Science Policy: A Preview of 2016

It is not too late to register for an AIBS science policy webinar on 12 January 2016. This free event previews science policy issues that are likely to arise in Congress and the executive branch in 2016. The webinar will be presented by Julie Palakovich Carr, AIBS public policy manger. Register at

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Tune in for the State of the Union

On Tuesday, January 12th, President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. The White House says that the address will be a departure from past speeches. “Instead of laying out a laundry list of policy proposals for 2016, he’ll look beyond the next election and instead talk about some of the most important issues that will shape our country for generations to come,” according to blog post on

Among the guests who will join First Lady Michelle Obama to watch the address are two advocates for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The inclusion of these people on the guest list may be an indicator that the president’s remarks will include science.

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New Research Initiative Aims to Improve Toxicity Testing

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health are offering $1 million to researchers who create a new way to more accurately screen chemicals. Such toxicity screening allows the government to determine the safety of products.

Current technology allows for thousands of chemicals to be tested in an automated process, but fails to identify compounds that may become more toxic once metabolized by the body.

The competition will provide two stages of funding for finalists and $400,000 for the winning proposal. Submissions for the first stage are due on 8 April 2016.

Learn more at

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NASA to Start CORAL Reef Expedition in 2016

NASA will start a new three-year long field expedition in 2016 called the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) to survey the condition of coral reefs around the world.

Previous studies and surveys of coral reefs have relied on costly and labor-intensive diving expeditions and have been confined to very few dive sites when assessing the status of this threatened ecosystem.

The CORAL campaign aims to create a database of uniform scale and quality with detailed information from reef areas that have not been previously surveyed.

Reefs all over the world are threatened by climate change. Eric Hochberg, CORAL principal investigator, stated that, “We’ve seen the reefs of Jamaica and Florida deteriorate and we think we know what is happening there. However, reefs respond in complex ways to environmental stresses such as sea level change, rising ocean temperatures and pollution. The available data were not collected at the appropriate spatial scale and density to allow us to develop an overarching, quantitative model that describes why and how reefs change in response to environmental changes. We need accurate data across many whole reef ecosystems to do that.”

The expedition will use advanced instruments on aircrafts and under water to study the conditions of reefs. An airborne instrument called the Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) will be used to record light reflected upwards from the ocean surface. This will allow researchers to measure unique spectral signatures of corals and algae and determine the health of these ecosystems.

CORAL will significantly increase the amount of data currently available on reef health, but will only cover 3-4 percent of earth’s reefs. “Ideally, in a decade or so we’ll have a satellite that can frequently and accurately observe all of the world’s reefs, and we can push the science and most importantly our understanding even further,” said Hochberg.

CORAL is funded through NASA’s Earth Venture Program. To learn more about it go to:

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Nominations Sought for USGS Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science

The Department of the Interior is currently soliciting nominations for the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science.

The committee was chartered in 2013 and advises the Secretary of the Interior on the operations of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers. It consists of 25 members who represent the interests of state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, American Indian tribes and other Native American entities, academia, landowners and businesses.

Nominations should include a resume describing the nominee’s detailed qualifications. Self-nominations will be accepted. Nominations can be sent by mail to Robin O’Malley, NCCWSC, USGS, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mail Stop 516, Reston, VA 20192 or by email to The deadline for sending in nominations is 15 January 2016.

For further details, read the federal register entry here.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to to get started.

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