In This Issue:
Federal Agency Award COVID-19 Resources
Agencies release guidance for grantees and grant opportunities for COVID-19-related research.
The Ecology of COVID-19 Blog Series
First post from the Long-term Ecological Research Network offers considerations for deciding whether and when to go into the field.
Senators ask Secretary of State to take action to shutdown the global illegal wildlife trade amid pandemic.
USFWS announces agreement for monarch butterfly conservation.
Federal judge vacates EPA policy prohibiting agency grantees from serving on advisory committees.
NASEM holds series of webinars about postsecondary responses to COVID-19.
ESA In the News
View an up-to-date list of ESA’s media coverage.
Opportunities to Get Involved
Federal Register opportunities.
Federal Agency Award COVID-19 Resources
Most federal government agencies recognize the effects the pandemic is having in the research community. Science funding agencies are offering increased flexibility to grantees and grant applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as new opportunities for research relevant to the pandemic. Some agencies and programs of interest to the ecological community are listed below.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
The CARES Act provides $75 million in additional NSF funding for research related to the COVID-19 virus with an extra $1 million for award management.
The NSF Coronavirus page contains helpful links to information for grant awardees and those who are seeking new grant awards. Its letter to the community sent March 23 says, “NSF understands the effects this challenge will have on NSF-funded research and facilities, and we are committed to providing the greatest available flexibilities to support your health and safety as well as your work. NSF is continually updating guidance and our online resources to keep you informed. Today, we are also issuing new guidance for NSF awardees to implement flexibilities authorized by the Office of Management and Budget.”
NSF’s Biological Sciences Directorate has posted the slides from their virtual office hours on the BIO buzz blog.
A Dear Colleague letter notes that NSF is accepting proposals through its Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism to conduct nonmedical research that can be used immediately to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19, to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge. These proposals may be for up to $200K and up to one year in duration, inquiries should be emailed to email@example.com.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
NIFA is continuously updating its Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions and its Coronavirus page. The agency announced April 17 that it will add a program area to its main Agricultural and Food Research Initiative request for applications, titled Rapid Response to Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Impacts Across Food and Agricultural Systems. Applications are due June 4.
The FAQ document notes that grantees may donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or use staff or equipment funded through a NIFA grant to produce PPE. Grantees may rebudget grant funds to repurchase supplies at a later date or use unobligated balances. However, they must not assume that supplemental funding will be available should the charging of such costs or other fees result in a shortage of funds to carry out the project eventually.
NIFA held a webinar for science partners April 16; stakeholders may request the presentation slides by email.
Department of Energy Office of Science
In the CARES Act, the Office of Science received $99.5 million for the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration to support operations of the National Laboratory scientific user facilities for R&D efforts related to the coronavirus.
A Memorandum to Applicants and Awardees reviews accommodations for applications, progress reports and revised travel budgets and travel plans.
Information for grantees is provided in several guidance documents, including a Grants and Research during the COVID-19 Epidemic Frequently Asked Questions document.
The Ecology of COVID-19 Blog Series
ESA is launching a blog series titled “Ecology and COVID-19” and we invite submissions for consideration to publish. We envision blogpost topics such as how the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines are affecting the collection for long-term data sets, research funding, and the ethics of going to remote field sites and possibly risking contamination to the local indigenous or isolated communities. On the research side, blogs presenting how disease ecology, population ecology or community ecology can play a role in understanding the origin and transmission of COVID-19 may be interesting topics.
Read these instructions and tips on submitting a blogpost. We hope you will engage in this dialogue and submit a blogpost for the new “Ecology and COVID-19” blog series.
First in the Series: To Go Or Not to Go (in the Field)?
“Like marine fog that blankets one community while leaving a nearby neighborhood in sunshine, COVID-19 crept up on us at an uneven pace.” This new post on Ecotone by Marty Downs, Frank Davis, Jenn Caselle, Julien Brun, and Kristen Weiss explores the considerations that ecologists face when working during a pandemic.
Wildlife Trade: Seven bipartisan members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate International Conservation Caucus urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “take action, in partnership with other federal agencies, to shut down global illegal wildlife trade and prevent and mitigate future outbreaks of zoonotic disease.”
The Congressional International Conservation Caucus held a virtual briefing entitled, “Wildlife Trade, Origins of COVID-19 and Preventing Future Pandemics.” The event featured remarks from Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and a panel of speakers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, African Parks and author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” David Quammen.
White House: The National Science and Technology Council issued a request for information and public input on future earth system predictability research and development activities. The requested information includes practical needs that could be addressed by earth system predictability research and the socio-economic benefits that could result from it and current gaps and barriers that are holding back progress. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy identified earth system predictability research as a research and development budget priority in 2019.
USFWS: A new candidate conservation agreement for the monarch butterfly between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Illinois at Chicago encourages transportation and energy partners to participate in monarch conservation by providing and maintaining habitat rights of way and associated lands. This voluntary agreement will prevent the butterfly from being added to the federal endangered species list. The University of Illinois at Chicago notes that the agreement may benefit up to 26 million acres of land managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. More than 45 energy and transportation organizations are participating in the agreement.
