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#RealWorldScience for a More Resilient World See how science is advancing outcomes in our homes, communities, and more.

Every day, Abt Associates goes the distance in our science, projects and partnerships to provide solutions to the toughest environmental challenges. From assessing arsenic in baby cereals to advancing clean energy strategies worldwide, science is at the root of what we do. Explore some of our #RealWorldScience work below.

L to R: Bench science. Ecological risk assessments. Clean energy and benefit-cost analysis.

Our researchers, scientists, economists, public health communicators and social welfare experts deliver primary research and multidisciplinary solutions worldwide. Check out what we're doing to improve quality of life, the environment and natural resources, in communities, states and countries.

Small amounts of arsenic can lead to harmful effects.

#RealWorldScience in our Homes:

Breakfast the Brain Doesn't Need

Arsenic is a harmful chemical that can be found in certain foods, especially those containing rice. Infants and young children are exposed to higher levels of arsenic from their diets than adults because they commonly eat infant rice cereal, and consume greater amounts of arsenic relative to their body weight.

A report from Abt Associates and Healthy Babies Bright Futures quantified these exposures and found that the adverse health effects and associated economic costs of arsenic are significant. In fact, removing all rice and rice products from U.S. children’s diets during the first 6 years of life could save more than 9 million IQ points per year, resulting in approximately $12 to $18 billion in additional annual earnings. Replacing all infant rice cereal consumed by 0-12 month olds with arsenic-free infant foods would lead to an estimated $1.2 to $1.8 billion in additional annual earnings by saving almost 1 million IQ points per year in the U.S.

Abt also found that arsenic exposure from infant rice cereals approaches or exceeds existing health-based limits for arsenic levels, leaving little room for arsenic exposures from other sources such as fruit juice or drinking water.

Some infants may consume more rice-based products (for example, those on a gluten-free diet or members of certain ethnic groups) and therefore have higher arsenic exposures than average. Parents can help protect their children by providing a varied diet with alternative grains such as oatmeal.

Science is helping to shed light on the adverse health effects and associated economic costs of arsenic in rice products.
Scientists have been helping communities affected by Superstorm Sandy.

#RealWorldScience in our Communities

Charting a New Direction after Superstorm Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy made landfall in 2012, many residents, state and federal agencies, organizations and institutions--such as schools and hospitals--wanted to find proactive ways to prepare and plan for future weather events. Dr. Susan Taylor and teams from Abt have been working with communities to do just that by looking at natural infrastructure projects. Specifically, Taylor has been working to define the metrics that can offer important quantifiable data on how natural infrastructure provides ecosystem and socio-economic resilience.

“Communities and agencies want to know if we have a wetland or marsh here, how will that help limit the impact of erosion, or just how much is needed to dissipate flood waters,” says Taylor. The science and engineering community generally accepts that these natural approaches work, but we are working on quantifying the benefits."

With the measurements and metrics, communities along the coasts will be able to tap into the best evidence on natural infrastructure and make data-informed decisions on how to design and plan for future extreme weather events.

Dr. Taylor is working with National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) and the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) over the next five years to collect the metrics developed at over 40 DOI/NFWF Sandy resilience project sites.

The Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Program consists of 167 restoration, mitiga­tion, and science projects to develop and implement best practices for improving coastal resilience to sea-level rise, storm surge, and wave erosion for ecosystems and communities.
Prioritizing action for natural resources.

#RealWorldScience in the States

How Science Guided Florida's Conservation & Restoration Strategy

Five states were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a disaster of staggering breadth and depth. The immediate response and aftermath required complex planning and advanced science. But how do you prioritize conservation and restoration projects when there are so many needs?

Part of our work on the Deepwater response included helping the state of Florida identify high priority restoration and conservation projects. Abt helped the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) prepare the Florida Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund Draft Restoration Strategy and present it to the public. This strategy addresses priority needs by watershed, and is driven by an analysis of restoration activities identified in local, regional and statewide conservation and management plans. The Restoration Strategy will help Florida allocate millions of dollars to restoration projects in the state.

Deciding what activities to prioritize to address and restore natural resources is complex, says lead research Jennifer Peers. "We reviewed more than 1,400 potential project ideas submitted to Florida’s online restoration project portal, screened them for potential relevance, and identified which restoration needs would potentially be addressed by each project."

There are five different species of sea turtles in Florida.
Fiddler crab studies show dramatic impact when oiled crabs are exposed to ultraviolet light.

#RealWorldScience for Regions

Beach Crabs Reveal the Dangers of Oil to Reproductive Health

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing the largest off-shore oil spill in U.S. history.

An estimated 134 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf waters over 87 days. The effects were immediate and long-lasting for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, as well as untold numbers of marine and aquatic life. That's the big picture.

But for tiny fiddler crabs, small burrowing crabs that live along the shores of the Gulf, the disaster was about to reveal something critical to our understanding of science and reproductive health.

Of the many scientific tests conducted in the wake of Deepwater, Abt scientists, and our partners, Dr. Jim Stoeckel, Auburn University, and Dr. Aaron Roberts, University of North Texas, looked at the offspring of female fiddler crabs that had been exposed to oil. After the female fiddler crabs’ eggs developed and hatched, the larvae from oiled crabs appeared to be unaffected when compared to the larvae from unoiled crabs.

However, that story quickly changed. Shortly after the larval crabs were exposed to sunlight, they died.

