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Developing the Next Generation of Great Lakes Lower Foodweb Assessment Tools

REQUEST FOR APPLICATION (RFA) FOR AWARD OF A COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT

OVERVIEW INFORMATION
Executive Summary
FULL TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT
I. Funding Opportunity Description
II. Award Information
III. Eligibility Information
IV. Application and Submission Information
V. Application Review Information
VI. Award Administration Information
VII. Agency Contact
VIII. Other Information
Attachment 1
Attachment 2
Attachment 3

Points of Contact

Craig L. Johnson, 218-529-5016, johnson.craig@epa.gov
Jack Kelly, 218-520- 5119, kelly.johnr@epa.gov

ATTACHMENTS 1, 2, 3 are provided

OVERVIEW INFORMATION

Funding Agency: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Laboratory: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory
Division: Mid-Continent Ecology Division

Funding Opportunity Title: DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF GREAT LAKES LOWER FOODWEB ASSESSMENT TOOLS

Announcement Type: Initial Announcement

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA/ORD/NHEERL/MED-FY2004-DUL03704

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number:
66.511 OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Consolidated Research

Action Dates: RFA issued March 9, 2004
  Final date to submit technical questions May 14, 2004
  Proposals due June 11, 2004

Executive Summary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a request for applications (RFA) under the Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) program to develop the next generation of Great Lakes lower foodweb assessment tools.

The introduction of exotic zooplankton and mussels has dramatically altered Lake Ontario’s aquatic foodweb over the last decade. The near disappearance of Lake Ontario’s keystone benthic organism, the amphipod Diporeia, in waters less than 100 m deep threatens the viability of fisheries as well as efforts to restore naturally reproducing populations of lake trout. It is suspected that dressenid mussels (zebra & quagga) have been able to out-compete Diporeia for nutrients. There are also concerns that recently introduced exotic zooplankton, such as Bythotrepes and Cercopagis have the potential to alter native zooplankton communities.

Interpretation of 2003 lower aquatic food web data collected by the United States and Canadian monitoring programs will provide fishery managers with an improved understandings of Lake Ontario’s ability to support commercial and recreational fisheries valued at more than 2.5 billion dollars per year. This research information will allow fishery managers to take any necessary steps such as revising fish stocking and harvest quotas. These fisheries are an important source of livelihood for many lakeside communities. The development of a long-term monitoring approach to track the status of Lake Ontario’s lower foodweb is a high priority of the U.S. and Canadian Lake Ontario Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Ontario Committee (LOC). The project described in this RFA will be an integral component of the bi-national Lake Ontario Lower Foodweb Assessment (LOLA), a cooperative bi-national monitoring project involving many key Lake Ontario researchers that, as a prime objective, will define the current status of Lake Ontario’s lower foodweb. Longer-term goals are to develop lower foodweb ecosystem indicators and efficient coordinated bi-national approaches to assess the status of the Lake.

Anticipated Funding: $108,348 – Single award

Eligible Applicants: Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and tribal, state and local governments, are eligible to apply. See full announcement for more details.

Point of Contact: Craig L. Johnson

Telephone: 218-529-5016
Telefax: 218-529-5015
E-mail: johnson.craig@epa.gov

FULL TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT

I. Funding Opportunity Description

Title of Assistance Opportunity: DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF GREAT LAKES LOWER FOODWEB ASSESSMENT TOOLS

Background: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a request for applications (RFA) under the Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) program to develop the next generation of Great Lakes lower foodweb assessment tools.

The overall goals are to: 1) define the current status of the lower aquatic foodweb, as possible, placing results in proper historical context; and 2) participate in evaluating new technologies and sampling designs that may be part of the next generation of monitoring. As a basis for the requested assistance, U.S. and Canadian environmental agencies have organized a 2003 field sampling effort, the Lake Ontario Lower Aquatic foodweb project (LOLA) (see Attachments 1 and 2 below). This effort in 2003 repeated sampling at a number of historical stations, which will allow time-trend comparisons. The 2003 data will help characterize the present status of the lower foodweb in Lake Ontario, but 2003 efforts will also establish a foundation for discussions on the next generation of monitoring and assessment tools and approaches.

The introduction of exotic zooplankton and mussels has dramatically altered Lake Ontario’s aquatic foodweb over the last decade. The near disappearance of Lake Ontario’s keystone benthic organism, the amphipod Diporeia, in waters less than 100 m deep threatens the viability of fisheries as well as efforts to restore naturally reproducing populations of lake trout. It is suspected that dressenid mussels (zebra and quagga) have been able to out-compete Diporeia for nutrients. There are also concerns that recently introduced exotic zooplankton, such as Bythotrepes and Cercopagis have the potential to alter native zooplankton communities.

