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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental Decision-Making

Opening Date:  January 31, 2002
Closing Date:  July 17, 2002

Summary of Program Requirements
Background
Specific Areas of Interest
References
Funding
Eligibility
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Contacts

Access Standard STAR Forms and Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/index.html)
View NCER Research Capsules (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/topical/)
View research awarded under previous solicitations  (http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/research.search/rpt/abs/type/3)
 

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
GENERAL INFORMATION

Program Title:

Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental  Decision-making

Synopsis of Program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for research into the development of regional-scale stressor-response models.  The goal of this research solicitation is to develop improved models for use by ecosystem managers to address regional environmental problems. Models proposed for development under this RFA will address interactions among at least one of the following suites of stressors:  1) those associated with the listed impairments in the current Clean Water Act 303(d) listing process; that is, suspended and embedded sediments, nutrients, pathogens, 2) those influenced by climate change (e.g., flow variability, thermal regimes, UVB), 3) changes in land use patterns affecting regional habitat, and 4) the introduction of exotic species.  The modeling endpoints will reflect variables of concern for aquatic ecosystems.  These concerns include freshwater and coastal fish and shellfish populations, as well as ecosystem services (e.g., biodiversity, production, life-support function).

Contact Persons:

Barbara Levinson
Phone: 202-564-6911
email:  levinson.barbara@epa.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

66.500

Eligibility Information:

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments are eligible to apply for assistance under this program.

Award Information:

Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: 5-7
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $4 million
Potential Funding per Grant per Year: Up to $250,000 per year for up to 3 years ($750,000 total, including direct and indirect costs).  Applications that exceed $750,000 will not be considered.

Sorting Code(s):

The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is  2002-STAR-M-1.

Deadline/Target Dates:

Letter of Intent Due Date(s):  None
Application Due Date(s): July 17, 2002

Mailing Address for Applications:

This is an EPA RFA. See the “How to Apply” section of the Standard Instructions for STAR Grants (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/standinstr.html)


BACKGROUND

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for research into the development of regional-scale stressor-response models for use in environmental decision-making.  The Agency's goal for protecting ecosystems is to restore and maintain the "health," biological diversity, and sustainability of ecosystems while supporting sustainable economies and communities. While a consensus exists in the environmental community on the need for integrated ecosystem management, our ability to implement integrated ecosystem management is limited by inadequate understanding of the interaction of multiple anthropogenic stressors with biological responses within regional watershed ecosystems. By regional scale ecosystems we mean areas such as the Chesapeake Bay or the Willamette River basin. This RFA seeks the development of regional-scale models that can be used to simulate and investigate the interactions of multiple stressors on the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Managers of large, multi-jurisdictional watersheds (8-digit HUC scale and above) need to be able to identify and monitor anthropogenic stressors and understand their impact on the watershed in order to develop appropriate management strategies for ecosystem scales ranging from headwaters to large receiving bodies.  Their management challenges are compounded by the uncertainty imposed by the interaction of climate change, as well as changing socioeconomic drivers.  Unfortunately, limitations on our understanding have resulted in the development of independent water quality standards that narrowly focus on single stressor-response relationships at a single scale of analysis (http://www.epa.gov/bioindicators/html/bioltech.html and http://www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/calm.html).  Similarly, guidance for predicting and allocating reductions in pollutant loadings needed to mitigate water quality impairments has historically focused on single water bodies or reaches and on single pollutants, even though management actions often need to be applied at a watershed scale and often must necessarily involve multiple pollutants (NRC 2001).

Modeling has long been used as a tool to examine and predict relationships among variables in complex systems. With respect to models used for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) analysis,  the need for improved stressor-response models was identified by the National Research Council (NRC) in its report, Assessing the TMDL Approach to Water Quality Management (2001). The report states that the development of models “that link anthropogenic stressors (such as chemical pollutants, changes in land use, or hydrologic alterations) to biological responses is a significant challenge to the use of biocriteria and for the TMDL program.”  A TMDL refers to the “total maximum daily load” of a pollutant that, upon reaching a water body, results in a pollutant concentration in the water body that does not exceed a water quality standard.  The report also suggests that models that are designed to protect or restore water quality and designated use should ideally include the five major environmental stressors identified by Karr (1990) and the NRC (1992).  These stressors are: alterations in physical habitat,  modifications in the seasonal flow of water, changes in the food base of the system, changes in the interactions within the stream biota, and release of contaminants.   The NRC notes that applicable models should: a) focus on the water quality standard so that the model can quantitatively link management options to response variables, b) be consistent with scientific theory, c) report uncertainty, d) be appropriate to complexity of the situation, e) be consistent with the amount of available data, f) give results that are credible to stakeholders, and g) be flexible to allow for updates and improvements.

This RFA seeks proposals for the development of regional scale models that can be used to investigate, simulate, and predict interactions of multiple stressors on the health of aquatic ecosystems.  However, such regional-scale models will still require consideration of stressor interactions at scales immediately above and below this level, since coarser-scale attributes can influence responses at finer scales (Allen and Starr,1982), and because managers typically must aggregate and/or extrapolate monitoring data collected at small watershed scales up to the regional level. Thus, tools are needed to interpret decisions made on  individual watersheds within their regional context.  Management issues relevant at the regional scale may include: assuring that sufficient habitat or breeding populations exist over a region to ensure sustainability of populations and ecosystems, managing wetlands on a regional basis rather than wetland by wetland, the introduction of exotic species, the interactions of climate change and climate variability with land use and UVB, and protecting and restoring our nation’s waterbodies on a broader scale than individual stream segments or small watersheds.

