August 24, 2016

In This Issue

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NSF: Strategic Plan Requesting input from the ecological community

Every four years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) updates its strategic plan. NSF is inviting feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current strategic plan. The strategic plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and new methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio.

NSF’s research and education activities underpin the nation’s innovation enterprise, which depends directly on fundamental research. The agency is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported fundamental research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. Its Biological Sciences Directorate provides 68 percent of federal support for non-medical fundamental ecological and biological research.

Comments may be submitted online and are due before September 27th, 2016. Any questions may be sent to vog.fsnnull@nalpcigetarts.


USGS: Climate Change Ecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. Are Vulnerable to Climate Change

At least several southeastern U.S. ecosystems are at-risk and highly vulnerable to the impacts of present and future climate change, according to two new research reports conducted by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Southeast Climate Science Center scientists.

At-risk ecosystems occur in states ranging from Texas to Florida, Virginia to Georgia as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They include Caribbean coastal mangrove, Edwards Plateau limestone shrubland, karst-depression wetlands, Nashville Basin limestone glade and woodland, southern Appalachian balds and southern loess bluff forest.
Researchers used the existing scientific literature and, in some cases, geospatial analysis to determine each ecosystem’s sensitivity to changes in climate, its exposure level to those changes and its capacity to adapt.

All ecosystems identified as highly vulnerable support a variety of rare and geographically restricted plants and animals, including numerous federally endangered or threatened species. Because most of these at-risk ecosystems are geographically isolated and have unique geological characteristics, the authors noted that it may be difficult for species to escape or adapt to the effects of climate change.

“From the mountains to the coast, the southeastern U.S. contains ecosystems that harbor incredible biodiversity,” said Jennifer Costanza, lead author of one of the reports and a scientist with North Carolina State University. “Many of those ecosystems are already highly at risk from urbanization and other human land-use change. Identifying the ecosystems at risk from climate change will help inform conservation and management to ensure we don’t lose that biodiversity.”

According to the reports, present and growing threats to Southeast ecosystems include warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and rising sea levels. In addition, droughts, wildfires and extreme storms could become more frequent in some areas. At the same time, ecosystems are stressed by human impacts, such as the conversion of land for urban or agricultural use, which can exacerbate the effects of climate change.

“These reports provide the groundwork for future explorations of how climate change will affect ecosystems and the plants and animals that rely on them,” said USGS scientist Jennifer Cartwright, lead author of the second report. “With this kind of information, managers can take steps to thoughtfully assess where conservation actions should be directed to preserve the ‘conservation stage’ upon which the drama of interacting human and natural systems will unfold under changing climate and land use conditions in coming decades.”

The first report, “Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States,” (PDF) is authored by Jennifer Costanza, Scott Beck and Matthew Rubino, North Carolina State University; Milo Pyne and Rickie White, NatureServe; Adam Terando and Jamie Collazo, USGS.

The second report, “Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States: a regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate(PDF),” is authored by Jennifer M. Cartwright and William J. Wolfe, USGS.

This research was supported by the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers, decision makers and communities respond effectively to climate change.


EPA: Climate Change Clean Power Plan Appeal Ordered for En Banc U.S. Court of Appeals Hearing, September 27


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order for argument in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) defense of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) before the full court on September 27. The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, challenges federal efforts to establish the first national standard to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

According to a Congressional Research Service (PDF) publication, “More than one-hundred parties –including 27 states, three labor organizations, several electric utilities, several nonprofits, and more than two dozen fossil fuel companies– filed over 35 lawsuits against the CPP. All of these lawsuits were consolidated into one lawsuit, West Virginia, et al v. EPA. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia, 34 senators, 171 representatives, over 50 municipalities, several power companies, and several nonprofits have filed “friend of the court” briefings in support of the CPP.”

The court scheduled more than three and a half hours of argument, in five segments, starting at 9:30 a.m. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had asked for five hours of argument, while the EPA urged less. Typically, arguments are scheduled for only twenty to forty minutes. The court scheduled no other cases for that day. Arguments on statutory issues will open the day. Then arguments will turn to EPA’s authority to regulate emissions under the Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

A recent ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Department of Energy’s (DOE) use of a social cost of carbon in developing energy efficiency standards, in Zero Zone Inc. v. DOE, is seen as similar to EPA’s use of “domestic costs” in the Clean Power Plan. Defenders of the plan suggest this helps to validate EPA’s rules.

NOAA: Data Tools U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office Releases New Data Integration and Visualization Tools

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Model Viewer enables users to view and analyze model output and supplemental observations. The viewer was developed by RPS Applied Science Associates in partnership with IOOS, part of the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Environmental Data Server (EDS) is the source of model output displayed in the Model Viewer. It harvests met-ocean data (meteorological and oceanographic) from disparate sources, which it then converts into a single format. The EDS aggregates data spatially and temporally and serves as a single source for a variety of met-ocean data and model output.

The data stored in the EDS can be pulled into various map-based clients (e.g. SAROPS viewer, Esri ArcMap, the IOOS Model Viewer). A THREDDS Data Server instance layered on top of EDS provides catalog and DAP services. The model data that can be accessed in the viewer are currents, water temperature, salinity, water level, winds, and waves. The IOOS viewer acts as a virtual data center for model output.