Interpretation of 2003 lower aquatic food web data collected by the United States and Canadian monitoring programs will provide fishery managers with an improved understanding of Lake Ontario’s ability to support commercial and recreational fisheries valued at more than 2.5 billion dollars per year. This research information will allow fishery managers to take any necessary steps such as revising fish stocking and harvest quotas. These fisheries are an important source of livelihood for many lakeside communities. The development of a long-term monitoring approach to track the status of Lake Ontario’s lower foodweb is a high priority for the U.S. and Canadian Lake Ontario Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Ontario Committee (LOC). The project described in this RFA will be an integral component of LOLA, a cooperative bi-national monitoring project involving many key Lake Ontario researchers that, as a prime objective, will define the current status of Lake Ontario’s lower foodweb. Longer-term goals are to develop lower foodweb ecosystem indicators and efficient coordinated bi-national approaches to assess the status of the Lake.

Some example questions to be addressed by 2003 sampling include:

1) Current status of lower food web

- What is the status of Diporeia in waters >100 m?
- Have some native benthic organisms expanded into areas where Diporeia have been extirpated?
- Has the plankton community structure changed in response to the introduction of exotic zooplankton?
- How does the current distribution and abundance of Mysids compare to historical levels?

2) Indicator development, sampling designs, and next-generation monitoring tools

- How can remote sensing technologies be combined with traditional monitoring approaches to effectively characterize broad spatial and temporal changes in Lake Ontario’s lower foodweb?
- What is the minimum temporal and spatial coverage required to characterize lower foodwebs in nearshore and offshore waters?
-Can zooplankton size spectrum be used in addition to mean length as an ecosystem indicator?

The data to be compiled and analyzed as requested under this RFA were collected by various government monitoring programs in 2003:

1) Four LOLA cruises using the Canadian Coast Guard research vessel, Limnos, and USEPA GLNPO’s Lake Guardian collected benthos, zooplankton, mysid and water-quality samples. This is the most extensive sampling effort conducted on Lake Ontario since 1995. Samples were collected from approximately 28 locations (Attachment 1) in spring, summer and fall. A fourth cruise collected mysids in the late fall. Samples collected included total phosphorus, soluble reactive phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, silica, benthos, zooplankton and mysids. The numbers of each type of sample and related quality assurance samples are summarized in Attachment 2.

2) Intensive nearshore monitoring programs on the U.S. side of the lake (U.S. Bioindex Project) and on the Canadian side, Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Nearshore Monitoring Program collected nutrient, chlorophyll-a, silica and zooplankton samples.

3) Zooplankton indicator development work was conducted by EPA’s research vessel, Lake Explorer, using semi-synoptic in situ sensing technologies and an optical plankton counter (OPC) as a potential alternative/supplement to zooplankton taxonomic analyses. This work was coordinated with LOLA and nearshore lower foodweb collection efforts. One objective is to assess design strategies that incorporate OPC information and to more fully develop the LaMP’s zooplankton indicator beyond “mean length” measurements by considering size spectra and community assemblages. The field study design allows a comparison of traditional and new sampling approaches during two periods of the summer season; zooplankton (OPC) sampling in June on the Lake Explorer which was repeated in August by the Limnos. The survey dates and locations will add spatially extensive data sets (net tows, OPC tows) along portions of two historical transects.

All field samples have been collected, analyses are near completion, and information on sample locations and parameter values will be provided subsequently to the RARE collaborator, whose principal role will be to compile the data, perform a preliminary analysis for evaluation by all partners, and provide a final report. Partners involved in component efforts have agreed to share data to allow for a centralized data analysis and they will also be part of the synthesis via a planned workshop. Sample collection handling and analysis will be conducted according to existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) utilized by U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes monitoring programs. The U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and Region 2 will serve as the U.S. coordinating leads in the interpretation and analysis of this data, along with Canadian counterparts. An ORD Project Officer will oversee the collaborative effort under this assistance agreement.

Funding Priorities/Focus: The scope of the proposal developed in response to this solicitation must focus on compiling the data provided, providing an initial graphical and statistical examination of these data, coordinating and conducting a workshop to discuss Lake Ontario’s condition as indicated by the 2003 data, and developing a final report that describes the current state of the lower foodweb status and recommends continuing and future monitoring and assessment strategies.

There are four defined tasks within this RFA:

1) Compile the data provided for all station parameters sampled in 2003.

Overall data sets for different surveys will be provided (April, June, August, September and October). The researchers will organize and compile lower foodweb data collected as part of LOLA 2003 sampling efforts (Attachment 2). Data to be compiled will include: benthos, mysids, zooplankton, TP, Chl-a, temperature, and Secchi depth (approximately 100 - 200 samples of each type). The researchers will also review QA samples and data quality, and develop basic data displays.

2) Prepare a data report with preliminary findings.

This will include: a) tabular presentation of results by stations and/or parameters, b) graphical displays and statistical analyses of the distribution (spatial and temporal) of a broad selection of chemical, physical, and biological parameters, and c) analyses of relationships among select parameters that could be a basis for evaluating trophic change. Comparison of results on similar parameters collected by different field components may be requested for QA purposes (e.g. chlorophyll).