SCOPE OF RESEARCH

The goal of this research solicitation is to develop improved models for use by ecosystem managers to address regional environmental problems. A variety of modeling approaches can be proposed, from fully distributed physically based models to empirically based statistical models based on landscape or other biophysical characteristics. All proposals, however, must describe: 1) how the model will effectively link multiple environmental stressors to biological responses, 2) how the uncertainties in the model predictions will be defined and quantified, and 3) how the model performance will be tested and validated.

Models proposed for development under this RFA will address interactions among at least one of the following suites of stressors:  1) those associated with the listed impairments in the current Clean Water Act 303(d) listing process; that is, suspended and embedded sediments, nutrients, pathogens, 2) those influenced by climate change (flow variability, thermal regimes, UVB), 3) changes in land use patterns affecting regional habitat, and 4) the introduction of exotic species.  The modeling endpoints will reflect variables of concern for aquatic ecosystems.  These concerns include freshwater and coastal fish and shellfish populations, as well as ecosystem services (e.g., biodiversity, production, life-support function).

The stressor-response models should be designed to facilitate rigorous investigation of the following issues/questions:

  • Are there significant interactions among multiple stressor effects or are the effects of common stressors, (e.g., suspended sediments, nutrients, pathogens, and altered habitat) additive?

  •  
  • Are there ranges of stressor concentrations at which significant interactions are expected to occur as different factors become limiting in a system?  (For example, suspended sediments at high concentrations could mask the effect of eutrophication in an estuary, or a hydrologic regime characterized by frequent spates could prevent the accumulation of periphyton in a nutrient-rich system.)

  •  
  • Are the effects of common stressors additive along the headwater to estuary continuum or do different factors limit fish and shellfish populations within different aquatic resource classes and at different scales?

  •  
  • How might environmental change threaten ecosystem service integrity?  What are the potential thresholds and breakpoints of ecosystem response to environmental change?

  •  
  • What is the uncertainty in the model predictions?  How can model results be extrapolated from one place to another and from one timeframe to another?  What are the geographical limits of the model?

  •  
  • Are data available to estimate the required model parameters? Are data available to test the model’s predictions?  How can the problem of limited data be dealt with? How can information be extrapolated across scales given data at different spatial and temporal levels of data resolution?  For example, detailed time series data might be available for a limited number of targeted sites in a region within a matrix of probability-based samples used to characterize regional condition.

  •  
  • How will the model be tested and validated?
OTHER GUIDANCE

The parameterization and testing of regional-scale modeling methods tends to rely heavily on data derived from statistical sampling, remote sensing, and spatial analyses.  Proposals must address the data requirements, including the statistical basis for evaluating the quality and representativeness of the model input data, and for conducting spatial and statistical analyses of input data and model results.

The use of model results by private and government watershed managers is complicated by the existence of multiple political and environmental jurisdictions within a large watershed basin.  Proposals must explicitly identify how the simulation results of the proposed model might be used by watershed management agencies to address practical management issues identified in the Background section.  The Agency especially seeks proposals that can explicitly describe how insights provided by the model on stressor interactions at multiple scales might be used to inform watershed managers on decisions regarding existing or anticipated watershed management issues.  Proposals that demonstrate potential collaboration with watershed management agencies are especially desired.

REFERENCES

Allen, T.F.H. and T.B. Starr. 1982. Hierarchy. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Karr, J. R. 1990. Bioassessment and Non-Point Source Pollution: An Overview. Pages 4-1 to 4-18 in Second National Symposium on Water Quality Assessment. Washington, DC: EPA Office of Water.

National Research Council (NRC). 1992. Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems. Washington, DC:National Academy Press.

National Research Council (NRC), 2001, Assessing the TMDL Approach to Water Quality Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.


FUNDING

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $4.0 million will be awarded., depending on the availability of funds. Budgets of up to $250,000 per year for up to 3 years ($750,000 total, including direct and indirect costs) will be considered.  5 to 7 awards are expected to be made. Applications that exceed $750,000 will not be considered.

ELIGIBILITY

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program.  Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations.  They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator.  The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research.  However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program.  However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.1 The principal investigator’s institution may also enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere, etc.  A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

1EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. However, this interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is “incidental” is not reflected in a research proposal and involves no resource commitments.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, email: puzak.jack@epa.gov.

STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION

A set of special instructions on how applicants should apply for an NCER grant is found on the NCER web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/downlf.html, Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The necessary forms for submitting an application will be found on this web site.

Sorting Codes

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is  2002-STAR- M-1

The deadlines for receipt of the applications by NCER are no later than 4:00 p.m. ET, July 17, 2002.

CONTACTS
Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. Email inquiries are preferred.

Barbara Levinson (202)564-6911
levinson.barbara@epa.gov

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