The IOOS Environmental Sensor Map integrates regional, national, and global real-time data (within the last four hours) from across the IOOS partnership of federal and non-federal sources. It currently displays data from approximately 32,000 stations and 119,515 sensors, averaging real-time streaming data, providing an aggregated view of information at a glance. The “binning” of data changes as you zoom into a location and individual stations appear closer.

The map was developed by Axiom Data Science and began as an experiment to see how much real-time information could be simultaneously ingested before it buckled under the load. It never broke and IOOS invested in the product to integrate ocean observing data for the nation.

Overall, the tool provides analytics, summaries, and visualizations of real-time data and showcases IOOS Regional Association infrastructure and capabilities.

The map includes these features:

  • Individual stations are clustered in hexagonal bins to reduce clutter when zoomed out, and summary information is provided
  • Individual stations and sensors can be selected when zoomed in
  • Click to see the past weeks’ worth of data, and options for downloading recent data and finding source information
  • Dynamic graphs provide overview statistics for individual sensors or regions
  • Choose your base layer
  • Toggle between metric and English units

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) is a national-regional partnership working to provide new tools and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment. Integrated ocean and Great Lakes information is available in near real time, as well as retrospectively. Easier and better access to this information is improving ability to understand and predict coastal events-such as storms, wave heights, and sea level change.

IOOS’s Operations Division coordinates the contributions of federally-owned observing and modeling systems and develops and integrates non-federal observing and modeling capacity into the system in partnership with IOOS regions.

Federal Register Notices

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments 

Federal Aviation Administration
Clearance of Renewed Approval of Information Collection: Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report 

The Federal Aviation Administration invites public comments about its intention to request Office of Management and Budget approval to renew an information collection. Wildlife strike data are collected to develop standards and monitor hazards to aviation. Public comments are invited on any aspect of this information collection, including (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for FAA’s performance; (b) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (c) ways for FAA to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collection; and (d) ways that the burden could be minimized without reducing the quality of the collected information.

Comments should be submitted by September 21, 2016

US Geological Survey
Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments on the Assessment of Effects of Climate on Waterfowl

The information collected will identify the most important research topics within and among Regional Climate Science Centers in regard to climate effects on migratory waterfowl.

OMB must receive them on or before September 9, 2016 to ensure that your comments on this ICR are considered.

Meeting Notices 

Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee

The Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary is announcing a public meeting of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s (EVOSTC) Public Advisory Committee. The meeting agenda will include review of the FY17 Work Plan of EVOSTC Restoration, Research, and Monitoring Projects; FY17 EVOSTC Annual Budget; and Habitat matters, as applicable. An opportunity for public comments will be provided. The final agenda and materials for the meeting will be posted on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council Web site. All EVOSTC Public Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public.

The meeting will take place on September 22, 2016, 9:30 a.m at EVOSTC Office Conference Room, Suite 220, Grace Hall, 4230 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA Advisory Council; Science Committee; Earth Science Subcommittee; Meeting

NASA announces a meeting of the Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). This Subcommittee reports to the Science Committee of the NAC. The meeting will be held for the purpose of soliciting, from the scientific community and other persons, scientific and technical information relevant to program planning.

The meeting will take place on September 15, 2016 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

The meeting will take place telephonically. Any interested person may call the USA toll free conference call number 888-790-3253, passcode 4030394, to participate in this meeting by telephone.

National Science Foundation
Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education
The National Science Foundation announces a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning support for environmental research and education.

The meeting will take place on September 28, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on September 29, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230.

Notice of Public Meetings; Request for Public Comment

US Department of the Interior, U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
US Coral Reef Task Force Public Meeting and Public Comment

The US Department of the Interior, announce public meetings of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and a request for written comments. This is the 36th biannual meeting of the task force, providing a forum for coordinated planning and action among Federal agencies, State and territorial governments, and nongovernmental partners. 

Submit Advance Public Comments by September 9th, 2016. 

The meeting will take place on September 22nd and September 23rd, 2016. Meetings will be held at the Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan, Coral Tree Ave, Garapan, Saipan 96950, CNMI on September 22nd and at the Hyatt Regency Guam, 1155 Pale San Vitores Road, Tumon, Guam, Micronesia, 96913 on September 23rd.

A written summary of the meeting will be posted on the Web site after the meeting. 

Request for Nominations 

Environmental Protection Agency
Request for Nominations for a Science Advisory Board Panel To Review Risk and Technology Review Screening Methods

The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office requests public nominations of scientific experts to form a Panel to review the draft EPA report entitled “Screening Methodologies to Support Risk and Technology Reviews (RTR).” This draft report describes newly developed screening methods designed to assess the risk to public health and the environment that would remain after stationary sources of hazardous air pollutants come into compliance with the EPA’s Maximum Available Control Technologies (MACT) standards.

The SAB is a chartered Federal Advisory Committee that provides independent scientific and technical peer review, advice, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on the technical basis for EPA actions. The SAB RTR Methods Review Panel will provide advice through the chartered SAB on scientific and technical issues related to assessing risks to public health and the environment from hazardous air pollutants.

Nominations should be submitted by August 30, 2016.