Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

EPA Research Centers

EPA research has provided effective solutions to high-priority environmental problems for the past 40 years.  However, single-pollutant, source-specific, and end-of-pipe approaches are limited in their ability to address the increasing complexity of 21st century environmental challenges.  EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) is strengthening its planning and delivery of science by implementing an integrated transdisciplinary research (ITR) approach.  ITR is the bringing of people together from different disciplines, perspectives, and experience to define problems, conduct research, and deliver products and outcomes.  ORD has realigned its former 12 research areas into four better integrated research programs:

  • Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC)
  • Safe and Sustainable Water Resources (SSWR)
  • Air, Climate and Energy (ACE)
  • Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS)


Sustainable and Healthy Communities propose to focus on two research themes.  The first research area is to develop comprehensive approaches to help communities become more sustainable.  The second research area is addressing particular community problems that are common across many communities, using a systems approach to better integrate the interacting aspects of human health, landscapes and ecosystems to solve them.  The Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research program will focus on the identification and development of the scientific, technological and behavioral innovations needed to ensure clean, adequate and equitable supplies of water that support human well-being and resilient aquatic ecosystems.  There are six overarching areas: energy/materials, agriculture, chemical/industrial processes, the built environment, water ecosystem protection, and nutrient loading.  The Air, Climate and Energy research themes will be to assess impacts, prevent and reduce emissions, and respond to changes in climate and air quality.  The Chemical Safety for Sustainability research program will be focusing on three areas.  The first area is developing the scientific knowledge, tools, and models for integrated strategies.  The second is improving the relevance of assessment and management methods for chemical safety.  The third is targeting high priority research needs for immediate and focused attention.

EPA Developed Tools:

  • The Regional Vulnerability Assessment (ReVA) program conducts research on innovative approaches to the evaluation and integration of large and complex datasets and models to assess current conditions and likely outcomes of environmental decisions, including alternative futures.  ReVA developed a web-based environmental decision toolkit (EDT) for the Mid-Atlantic that allows decision makers to evaluate potential changes to ecosystems in response to various management decisions, under various future development scenarios (e.g., popluation increase, land-use change, climate change, intensity of resource extraction) out to the year 2020.

  • Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS) – CADDIS, is a website developed to help scientists and engineers conduct causal assessments in aquatic systems.

  • Watershed Central – Watershed Central has been designed to assist users to develop and implement effective watershed management programs. The site includes guidance, tools, case studies, and data sets to help you share information, analyze data, and identify opportunities to initiate or strengthen your watershed efforts.

  • National Aquatic Resource Surveys – The U.S. EPA, states, and tribes are conducting a series of national aquatic resource surveys. Often referred to as probability-based surveys, these studies report on core indicators of water condition using standardized field and lab methods. The surveys include a national quality assurance program and are designed to yield unbiased, statistically-representative estimates of the condition of the whole water resource (such as rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, wetlands, etc).

  • Healthy Watershed Initiative – The objective of the federal Clean Water Act is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters." While other EPA programs focus on restoring impaired waters, the Healthy Watersheds Initiative augments the watershed approach with proactive, holistic aquatic ecosystem conservation and protection. The Healthy Watersheds Initiative includes both assessment and management approaches that encourage states, local governments, watershed organizations, and others to take a strategic, systems approach to conserve healthy components of watersheds, and, therefore, avoid additional water quality impairments in the future.

  • Multi-criteria Integrated Resource Assessment (MIRA) – MIRA is a new approach to help decision makers make more informed environmental decisions that include stakeholder concerns. The process is used to: 1) organize and rank decision criteria or indicators, 2) link the data to the policy decision question, use the decision context to determine the relative importance of the decision criteria, and explore alternative decision options.

  • Natural infrastructure (sometimes called green or sustainable infrastructure) is the interconnected network of natural and undeveloped areas needed to maintain and support ecosystems. They also provide a wide array of environmental, health and economic benefits such as mitigating climate change impacts and sustaining clean air and water.  The EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Natural Infrastructure Priority Action Plan has identified three project areas of focus: 1) Abandoned Mine Land / Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Region, 2) Monocacy Watershed, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and 3) Coal River, West Virginia.

  • The Framework for Risk Analysis for Multimedia Environmental Systems (FRAMES) provides the linkage of different state of the art environmental models (water, soils, metals, air, landscape, etc.) so that scientists can consider all the exposure pathways and the collective risk that they pose. Furthermore, the processing of data for model consumption, whether field data or another model’s output, is a time-consuming and sometimes tedious process.  Having this linking capability allows environmental model developers and users to more easily populate model input files, concentrating their resources and efforts on improved science and applications.

Back to Top