the Obama administration to initiate project-specific permit reviews rather than the broad environmental impact assessments environmental advocates endorse. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has issued a letter requesting that the Bureau of Land Management and...

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ESA Policy News: May 18

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL CUTS NOAA, RESEARCH INITIATIVES On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other agencies. The bill passed by a vote of 247-163 with 23 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure. Democrats supporting the measure included House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) and House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA). In total, the bill provides $51.1 billion in funding for FY 2013, $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 million below the president’s FY 2013 budget request. The White House has released a statement of administration policy declaring that President Obama will veto the bill, if it is presented to him in its current form. The administration asserts that the bill’s overall funding level violates those set by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), agreed to in August of last year, and says  that the cuts included in the bill will be a detriment in furthering “economic growth, security, and global competitiveness” for the nation. While applauding the funding for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the $7.3 billion funding level for NSF, the White House says that significant funding cuts to NOAA would adversely affect the agency’s ability to implement the nation’s fisheries and oceans stewardship programs. The House bill must be reconciled with the Senate CJS bill approved in committee last month.  For additional background on the House and Senate CJS appropriations bills, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the full White House statement of administration policy on the House CJS appropriations bill, click here. HOUSE: SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERS POTENTIAL OF OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT On May 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “American Jobs and the Economy through Expanded Energy Production:  Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.” “The amount of energy under own soil is striking.  With continued technological advances and the right policies to enable access to these resources, America could become the global leader in energy production for the next generation and beyond,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “The Green River Basin, located in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, may contain up to three trillion barrels of oil, more potential oil than the rest of the world’s current oil reserves...

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The multifaceted benefits of effective water infrastructure management

On April 25, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) joined Discover Magazine, IEEE-USA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in hosting a briefing on how urban water infrastructure can be utilized to conserve energy and protect potable water resources. The briefing sought to promote the idea that better management of water resources serves to improve ecosystems, water quality and mitigate impacts of climate change. In his opening remarks, Senator Reid emphasized how climate change, energy and infrastructure are all interconnected. The Majority Leader noted the importance of such programs as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which he contended have seen funding shortfalls for much of the past 15 years. He also lamented how some of his colleagues in the Senate remain unwilling to address the issue of climate change. In July 2011, NSF announced a five-year, $18.5 million grant to fund a new Engineering Research Center to revolutionize the nation’s urban water infrastructure, the Engineering for Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) at Stanford University. The new center includes 22 industry partners and researchers from a variety of fields related to ecology, urban studies and law that will work to foster innovative solutions to issues related to water infrastructure systems. Richard Luthy, Director at ReNUWIt, noted the many potential benefits reaped from advancements in wastewater treatment technologies. Noting the increasingly important role they play in energy management, Luthy suggested that wastewater plants be looked at as “resource recovery centers.” He said that nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater can be effectively used as fertilizer. According to ReNuWIt, reusing municipal wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into an ocean or estuary for non-potable uses would significantly augment water availability, save on the energy that would be used to treat water to make it potable and curb the need to transport water supplies. Patricia Mulroy, General Manger of the Las Vegas Valley Water District in the Southern Nevada Water Authority, noted that 100 percent of the water from Lake Meade used by neighboring communities is treated and returned to the lake for reuse.  Mulroy stated that treated wastewater has helped to restore wetlands in the state of Nevada. She also noted that climate change will continue to diminish water resources, furthering the need to take advantage of new wastewater management technologies. The briefing was moderated by Tom Peterson, Assistant Director of the NSF Directorate for Engineering. He noted that while U.S. investment in water infrastructure research has flat-lined for decades, China has doubled its investment in water infrastructure research.   For additional information on NSF activities related to ReNUWIt, click...

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Floodplains: A cost-effective complement to flood management

This post contributed by Terence Houston, ESA Science Policy Analyst On November 2, the Ecological Society of America sponsored a congressional briefing entitled “Using Science to Improve Flood Management.” Featured speakers were Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin, Madison, Center for Limnology) and Jeff Opperman (Senior Freshwater Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Field Office).  The briefing drew 40 attendees, including congressional staff and representatives of federal agencies, NGOs and private organizations. The speakers highlighted the multiple benefits—both ecological and economical—of increased investment in floodplains and their role in lessening the severity of floods. Stanley’s presentation touched on the many benefits floodplains have on flood attenuation, water quality, fish production, agriculture, aquaculture, groundwater recharge and maintaining ecosystem biodiversity. A striking visual showed that fish caught in a floodplain were remarkably larger than those of the same age, but from the main river channel. Stanley’s presentation also illuminated the potential cost savings and increased efficiency that would incur through more reliance on floodplains than on aging infrastructure, such as levees. Her presentation noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is estimating $750 million to $1.3 billion in damage to flood control structures alone for the Missouri River after the 2011 flooding, in addition to its annual operation/maintenance cost of $130 million. In his presentation, Opperman highlighted the detriments of flood control efforts that focus primarily on increasing infrastructural investment, the ‘levees only’ approach. He noted that despite massive investments in flood control infrastructure, flood-related damages continue to rise. He also referenced the Yolo Bypass in Sacramento, California as a prime example of an effective working floodplain. Opperman highlighted improvements in flood management along the Mississippi River since the flood of 1927. He contrasted the failed 1927 ‘levees only’ approach that managed the river in fragments with current efforts that manage the river as an entire system, relying more on the river’s floodplains natural ability to convey and store floodwater. While the death toll from the 1927 flood was at least in the  hundreds, and potentially thousands,, the 2011 Mississippi flood incurred no human deaths;  no land flooded that was not intended to be flooded. The Army Corps of Engineers’ post-1927 approach in managing the Mississippi River as a system is embodied in the formation of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project. The project coordinates Corps activities, such as levee and infrastructure construction and maintenance with management of “floodways,” areas of historic floodplain that can be reconnected to the river during high flood events, relieving pressure on levees. Opperman contends this management technique proved critical in 2011 and likely provided significant cost savings for communities along the Mississippi. According to the Federal Emergency...

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