A memo from USFWS recommends that bat biologists, researchers and others that handle bats suspend fieldwork involving bats, citing concerns that humans could pass the novel coronavirus to bats and that North American bats could serve as reservoirs for the disease. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Bat Specialist Group is also recommending suspending fieldwork involving direct interactions with bats. An early April bulletin from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center notes that USGS, USFWS and others are convening a team of wildlife disease experts to assess the risk of COVID-19 to North American bats. The group plans to release interim guidance for human-wildlife interactions.
USFWS is also revising a 2015 rule that designated the population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico as a nonessential, experimental population. The nonessential, experimental population designation is used for reintroduced species. Populations covered under this designation are not subject to the same protections as other endangered species. A 2018 court ruling required USWS to revise its management plan for Mexican wolves by May 2021. Public comments will be accepted through June 15, 2020.
EPA: Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the agency will maintain current air quality standards for particulate matter, as known as soot. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee was split on whether to maintain air quality standards. A group of former CASAC Particulate Matter panel members, comprised mainly of academic scientists, recommended that the EPA tighten current air pollution standards. Wheeler disbanded this panel in 2018, but the panel regrouped in 2019 to provide an independent review of the particulate matter standards with support from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Two 2019 EPA staff reports, the Policy Assessment for the Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter and the Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter, analyzed the science and the adequacy of air quality standards. The policy assessment found increased scientific evidence questioning the adequacy of the current standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), but it found that current standards for coarse particulate matter (PM 10) are mostly adequate.
The EPA finalized a rule determining that it is not “appropriate or necessary” to regulate mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The previous 2011 mercury pollution rule used “co-benefits” – or the indirect benefits of reducing pollutants other than mercury – to determine that the benefits of regulating mercury emissions were greater than the costs. The EPA will continue to regulate mercury emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants, but regulators would be prevented from considering “co-benefits.”
A final EPA inventory of greenhouse gases found that U.S. emissions grew 3% in 2018, but preliminary data for 2019 shows that emissions fell last year. The EPA produced this report to meet annual U.S. commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Endangered Species: A federal judge ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately account for the impacts of fishing net entanglement on endangered North Atlantic right whales. The ruling overturns a 2014 NMFS Biological Opinion regarding the right whale and requires NMFS to produce an incidental take statement for the right whales.
HFCs: A federal court restored some Obama-era restrictions on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators and air conditioners. HFCs are greenhouse gases. The EPA opted to suspend the entire rule after the court struck down some provisions of the rule in 2017.
Pipelines: A federal judge in Montana struck down a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to account for the impacts of dredging and filling waterways associated with the pipeline on endangered species. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers further consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before issuing a new permit for the pipeline.
Science Advisers: A federal court in New York vacated a 2017 EPA policy that barred agency grantees from serving on its advisory boards. In February, Judge Denise Cote ruled that the policy violated the Administrative Procedures Act because the EPA did not explain the shift in policy. This month, Cote rejected the EPA’s request to uphold the policy, determining that vacating the policy would be appropriate because it would not cause significant disruptions.
NSF: A Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences meeting is scheduled for 1-3 PM EDT, April 30. The Federal Register notice provides attendance information and the meeting agenda:
“Due to ongoing social distancing best practices because of COVID-19 the meeting will be held virtually among the Advisory Committee members. Public visitors will be able to listen telephonically. Public attendees should contact Melody Jenkins at MJenkins@nsf.gov to register and receive information to join the meeting.
Agenda items will include a directorate business update, status update on the standard metrics for BIO proposal submissions and review, a review of the charge for the Long-Term Ecological Research 40-year review, a review of the BIO’s Office of the Assistant Director’s response to the Division of Environmental Biology’s Committee of Visitor Report, and discussion of the research communities’ adaptation to COVID-19 restrictions.”
CRS: A new report published by the Congressional Research Service details the impacts of COVID-19 on the federal research and development enterprise, including federally funded university research and facilities and scientific societies.
NASEM: The National Academies are hosting a series of webinars about postsecondary responses to COVID-19. The invitation says, “Over the next several weeks, the Board on Higher Education of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will be hosting a series of conversations to bring together academic, industry, government, and civic leaders across the country to understand the varied facets of what has happened so far, what is currently happening, and what is expected to happen in the weeks and months ahead. Each conversation will focus on a specific topic related to how the 4,000+ colleges and universities-and the researchers who work there-are supporting the response efforts.”
- How can researchers help the national response efforts? April 9 recording available
- How can we crowdsource scientists to improve public information? April 16 recording available
- How can we provide policy advice to the nation faster? April 17 recording available
- What are the models for volunteering? April 22
- What are the implications of this being a truly global event? April 23
- What are possible long-term implications of postsecondary response? April 24
Visit this page to register and to gather more information.
What We’re Reading
- Field research, interrupted: How the COVID-19 crisis is stalling science, featuring several Long-Term Ecological Research sites.