The effort will include the development of basic data displays illustrating temporal changes and geographic/depth patterns in community assemblages, biomass, mean length, size spectra, productivity and other measures. Final decisions on specific data analyses and interpretation may be determined in coordination with Lake Ontario LaMP and LOC partners by conference calls or a face-to-face meeting. As guidance, a number of analyses used in historical surveys would likely form the majority of the analyses to be performed; examples are provided in Attachment 3.

3) Coordinate a workshop that will bring together principal investigators of the Lake Ontario 2003 field effort and other invited experts. The workshop objective will be to use the data report as a basis for examining the status of Lake Ontario and evaluating next generation monitoring tools. This effort will guide the summary report content and structure.

The RARE collaborator will budget for:

a) A 2-day meeting, including the arrangement of the meeting place and associated local costs; and;

b) Travel and per diem for 6-7 nonfederal, invited participants.

4) Prepare a summary report (~10-20 pages, with additional text and graphics/tables) that defines the status of the lower food web in Lake Ontario, with reference to notable historical trends and future monitoring needs.

The summary report will describe the current status of benthic, zooplankton communities and mysids and related indicators of biomass and productivity. The researcher should evaluate whether areas of the Lake with documented and severe declines in native benthic organisms also show changes in other food web components, such as phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages. The final report will also develop specific recommendations for a bi-national monitoring program that builds on existing programs and includes proposed sampling approaches and the use of zooplankton indicators. The report should make comparisons of 2003 data with historical data sets (reports and associated data [as needed] will be provided to the collaborator).

GPRA Goals, Objectives:

The specific Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) Goals, Objectives and Sub-objectives that relate to this RFA include:

Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems

Objective 4.4: Enhance Science and Research. Through 2008, provide a sound scientific foundation for EPA’s goal of protecting, sustaining, and restoring the health of people, communities, and ecosystems by conducting leading-edge research and developing a better understanding and characterization of environmental outcomes under Goal 4.

Sub-objective 4.4.1: Apply the Best Available Science. Through 2008, identify and
synthesize the best available scientific information, models, methods and analyses to
support Agency guidance and policy decisions related to the health of people,
communities, and ecosystems.

Statutory Authority for Award of Assistance: Research will be funded under the statutory authority of the Clean Water Act (P.L.92-500, as amended) Section 104(a)(1). Interested applicants must be eligible to receive Federal assistance under this Act and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 30 - General Regulation for Assistance, Part 31- Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Government, Part 34- New Restrictions on Lobbying, and Part 40 - Research and Demonstration Grants. The purpose is to commence research projects relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction and elimination of water pollution.

II. Award Information

Amount and Range of Individual Award: Proposal budgets must total $108,348 or less (exclusive of cost-sharing provisions), including all overhead and indirect costs at approved federal government rate.

Number of Awards: EPA expects to announce the one successful recipient during summer 2004.

Funding: The EPA is expected to fund this award over a period of approximately one (1) year. Funding of the first year of the award is expected to be at $108,348.

Project Period: September 01, 2004 to August 30, 2005

Supplemental Applications: Applications for supplemental awards of existing EPA assistance agreements will not be eligible to compete for this assistance opportunity.

Type of Award: The Agency anticipates the award of a cooperative agreement.

Anticipated Federal Involvement:

EPA and the Project Officer for this assistance agreement anticipate substantial involvement in the implementation of the research as follows:

  1. Provide technical input to experimental design and oversight of data analysis;
  2. Provide access through LOLA partners to collected data;
  3. Participate in the workshop development and preparation of summary reports on these activities.

The selected proposal will receive federal financial assistance from EPA through a Cooperative Agreement. A Cooperative Agreement is a legal instrument for the transfer of funds to an organization for the implementation of an EPA approved workplan, under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the Federal Agency and the recipient organization during the performance of the approved activities. In the case of this project, Developing the Next Generation of Great Lakes Lower Aquatic Foodweb Assessment Tools, it is anticipated that personnel from EPA-Region 2 and EPA-ORD Duluth Offices will work closely with the recipient during the implementation of the approved workplan, including (but not limited to) providing assistance in identifying appropriate environmental information to be included in the assessment; and identifying environmental and ecological conditions, issues or problems that can be addressed during different stages of implementation of the workplan. Also, it is expected that the recipient would work closely with EPA in the organization, development and implementation of outreach activities, including seminars.

III. Eligibility Information

Eligible Applicants: Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and tribal, state and local governments, are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive cooperative agreements from EPA under this program.

Cost Sharing Requirements: Institutional cost-share is not required. However, the degree of recipient cost sharing incorporated into the proposal, such as in-kind contributions, including: facilities, equipment, materials, professional services, or volunteer staff provided by non-Federal public agencies, organizations, or individuals, will be considered.

Other Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible nonprofit organizations include any organizations that meet the definition of nonprofit in OMB Circular A-122. However, nonprofit organizations described in Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that engage in lobbying activities as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 are not eligible to apply. Universities and educational institutions must be subject to OMB Circular A-21.

