Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Researchers continue to learn new things about this endangered turtle's diet, especially during their early life stages (the lost years). In 2015, green turtle nest counts reached a new record high with 27,975 nests laid on the 26 core Index Nesting Beach Survey beaches during the 109-day sea turtle index-nesting season. (Credit: John Starrett/FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)

Lawmakers Borrow Tech Buzzword, Urge Innovation

“Not long ago, Google and Uber were nouns and verbs yet to be discovered, and Amazon was a rainforest in South America,” declared Chairman John Barrasso (WY) in his opening statement to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He went on to explain the idea behind the hearing, which was to examine new solutions to control invasive species and to promote wildlife conservation. He stressed that innovation has transformed nearly every sector of the economy and that conservation should be no exception.

For universities, funding from the federal government has declined for four years in a row. (Credit: Pixabay)

Science’s Role In The Rulemaking Process

“I thought Galileo dealt with this,” commented Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp (ND) at a hearing of the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, referring to recent attention paid to outlandish celebrity social media posts. She continued, “We can’t be swimming outside the lanes so far that we have a reasonable dialogue about the Earth being flat.” While this flat-Earth claim is obviously false, the separation between fact and opinion has been a major topic in politics this year and in the science policymaking realm in particular.

Hurricane Rita in 2005 was a category 5. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Shelter From The Storm

With a dramatic reversal of environmental concerns on the West Coast from drought to flooding this winter, members of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee held a timely hearing to discuss flood insurance reform, specifically the reauthorization and reformation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is due for reauthorization this fall. Flooding is the most frequent and expensive disaster in the U.S., and a delay in reauthorizing NFIP could disrupt property sales in high-risk areas where flood insurance is required.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure discusses future of marine shipping and inland waterways. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Future Of Water Infrastructure

In the first hearing of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the 115th Congress, members discussed the role of federal agencies in building water infrastructure. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which implement much of the country’s water regulatory programs and infrastructure projects. The discussion focused mainly on potential cuts to EPA’s budget and how these would impact water infrastructure projects.

A true-color NASA satellite mosaic of Earth. (Credit: NASA)

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As…Thorny?

When the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, the agency posted online (as per their norm) hundreds of pages of technical documents, including underlying data, calculations, analyses, and memorandums. Their documentation, such as the Regulatory Impact Analysis, includes review of peer-reviewed literature, and the rule itself (which also used peer-reviewed science to underpin it) received unprecedented input through a number of outreach efforts, including 4.3 million public comments submitted during the six-month public comment period. For an agency so committed to transparency and the use of science for the public good, it should seem surprising that there are efforts by some in Congress to increase this transparency, public participation, and use of good science – but at the expense of allowing EPA to effectively do its job.

The future of NASA will focus on space exploration, while climate and Earth science programs are uncertain. (Credit: Grevera / Wikimedia Commons)

NSF: Inspiring Innovation

An English major, inspired by watching astronauts land on the moon, changes her career path. Who is the mystery woman, who recently admitted, “I was the most unlikely person to become a scientist?” None other than Dr. France Córdova who now serves as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Votes advance key legislation. (Credit: Defense.gov)

House Action on Defense Appropriations and NASA Bills

Last week, the House passed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 1301) by a large margin of 371-48. The bill now awaits action in the Senate. The House also passed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 442).

National Science Board sets priorities for the National Science Foundation (Credit: NSF)

Looking To The Future: Antarctic Infrastructure And Blue Collar STEM

“As those of us who have been to Antarctica know…” is not a common introductory phrase, but at a panel discussion on research in the region during the first of five meetings of the National Science Board (NSB) this year, a number of speakers and board members reported that they had first met on the remote continent. Hailing from both from academia and industry, the 24-member board is tasked with setting the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and acting as independent advisors to both the president and Congress on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) policy.

The U.S. Coast Guard Healy Class Icebreaker (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Transportation And Infrastructure Lists Priorities For Year Ahead

Like getting their homework assignment in on time, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved their budget views and estimates report last week ahead of the deadline. The report, submitted to the House Committee on the Budget, lays out their plan for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and identifies priorities within the committee’s jurisdiction, which include the U.S. Coast Guard, maritime vessels and transportation, ports, and inland waterways.

The budget resolution provides a spending blueprint for federal agencies while taking aim at the affordable care act. (Credit: Pexels)

Bold Plans For Budget Cuts And New Cabinet Confirmations

It was a busy week on Capitol Hill for President Trump, with news on Monday of bold plans for his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 presidential budget and three of his least contentious Cabinet nominees advancing in the Senate. According to White House officials, the president’s FY 2018 budget proposal (which is slated to be released in full on March 16) would increase military spending by $54 billion and cut nondefense discretionary programs (those funded by Congress on an annual basis, such as education, scientific research, infrastructure, national parks, and environmental protection) by the same amount, worrying agencies that support these programs, including the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. While it is not a given that the House and Senate’s appropriation bills align with the president’s budget request, the document serves as a marker for White House priorities and policy initiatives.