- Graphic: Trump suspends limits on the kind of pollution that escalates Covid-19 death
- States go their own ways on environmental enforcement during crisis
ESA In the News
ESA regularly issues press releases to the media about journal articles and other Society news. Press coverage is kept up-to-date on our “In the News” page. Check out news stories here.
ESA Correspondence to Policymakers
- ESC – Statement on Summer Research Opportunities for Students (April 17, 2020)
- CNSF – Response to House Science Committee on Future Stimulus Packages (April 13, 2020)
- ESC – Response to House Science Committee on Future Stimulus Packages (April 13, 2020)
- NECIS – FY 2021 Appropriations for APHIS, NIFA, ARS (March 31, 2020)
- ESA – ARS FY 2021 Appropriations Testimony (Identical letter sent to House) (March 31, 2020)
- Multisociety Letter to NSF on Proposal Deadline Extension (March 23, 2020)
- ESA – COVID-19 Appropriations Request (March 21, 2020)
- AFRI Coalition – FY 2021 Appropriations Letter (March 20, 2020)
- NECIS – FY 2021 Appropriations Testimony (March 13, 2020)
- ESA – NOAA FY 2021 Appropriations Testimony (March 13, 2020)
- CNSF – NSF FY 2021 Appropriations Testimony (March 11, 2020)
- Multi-society Letter on Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations (March 11, 2020)
- Multi-organization letter in support of appropriations for the US Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (March 6, 2020)
- USDA Forest Service Research & Development FY 2021 Senate Appropriations Testimony (March 6, 2020)
- USDA Forest Service & Interior Department Joint Fire Science Program FY 2021 Senate Appropriations Testimony (Identical letter sent to House) (March 3, 2020)
- EPA Science and Technology FY 2021 Senate Appropriations Testimony (March 3, 2020) (Identical letter sent to House)
USGS Coalition – FY 2021 Appropriations Testimony (March 2, 2020)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- BLM – Notice of Intent To Amend the Resource Management Plan for the Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona, and Prepare an Associated Environmental Assessment. Comments must be received by April 27, 2020.
- BLM – Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Wild Horse Management in the Bureau of Land Management Rock Springs and Rawlins Field Offices, Wyoming. Comments must be received by April 30, 2020.
- BLM – Supplement to the Willow Master Development Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Alaska. Comments must be received by May 4, 2020.
- Commodity Futures Trading Committee – Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee Under the Market Risk Advisory Committee. Comments must be received by May 14, 2020.
- EPA – Request for Nominations to the National and Governmental Advisory Committees to the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Please submit nominations by May 8, 2020. Additional sources may be utilized in the solicitation of nominees.
- EPA – Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science – Comment Period Extended. The comment period has been extended to May 18, 2020.
- EPA – Request for Nominations of Candidates to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and SAB Standing Committees. Nominations should be submitted no later than May 1, 2020.
- Forest Service – Superior National Forest; Cook County; Minnesota; Lutsen Mountains Ski Area Expansion Project EIS. Comments must be received by May 15, 2020.
- NOAA – Draft Management Plan for the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Comments must be received by April 23, 2020.
- NOAA – Science Advisory Board (SAB); Solicitation for Members of the NOAA Science Advisory Board. Nominations must be received by April 23, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder Fishery; Fishing Year 2020. Comments must be received by April 21, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Amendment 51. Comments must be received by April 28, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fish and Fish Product Import Provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 2020 List of Foreign Fisheries. Comments must be received by May 1, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery: 2020 Harvest Specifications for Pacific Whiting, Cowcod and Shortbelly Rockfish and 2020 Pacific Whiting Tribal Allocation. Comments must be received by May 4, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Revisions to Catch Sharing Plan and Domestic Management Measures in Alaska. Comments must be received by May 14, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Abbreviated Framework Amendment 3. Comments must be received by May 15, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Floating Dry Dock Project at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California. Comments and information must be received by May 18, 2020.
- NPS – Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for a Sediment Management Framework, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina. Comments must be received by May 10, 2020.
- OSTP – Request for Information: Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications, Data and Code Resulting From Federally Funded Research. Comments will be accepted until May 6, 2020.
- USDA – Notice of Proposed Revisions to the National Handbook of Conservation Practices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Comments must be received by April 23, 2020.
- USFWS – Stock Assessment Report for the Southern Sea Otter in California. Comments must be received by April 27, 2020.
- USFWS – Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for the Western Distinct Population Segment of the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Comments must be received by April 27, 2020.
- USFWS – DeChaux Habitat Conservation Plan for the Yelm Subspecies of the Mazama Pocket Gopher, Thurston County, Washington; Categorical Exclusion. Comments must be received by May 4, 2020.
- USFWS – Proposed Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations on Certain Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands for the 2020-21 Season. Comments must be received on or before May 4, 2020.
- USFWS – Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft General Conservation Plan for Oil and Gas Activities in Santa Barbara County, California. Comments must be received by May 6, 2020.
- USFWS – Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft Los Alamos Conservation Plan for Cultivation Activities in Santa Barbara County, California. Comments must be received by May 11, 2020.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Lepanthes eltoroensis. Comments must be received by May 11, 2020.
Visit this page on ESA’s website for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.
ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days, and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.
Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.