Groups of two or more eligible applicants may choose to form a coalition and submit a single application for this assistance agreement. Coalitions must identify which eligible organization will be the recipient of the assistance agreement, and which eligible organizations(s) will be sub-awardees of the recipient. Sub awards must be consistent with the definition of that term in 40 CFR 30.2(ff). The recipient must administer the assistance agreement, is accountable to EPA for proper expenditure of the funds, and will be the point of contact for the coalition. As provided in 40 CFR 30.2(gg), sub-recipients are accountable to the recipient for proper use of EPA funding.

Coalitions may not include for-profit organizations that will provide services or products to the successful applicant. For-rofit organizations are not eligible for sub awards. Any contracts for services or products funded with EPA financial assistance must be awarded under the competitive procurement procedures of 40 CFR Part 30. The regulations also contain limitations on consultant compensation. Applicants are not required to identify contractors or consultants in the proposal. Moreover, the fact a successful applicant has named a specific contractor or consultant in the proposal EPA approves does not relieve it of its obligations to comply with competitive procurement requirements or consultant compensation limitations.

Applications will be reviewed for eligibility during the Administrative Review (see Section V). Initial proposals from ineligible applicants will be returned without further review.

IV. Application and Submission Information

Address to Request Application Package: U.S. EPA, NHEERL\MED, 6201 Congdon Boulevard, Duluth, Minnesota 55804. Information: Craig L. Johnson, (218) 529-5016. Internet address: johnson.craig@epa.gov. Application information is also available from the Federal Government’s funding opportunities website, http://www.fedgrants.gov exit EPA, the EPA ORD website http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/#2004epa, under the heading Assistance Opportunities and EPA/Region II’s website http://www.epa.gov/region02/grants/. This document, and any subsequent amendments, constitutes the entire Request for Assistance proposal site.

Content and Form of Application Submission: At a minimum, the initial proposal shall consist of the following items:

1. A cover sheet that identifies the RFA title and identification number, name and address of applicant, point of contact, telephone number, e-mail address for the applicant, applicant's DUNS number (see Section VIII), and the date of the submission.

2. The pre-proposals must contain two standard federal forms, a workplan with budget, and appendices, as described below. Please follow instructions and do not submit additional items.

Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424) and Budget Information (SF-424A): The SF-424 and SF-424A must be submitted as part of your pre-proposal. Only finalists will be asked to submit additional federal forms needed to process their proposal. EPA will make copies of your pre-proposal for use by assistance reviewers. Funds will be provided for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 and (FY) 2005, with a final report submitted by November 30, 2005.

Workplan and appendices: A workplan describes your proposed research project, and your appendices establish your timeline, your qualifications, and your partnerships with other organizations, where applicable.

(a) Timeline – Include a “time line” to link your activities to a clear project schedule and indicate at what point over the months of your budget period each action, event, product, development, etc. will occur.

(b) Key Personnel – Attach a two-page resume for the key personnel conducting the project (maximum of six resumes, please).

(c) Letters of Commitment – If there are partners, include one-page letters of commitment from the partners explaining their role(s) in the proposed project.

The scope of the proposal developed in response to this solicitation must focus on compiling the data provided, performing an initial graphical and statistical examination of those data, coordinating and conducting a workshop to discuss Lake Ontario’s condition as indicated by the 2003 data, and developing a report that describes presents lower foodweb status and recommends continuing and future monitoring and assessment strategies.

In developing the technical proposal, the applicant should focus on the evaluation criteria set forth in Section V and structure the proposal to address each of the criteria in the order listed.

The page limitation of the technical proposal is 12 double-sided pages (24 pages total) with a minimum font size of 12. This page limitation should include all text, tables, figures, references, attachments, and appendices. In addition, a 2-page curriculum vitae should be included for the principal investigator and any other key personnel identified in the proposal.

3. A budget estimate for the project that is broken down into direct labor, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, other direct costs and overhead with summaries for each year and the total for the entire project. Indicate any proposed cost sharing (not required).

Proposal budgets must total $108,348 or less (exclusive of cost-sharing provisions), including all overhead and indirect costs, at approved federal government rates. Recipient should budget funds for one trip to coordinate a workshop that will bring together principal investigators of the Lake Ontario 2003 field effort, and other invited experts, where the workshop objective is to use the data report as a basis for examining the status of Lake Ontario and evaluating next generation monitoring tools. This effort will guide the summary report content and structure.

The RARE collaborator will budget for:

a) A 2-day meeting, including the arrangement of the meeting place and associated local costs; and;

b) Travel and per diem for 6-7 nonfederal invited participants.

4. A Quality Assurance Management Plan that outlines the steps that will be taken to adequately address this issue throughout the term of this study.

Note: QA requirements will be determined through consultation with the QA Manager.

Initial proposals should be submitted in the original with 3 copies and should be double-sided.

