Keeping tabs on the state’s environment
Archived article from Nov 10, 2000
By Steve Manas
To see where New Jersey stands, environmentally speaking, is the goal of the Center for Environmental Indicators (CEI), a joint venture of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Cook College/New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Rutgers Libraries’ Scholarly Communication Center.
CEI works with practitioners and scientists from academic institutions, governmental and nongovernmental research programs, and the DEP to develop and use the most applicable environmental indicators to inform scientifically sound decision-making.
“Indicators are measures that represent or summarize status and trends in significant aspects of environmental quality,” explained CEI co-director Mark Robson, the executive director of EOHSI, which is jointly sponsored by Rutgers and UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The trends may refer to causes or pressures from human or natural processes that are affecting the environment, the state or condition of resources and societal responses, or efforts to mitigate environmental stresses.
“Indicators are used to communicate about the environment and inform decision-makers as to where resources for policy development, funding and research should be directed.”
Examples of indicators could be the number of nesting pairs of eagles in the state, the populations of aquatic insect larvae and other organisms in a stream, the number of beach closings per year or blood lead levels in at-risk populations after remediation efforts.
The center has its origins in the National Environmental Performance Partnership System developed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Council of States to strengthen public health and environmental protection through management for environmental results.
Recently, the Scholarly Communications Center at the Alexander Library became the physical location for CEI and will assist in carrying out its organizational and research functions. “This will increase emphasis on CEI’s role as an information clearinghouse,” observed Sheri Seminski, CEI associate director, who works closely with Linda Langschied, digital projects librarian and co-director of CEI, and Ronald Jantz, government and social sciences data librarian. “We anticipate the technological capabilities and expertise found in the library to provide a springboard for developing new models for scholarly communication and scientific exchange in environmental indicators.”
She added that CEI’s mission as an “information disseminator and provider of outreach services” will be expanded to include training sessions and/or courses focusing on environmental indicators in environmental management.
Examples of ongoing or future collaborations include development of a New Jersey Environmental Digital Library and creation of a cross-disciplinary database of Rutgers faculty engaged in environmental research. An e-journal is also anticipated.
“The environmental digital library will provide information in full text and graphic content,” Langschied said. “Users will find citations, as well as published and ‘gray’ (undocumented) literature. The project represents our collective effort to bring valuable but hard-to-find information to the desktops of the state’s numerous environmental stakeholders.”
To foster research, CEI will disperse minigrants in program areas including the study of ozone, air and greenhouse gases, water, human health and toxics, landscape/land use and biodiversity/ecosystems. Funds will be available for communications programs and outreach.
The center holds an annual meeting and honors a contributor to environmental indicator research. Clifford Weisel, deputy director of EOHSI’s Exposure Measurement and Assessment Division, was recently recognized for his studies of the relationship between ozone in the atmosphere and its effects on asthma suffers.