The importance of synthesis to disaster planning and response

Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 2010. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 2010. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The U.S. government spends billions on disaster relief every year—$136 billion between 2011 and 2013 alone—but one crucial area tends to be overlooked. There are often major gaps in the scientific understanding of the environments in question.

When disasters hit, responders must often play catch up, using valuable time assessing prior ecological conditions or pulling together scattered sources of information.

In a recent paper in the Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Center for Urban Waters Distinguished Scientist in Residence Usha Varanasi proposes a new model for disaster-planning and response, in which baseline ecosystem data and syntheses are collected in advance of possible incidents. She calls it “frontloading the science,” and you can download the paper at the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

Citation:

Varanasi, Usha (2013), Making Science Useful in Complex Political and Legal Arenas: A Case for Frontloading Science in Anticipation of Environmental Changes to Support Natural Resource Laws and Policies, Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Vol. 3, Number 2.

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Frontloading the science in anticipation of environmental disasters

Dr. Usha Varanasi

Dr. Usha Varanasi

A recent paper by Center for Urban Waters Distinguished Scholar in Residence Usha Varanasi discusses the decline in America’s baseline ability to use science to plan for and assess highly likely environmental disasters, such as oil spills.

This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue of the journal Fisheries, published by the American Fisheries Society. It is reprinted with permission of Fisheries and the author. Dr. Varanasi is an adviser to the Puget Sound Institute. Continue reading

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PSI collaborates with NOAA on Puget Sound maps

The Puget Sound Institute is collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to enhance a new web-based mapping resource for Puget Sound. The project will utilize NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application® (ERMA) within the Institute’s forthcoming Encyclopedia of Puget Sound to bring together a wide array of GIS and oceanographic data. ERMA was first used extensively in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the same mapping application is now being customized for the Puget Sound watershed and Northwest area.

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