Submission Date, Time, and Location: To be considered timely, initial proposals must be received by 4:00 pm local time on June 11, 2004, from the U.S. Postal Service or other commercial delivery service. Proposals should be submitted to U.S. EPA, NHEERL\MED, 6201 Congdon Boulevard, Duluth, Minnesota 55804. For additional information contact: Craig L. Johnson, (218) 529-5016. Internet address: johnson.craig@epa.gov. Initial proposals received after the deadline will not be considered and will be returned to the submitter. Applicants who submit proposals by hand should request a receipt from the security guard at the main entrance of the EPA facility.

Intergovernmental Review: This assistance opportunity is subject to Executive Order 12372, "Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs." Applicants should contact their state's Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to find out how to comply with the state's process. The names and addresses of the SPOC's are listed in the Office of Management and Budget's home page at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/spoc.html exit EPA.

Funding Restrictions: Funding of the first year of the award is expected to be at $108,000.
Amendments: Amendments will be posted on this website and the due date for initial proposals will be extended if deemed appropriate.

Other Submission Requirements: None.

V. Application Review Information

Criteria: The criteria used to evaluate proposals include:

Administrative Review: All initial proposals will be subject to an administrative review to ensure that they conform to the requirements of this RFA. EPA may reject any applications that fail to conform substantially to the requirements of this RFA.

Relevance Review: Initial proposals that are found administratively acceptable will be subjected to a review for relevancy to EPA's mission to support advancement of environmental science. Initial proposals may be rejected if they are found to lack relevance. Examples include:

  1. Proposal is technically deficient with no chance for consideration.
  2. Proposal fails to advance the objectives stated in the solicitation even if successfully performed.
  3. Proposal essentially duplicates research already completed or underway.
  4. Proposal fails to demonstrate a public purpose of support and stimulation; i.e., it implies the primary purpose is to provide direct support to the Federal government.

Technical Review: Initial proposals that are found administratively acceptable and relevant shall be reviewed for technical merit against the following criteria:

Proposal Evaluation Factors

  1. The ability of the proposal to document experience with lower food web research or monitoring in Lake Ontario. (40%)
  2. Familiarity of the proposed work with recent findings for Lake Ontario. (20%)
  3. Experience of the principal investigator in the proposed research area. (20%)
  4. Suitability of personnel, facilities, and methods to achieve the stated goals of the proposal. (10%)
  5. Willingness and ability of the principal investigators to work cooperatively with EPA, other federal, state and Canadian partners. Preference will be given to proposals developed by teams of U.S. and Canadian researchers that will ensure full participation on both sides of the international border. There is a requirement to adhere to terms of LOLA data sharing agreement that ensures involvement of LOLA principle investigators in the development of journal articles and conference presentations.
  6. Institutional cost-share is not required. However, the degree of recipient cost sharing incorporated into the proposal, such as in-kind contributions, including: facilities, equipment, materials, professional services, or volunteer staff provided by non-Federal public agencies, organizations, or individuals, will be considered.
  7. Results of proposal peer review. The total number of points possible for each proposal is 100%. The maximum number of points each proposal may receive for the seven rating factors is 90. Reviewers will be given the flexibility to provide up to 10 bonus points for exceptional projects based on the overall quality of the proposal, evidence that the research will be advanced by the project, and that it will have a good return on the investment. The maximum number of points for each proposal is 100.

Other Factors: If two or more of the superior-rated proposals receive similar rankings, the respective budgets will be evaluated for cost reasonableness and cost realism. The proposal that is determined to be the most reasonable/realistic will be selected for award. The amount of cost sharing proposed (if any) will not result in additional points for any applicant, but will be considered in the evaluation of the reasonableness and realism of the overall budget.

Review and Selection Process:

Evaluation Process: The administrative and relevancy reviews will be conducted by EPA personnel who are not a part of the technical review panel. The technical review panel shall consist of at least one internal EPA reviewer and at least two non-EPA reviewers who are able to demonstrate technical expertise and a lack of any conflict of interest.

Source Selection: EPA will conduct the evaluation of initial proposals and make a selection of the applicant for award based upon the rankings of the technical review panel and the other factors discussed above. The Decision Official will be an EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) manager who will determine which applicant should receive the award.

Full Application: The applicant selected for award will be requested to submit a full, detailed application in accordance with the guidance provided by EPA's Office of Grants and Debarment (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/). After receipt of the full application, EPA may negotiate changes to the proposal with the selected applicant. For example, EPA will discuss significant comments received from the technical reviewers, aspects of the budget that may be questionable, the proposed terms and conditions for the agreement, and the nature and extent of EPA collaboration.

Rejection Factors: Applications may be rejected because they fail to comply with the administrative requirements of the RFA, they are found to lack relevancy, they are judged technically unacceptable, or they are not deemed suitable for award due to other factors (if identified). EPA reserves the right to reject all proposals or applications and make no awards.

Disputes: Disputes will be resolved pursuant to the process described in 40 CFR 30.63 and Part 31, subpart F.

Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates: The anticipated award date is 08/16/2004.