"There was an initial sense that exposure to oil as developing embryos was not acutely toxic," said Abt scientist Dr. Jeff Morris. "But as soon as sunlight came into play, that was not at all the case. This experiment furthered our understanding of what was previously not well understood, and the results will be something that scientists working on future oil spills should be paying attention to."

Fiddler crabs are helping to advance our understanding of oil's effects on reproductive health.

Sustainable Success: Combatting Malaria While Reducing Plastic Pollution in Ghana

Since 2012, the Abt-led U.S. President's Malaria Initiative Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (PMI AIRS) project has conducted indoor residual spraying (IRS) in 12 African countries to reduce the burden of malaria by spraying insecticide on the walls, ceilings, and other indoor resting places of mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

An important part of the spraying includes the safe disposal of waste generated from IRS. If not appropriately managed, the waste can pose a risk to the environment and the population. Environmental compliance and safety are critical components of the project.

The project uses the insecticide Actellic 300CS, which comes in high-density polyethylene bottles. To manage the waste, the project partners with local companies to recycle the bottles into paving blocks. In Ethiopia, the bottles have been recycled into electric conduit cables and in Ghana, the bottles have been recycled into paving blocks for streets and communities.

How can EU countries respond and remediate their natural resources under the Environmental Liability Directive?

#RealWorldScience Worldwide

Accelerating Restoration Support in the EU

In 2004, the European Union (EU) passed the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), taking a bold step toward providing a broad regulatory framework within which damages to habitats and ecosystems must be remediated. The ELD also outlines an overarching policy goal of compensating the public for losses through environmental restoration.

For more than a decade, Abt's scientists, under the direction of Joshua Lipton, Ph.D. and Jennifer Peers, have developed technical guidance for assessing and quantifying natural resource damages in the EU, and have designed, directed, and implemented assessment case studies in multiple Member States. Both have worked extensively on natural resource damage assessment and restoration (NRDAR) projects in the U.S. Together, they co-edited and wrote the first technical book to describe how to design and implement the types of equivalency analysis broadly prescribed by the ELD.

LEFT: The technical volume on equivalency methods helps stakeholders assess damages and compensation under the EU's Environmental Liability Directive. RIGHT: Abt's co-editors Jennifer Peers and Joshua Lipton, and Stavroula Pouli, an environmental scientist with the Hellenic Ministry for the Environment, take a moment out from an Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) training in Athens, Greece, on assessing damages to natural resources. Peers and Lipton have worked extensively on natural resource damage assessment and remediation (NRDAR) projects in the U.S. In addition to training US-based and EU country experts and decision-makers, the pair recently co-edited the first technical book on equivalency analysis following the EU’s ELD.

Building Cities’ Capacity for Improved Solid Waste Management

The municipal solid waste sector is a significant contributor to pollutants that impact global climate change and local air quality. For example, dumpsites and landfills are the third-largest source of man-made methane emissions, and open garbage burning is a key source of black carbon emissions.

Abt's scientists have been working with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Municipal Solid Waste Initiative to help municipalities in developing countries improve solid waste management and reduce pollutant emissions. Two examples of Abt’s work include SWEET and municipal solid waste financing.

Solid waste is one of the toughest challenges facing governments and municipalities today. Abt has been on the forefront of research and planning to help address the needs and equip stakeholders with tools that provide insights for action.

SWEET Tool Quantifies Impacts of Solid Waste Management

One tool developed by Abt is helping municipal leaders curb emissions from the solid waste sector, thus reducing contributions to local air pollution and global climate change. Working with SCS Engineers on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Municipal Solid Waste Initiative (Waste Initiative), Abt developed the Solid Waste Emissions Estimate Tool (SWEET) to measure and analyze emissions of methane, black carbon, and other pollutants from sources across the sector.

Says Abt scientist Joe Donahue, "SWEET provides the best available techniques and methods for calculating emissions from landfills and dumpsites, and for evaluating future scenarios to mitigate emissions."

Abt is working with Waste Initiative implementers to apply SWEET to analyze the emissions reduction benefits of alternative waste management scenarios in numerous locations around the globe, including Brazil, Ecuador, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Mongolia, Nepal, and Serbia.

In Need of Innovative Financing Models: Municipal Solid Waste

The way we manage our waste has an enormous impact on people's health, the environment, and national economies. Poorly managed waste not only has serious short- and long-term health impacts, but also contributes to climate change by generating powerful greenhouse gases. Beyond the health and environment impacts, poorly managed waste contributes to additional government spending, too.

So what can we do about it?

First, we can view municipal solid waste as a resource. "On average, the European Union member countries recover 60 percent of municipal solid waste and transform it in raw materials and energy," says Nadia Scharen-Guivel, Abt principal associate/scientist. "In contrast, most developing countries continue to have dump sites. They lack the political, technical, and financial wherewithal to convert these landfills into solid waste management projects."

One of the keys to successful solid waste management systems is financing. Check out this presentation with Scharen-Guivel as part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Municipal Solid Waste Initiative webinar series.

#RealWorldScience is helping to preserve, conserve and remediate habitats around the globe.

Real World Science: Improving Our Health and Environment

As we become more interconnected, we know real world science can be used to improve our health and environment, our programs and policies, and our planet.

Working globally, our team of environmental scientists, engineers, data analysts, economists and policy professionals provide clients with solutions that are rooted in scientific evidence and framed in actionable terms.

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