VI. Award Administration Information

Award Notices: Notice of award will be made in writing by an official in the EPA Grants Administration Division. Preliminary selection by the Decision Official in the Office of Research and Development does not guarantee an award will be made. Applicants are cautioned that only a grants officer can bind the government to the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of EPA should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with an EPA Program Official. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the EPA Grants Award Official does so at their own risk.

EPA will promptly notify in writing (postal or email) those applicants whose initial proposal is rejected. An unsuccessful applicant may request a debriefing to better understand the evaluated strengths and weaknesses of its proposal and the reason for rejection if other than technical merit.

Administrative and National Policy Requirements:

Regulations and OMB Coverage:

Grants and agreements with institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other nonprofit organizations are subject to 40 CFR Parts 30 and 40 and OMB Circular A-122 for nonprofits and A-21 for institutions of higher learning.

Grants and agreements with state, local, and tribal governments are subject to 40 CFR Parts 31 and 40 and OMB Circular A-87.

Programmatic Terms and Conditions: Terms and conditions will be negotiated with the selected recipient covering the following requirements:

It is required that projects be performed by qualified personnel. All proposals must identify any person who will assist in carrying out the project. The authorized representative of the recipient whose proposal is selected for an award is responsible for accepting the cooperative agreement from EPA and ensuring that all cooperative agreement conditions are satisfied. Recipients are responsible for the successful completion of the project as described in Attachment 3 and for complying with all reporting requirements of the cooperative agreement.

Award recipients may begin incurring allowable costs on the start date identified in the EPA cooperative agreement. Activities must be completed and funds spent within the time frames specified in the award agreement. EPA funds may be used only for the purposes set forth in the cooperative agreement and must conform to Federal cost principles contained in OMB Circular A–87; A–122; and A–21, as appropriate. Ineligible costs will be reduced from the final cooperative agreement award.

Proposals and resultant work generated under this solicitation will be subject to peer review, at EPA’s expense, and must comply with all EPA quality assurance requirements. Instructions for preparing a Quality Assurance Project Plan, can be found in EPA QA/G-5, Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans, which is on INTERNET site, http://www.epa.gov/quality/qs-docs/g5-final.pdf (PDF 401KB, about PDF).
An acceptable quality assurance document, i.e., Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), shall be due within 60 days following award. The LOLA data have been collected and analyzed under approved QAPP’s; this assistance agreement project’s QAPP will emphasize data synthesis (data integrity during handling, analysis, reduction, and reporting).

To further the assistance-agreement objectives of public support and stimulation, applicants must agree to make methods, models, and data resulting from this agreement accessible to the public and to EPA researchers.

The nature and extent of collaboration between EPA and the recipient:

EPA and the Project Officer for this assistance agreement anticipate substantial involvement in the implementation of the research as follows:

  1. Provide technical input to the experimental design and oversight of data analysis;
  2. Provide access through LOLA partners to collected data;
  3. Participate in the workshop development and preparation of summary reports on these activities.

The selected proposal will receive federal financial assistance from EPA through a Cooperative Agreement. A Cooperative Agreement is a legal instrument for the transfer of funds to an organization for the implementation of an EPA approved workplan, under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the Federal Agency and the recipient organization during the performance of the approved activities. In the case of this project, Developing the Next Generation of Great Lakes Lower Aquatic Foodweb Assessment Tools, it is anticipated that personnel from EPA-Region 2 and EPA-ORD Duluth Offices will work closely with the recipient organization during the implementation of the approved workplan, including (but not limited to) providing assistance in identifying appropriate environmental information to be included in the assessment; and identifying environmental and ecological conditions, issues or problems that can be addressed during different stages of implementation of the workplan. Also, it is expected that the recipient organization would work closely with EPA in the organization, development and implementation of outreach activities, including seminars.

Reporting:

Quarterly Progress Reports: The selected recipient will be required to submit quarterly progress reports summarizing technical progress, difficulties encountered, and planned activities for the next quarter. Each report shall include a summary of expenditures. The first quarterly report will be due ninety days after the cooperative agreement is awarded to the recipient.

Interim Report: The selected recipient will be required to submit an interim report that would highlight major findings that are readily apparent after their initial review of the available data. The purpose of this report will be to disseminate key findings to the broader community of Great Lakes lower aquatic foodweb experts so that ongoing monitoring projects can be modified to address any newly identified issues. Examples of the types of key findings to be included in this report would be the discovery of a new exotic species or significant declines in certain native species. This report would be released at the workshop to be organized by the recipient. The recipient will submit a draft of the interim report to EPA for review prior to the workshop. EPA will review the draft to ensure that the report is clear and that the major findings are well supported. This review will not include a full technical review.

Final Report: The selected recipient will be required to submit a final report within no later than 90 days of the completion of the period of performance. The final report will include detailed maps, tables, charts and any other graphical displays needed to illustrate key findings. The schedule for the development of the final report should allow for a 30-day review period by EPA (which would include experts from outside EPA) and sufficient time to allow the recipient to address any comments and issues identified by this review.

VII. Agency Contact:

The primary agency contact for this RFA is Craig Johnson at:

U.S. EPA, Mid-Continent Ecology Division
6201 Congdon Blvd
Duluth, Minnesota 55804

Telephone: 218-529-5016
Telefax: 218-529-5015
E-mail: johnson.craig@epa.gov

If unable to reach Craig Johnson, contact Jack Kelly at:

Telephone: 218-520- 5119
Telefax: 218-529-5033
E-mail: kelly.johnr@epa.gov

VIII. Other Information

Questions: Questions should be submitted in writing by the principal investigator. Do not attempt to seek information regarding this RFA from any sources other than those identified in Section VII as the information provided may be erroneous. Questions that are considered significant will be answered via an amendment to this RFA.

Confidential Information: Clearly mark information considered to be confidential. EPA will make final confidentially decisions in accordance with Agency regulations (40 CFR, Part 2, Subpart B). As noted above, initial proposals for research and demonstration projects will be provided to at least two non-EPA consultants for review. All reviewers will be required to sign confidentiality agreements certifying they will keep all deliberations confidential. They will not copy any portions of any material provided by EPA for review, and they will return all materials to EPA upon request. If you are unwilling to allow non-EPA consultants to review, please advise us of your decision in a cover letter to your proposal.

DUNS Number: Applicants are required to provide a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements. OMB has determined that there is a need for improved statistical reporting of Federal grants and cooperative agreements. Use of the DUNS number government-wide will provide a means to identify entities receiving those awards and their business relationships. The identifier will be used for tracking purposes, and to validate address and point of contact information.

A DUNS number will be required whether an applicant is submitting a paper application or using the government-wide electronic portal (http://www.grants.gov exit EPA). The DUNS number will supplement other identifiers required by statute or regulation, such as tax identification numbers. Organizations can receive a DUNS number in one day, at no cost, by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS Number request line at 1B866B705B 5711. Individuals who would personally receive a grant or cooperative agreement award from the Federal government apart from any business or nonprofit organization they may operate are exempt from this requirement. The website where an organization can obtain a DUNS number is: http://www.dnb.com exit EPA . This takes 30 business days and there is no cost unless the organization requests expedited (1-day) processing, which includes a fee of $40.

References

Johannsson, O.E., E.S. Millard, K.M, Ralph, D.D. Myles, D.M. Graham, W.D. Taylor, B.G. Giles, R.E. Allen, E.A. Rosalie, R.E. Allen. 1998. The changing pelagia of Lake Ontario (1981 to 1995): A report of the DFO long term biomonitoring (Bioindex) program. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. No. 2243: 278 pp.

Johannsson, O. 1995. Response to Mysis relicta population dynamics and productivity to spatial and seasonal gradients in Lake Ontario. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 52: 1509-1522.

Lozano, S.J., Scharold, J.V. and Nalepa, T.F. 2001. Recent declines in benthic macroinvertebrate densities in Lake Ontario. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 58: 518-529.

Mills, E.L., C.C. Wafer, E.M. Pueschel, L.G. Rudstam, B. Lantry, R. McCullough, D. Bishop, W. Pearsall, J. Norris, B. Trometer, C. Knauf and G. Brown. 2000. 2000 Status of the Lake Ontario ecosystem: A biomonitoring approach. NYSDEC Lake Ontario Annual Report 2000. Section 23. Bureau of Fisheries Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River Unit to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Ontario Committee. March 2001.

Attachments 1, 2 and 3 are provided.

Attachment 1. LOLA 2003 Planned Lake Ontario Sample Locations and Transects


Attachment 2. Summary of samples collected in 2003 as part of LOLA cruises.



Attachment 3. Data Analysis and Interpretation: Example anticipated efforts needed to evaluate current conditions and to make comparisons with existing historical data sets.

East-West / North-South Comparisons:
Nearshore east – west comparisons will be made for TP, SRP, Chl a, depth, water temperature, zooplankton density, size, biomass. Paired t-tests with untransformed (TP, SRP, Chl a, water temperature, zooplankton size) and log (x+1) transformed (zooplankton density and biomass) mean seasonal values to test for east-west differences. Relationship will be considered to be significant for two-tailed tests at p< 0.05.

East-west and north-south differences between offshore sites will be examined for seven parameters (TP, SRP, Chl a, water temperature, zooplankton & mysid density, size, and biomass). The east-west dividing line to be used is 77.80 W longitude line and the north-south division is at 43.60 N latitude. T-tests assuming unequal variance will be used to determine the degree of difference of log-transformed (zooplankton density and biomass) and untransformed (TP, SRP, Chl a, water temperature, zooplankton size) data. Relationship will be considered significant for two-tailed tests at p < 0.05.

Spatial Variability:
TP, SRP, Chl a, water temperature, Secchi depth, zooplankton & mysid density, size, and biomass Nearshore from three depth zones <50 m, 50 – 100 m and >100 m will be compared using a paired two sample t-test assuming unequal variances. The offshore comparisons will be made with nearshore data that was collected during the seasonal period that the offshore data was collected (i.e., the August offshore data was compared with nearshore data from August). Zooplankton densities and biomass will be log transformed. Zooplankton relationships will be considered significant at Bonferroni adjusted a=0.0167 (p<0.0167), and each chemical / physical relationship significant at p<0.05.

Seasonal and Temporal Variability in Embayment and Nearshore Habitats:
For eight parameters (TP, SRP, Chl a, Secchi depth, water temperature, zooplankton density, size, and biomass), differences spatially and temporally for embayment and nearshore parameters. Temporal differences for TP, SRP, Chl a, Secchi depth, and water temperature will be tested using a paired two sample t-test comparing 2000 and 2001 biweekly average data. Relationships will be considered significant for two-tailed t-tests at p<0.05.

Relationships of Variables:
The influence of TP, SRP, and water temperature on Chl a will be investigated a using linear regression analysis (Zar 1984) with untransformed data. Deviations of observed log (TP) and log (Chl a) summer means (mid-June through August) from relationships predicted in Pace (1984), Hanson and Peters (1984) and equation (1) from Mazumder (1994) will also be examined.

Zooplankton Community Dynamics:
Zooplankton will be divided into the following six groups: daphnids (Daphnia galeata mendotae, D. pulicaria, D. retrocurva, D. schodleri), bosminids (Bosmina longirostris, Eubosmina coregoni), calanoid copepods (Diaptomus minutus, D. oregonensis, D. sicilis, D. ashlandi, D. siciloides, Epischura lacustris, Eurytemora affinis, Limnocalanus macrurus), cyclopoid copepods (Acanthocyclops vernalis, Diacyclops thomasi, Eucyclops sp., Mesocyclops edax, Tropocyclops prasinus), "other" cladocera (Ceriodaphnia quadrilangula, Chydorus sphaericus, Leptadora kindtii, Diaphanosoma sp., Alona sp., Holopedium gibberum, Polyphemus pediculus, Bythotrephes cederstroem, Sida crystallina) and Cercopagis pengoi. Seasonal proportions of each group by biomass between embayment and nearshore habitats using a paired t-test will be used to ascertain differences in community composition between these areas. In addition, the biomass of each group in May and August using t-tests assuming unequal variance on log (x+1) transformed data for nearshore, and offshore areas.

Zooplankton - Cercopagis pengoi:
The spatial distributions of C. pengoi will be analyzed using t-tests assuming unequal variance on log (x+1) transformed C. pengoi density and biomass data to assess east-west and north-south differences in spatial distribution. In addition, log (x+1) transformed mean seasonal values of C. pengoi density and biomass will be analyzed using paired t-tests to look for an east-west difference among nearshore sites. Comparisons of temporal patterns of C. pengoi density, average size, and biomass in offshore and nearshore habitats will also be made using t-tests assuming unequal variance. Average densities of Bosmina longirostris in the summer sampling period will be compared with long term monitoring data sets.

Mysids – The ability of location and station depth to predict mysid abundance will be examined by multiple regression analysis after the independent variables (distance, station depth) are standardized, using z-scores and the dependent value (abundance) is transformed (log (x + 1)). Reproduction and growth status will be compared across depth ranges. One-way analysis of variance will be used to make these comparisons.

Benthos Samples – Mean population densities for the various regions of the lake (numbers of individuals per square meter), and with previous survey results (Lozano et al. 2001), will be compared with analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Turkey’s test (p<0.05) using densities at each station as replicates (Wilkinson 1996). Water depth will be included as a covariate term. A variance stabilizing transformation will be used prior to data analysis. An arcsine – square root transformation will be used for percentage data and a log transformation will be used for macroinvertebrate density data.

Special nearshore transects for detailed zooplankton and food web analyses (June and August 2003):

Compile in a form compatible with comparison to OPC size spectrum data, the 2003 zooplankton taxonomic analyses and size measurements as part of special nearshore transect sampling.

Work with ORD to compare OPC size spectra results as well as degree of variability with those measured with traditional net tow results. Work with ORD and Region 2 and other research PI’s to develop a recommendation to the LaMP and LOC for modifications to their current zooplankton indicator, through assistance with a draft recommendations report. Evaluate the status of zooplankton populations using the current Lake Ontario Lakewide Management Plan’s zooplankton indicator:

Objective - Zooplankton populations will be sufficient to support a healthy and diverse fishery.
Measures - 1) Mean individual size. 2) Biomass.
Purpose - To directly measure changes in mean individual size and biomass of zooplankton populations to indirectly measure changes in food-web dynamics due to changes in vertebrate or invertebrate predation, and changes in system productivity; the type and intensity of predation; and energy transfer within a system.
Targets - Zooplankton populations are sufficient to maintain prey and predator fish at levels consistent with existing binational fishery objectives. Mean individual size of approximately 0.8 mm is generally considered an optimal size when the water column is sampled with a 153- Fm mesh net.

Discuss the feasibility of expanding the zooplankton indicator to include community assemblages and size spectra as determined by OPC and net tows.

 

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