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Updated 8 February, 2004

Department of the Interior










As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has responsibility for most of the nation's nationally owned public lands and natural resources. This includes fostering sound use of the Nation's land and water resources and assesses energy and mineral resources.

Types of Environment and Natural Resources Research Supported

The major focus of DOI R&D efforts is to provide the scientific basis for natural and cultural resource policy and management decisions:

  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems: R&D is supported to provide information on the abundance, distribution, and health of biological resources and to develop predictive capabilities of the interactive processes that regulate and influence biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. This includes the functioning of biological systems and their relationship and interdependence to physical, chemical, geologic, and hydrologic factors and their response to human and natural environmental stresses through research focused on species, population, and ecosystem research. Inventory, monitoring, and conservation of living resources and their ecosystems, as well as research toward their sustainable development are high priority programs.

  • Global Change Research: Research is supported to improve understanding of the processes associated with terrestrial-oceanic and terrestrial-atmospheric exchanges of water, energy, carbon, and nutrients; to describe, analyze, and monitor past and contemporary states, changes, and processes in the Earth's physical, biological, geological, chemical, and ecological systems; to facilitate access to and use of global change information for policy decisions, resource management, research, and education; and to develop the ability to predict the effects of global change on public lands and natural resources.

  • Natural Disasters Reduction: Basic research is conducted on geologic (earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides) and hydrologic hazards (floods, droughts, subsidence, and dam safety). DOI research also provides hazard and risk assessments on national, international, regional, urban, and local scales and develops monitoring networks and geographic information systems. The Department is also responsible for transferring technology needed to enhance professional skills and expand technical capacity for mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, and recovery; and the organization and conduct of post- disaster investigations.

  • Geological, Mineral, and Energy: Resource assessments and environmental studies of the ecological, economic, and social factors involved in the development and management of offshore oil, gas, and mineral resources are supported. DOI research includes development of new mineral recovery concepts that will safeguard workers and prevent environmental harm, and research to conserve resources through recycling and preventing environmental problems or damage to the infrastructure.

  • Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Solid Waste Research: DOI conducts research primarily directed toward improvements of waste-disposal and clean-up practices and the mitigation of contamination problems by addressing major types of contamination, by developing new methods to reduce the volume and toxicity of processing wastes from mining and minerals operations, and by assessing the impact of contamination on fish, wildlife, and the environment. DOI also conducts research to understand the fate, transport, and effects of contaminants through ecosystems and the role of biological processes in the control and mediation of chemical speciation; and the development of risk-based action levels of contaminants.

  • Air Quality Research: These studies collect data on air quality conditions and trends in national parks and wilderness areas; effects of air pollution on resources; the pollutants responsible for resource damage; sources of pollutants; and the effect of reducing emissions at these sources. Present monitoring and research programs are focused on acid deposition, ozone, and fine particles as they affect visibility including understanding and predicting the transport and chemical transformation of air pollutants.

Research Funding Opportunities

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP)

The external research program of the NCGMP consists of two parts -- State Geological Survey Mapping (STATEMAP) and Education Geologic Mapping (EDMAP). Funding announcements for both of these programs are issued each year. A competitive proposal process is used to distribute funds. Federal funding in both programs is equally matched by the recipients of the cooperative agreements. The cooperative agreements meet guidelines set out in the annual announcements, which also detail the type of products required for the program. Panels of State geologists, geology professors, and NCGMP staff review the proposals and make funding recommendations to the NCGMP.

  • STATEMAP is only open to state geologists of the 50 States. The State Geological Surveys, in concert with a State geologic mapping advisory committee, typically focus their requests on environmental and societally important issues and, to a lesser degree, economic issues such as infrastructure minerals, economic mineral deposits, and oil and gas resources. Coordination with ongoing studies by USGS geologists is encouraged and many of the STATEMAP projects involve NCGMP geologists.
    Art Schultz
    703.648.6501 (voice)

  • EDMAP is open to any U.S. college or university that has a graduate-level geoscience program. Emphasis is on support of masters and doctoral candidate work that has an element of geologic mapping in the United States. Awards are based on a competitive proposal system and the proposed areas of study must be coordinated with either the State Geological Survey NCGMP priorities. This program, started in FY96, has an anticipated funding of at least 25 awards of a maximum of $15,000 for each student. Geologic maps produced by the graduate students will be published either through the NCGMP or through the State Geological Survey, and the geologic map data incorporated into the National Geologic Map Data Base.
    Art Schultz
    703.648.6501 (voice)

Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (EHRP)

The External Grants program of the EHRP issues two annual announcements that describe research opportunities in the External Grants Program and the Regional Seismic Networks Program. The grants component is fully competitive, while the regional seismic network component is a closed competition between universities that have developed seismic monitoring networks in seismically active areas of concern to the EHRP. The regional seismic networks are awarded as cooperative agreements because of the strong input from the USGS in data collection and analysis.

This program funds a limited number of unsolicited proposals. It makes the vast majority of its awards competitively. In FY95, 150 competitive grants were awarded, and three unsolicited non-competitive awards were made. No unsolicited proposals were funded under the Regional Seismic Networks Program. Grant applications are made according to the rules published in the annual announcements.

EHRP sponsors a wide range of studies that can be applied to reduce earthquake risk in the United States. Funding decisions are made by six regional panels. Each panel sponsors research aimed at any of five program elements: 1) Evaluating national and regional hazard and risk; 2) evaluating urban hazard and risk; 3) understanding earthquake processes; 4) providing real-time hazard and risk assessment; and 5) providing geologic hazards information services. The program emphasizes certain geographic regions based upon specific earthquake hazards and associated societal risks in them.

In response to guidance from Congress, EHRP places high priority on investigations in four areas where large populations are exposed to significant seismic risk: Southern California, Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Central United States. Studies in other earthquake-prone regions of the United States are also sponsored by the National-International Panel. In addition, the Process, Laboratory, and Theoretical Panel supports basic and applied research that can lead to new tools for earthquake hazard reduction nationwide. Each proposal should be addressed to a specific regional peer review panel, as listed below:

  • Southern California - From the Carizzo Plain south to the international border with Mexico
  • Northern California - From Cape Mendocino south to Parkfield, including the San Francisco Bay area
  • Pacific Northwest - Washington, Oregon, and California north of Cape Mendocino (Cascadia) and Alaska
  • Central United States - The New Madrid seismic zone and surrounding areas
  • National-International - All earthquake-prone geographic areas not included in the above four regions above
  • Processes, Laboratory, and Theoretical - Basic and applied research having the potential earthquake for hazard reduction in many geographic areas.
    John Sims
    703.648.6722 (voice)
    703.648.6642 (fax)

National Biological Service (NBS)

NBS works with others to provide the scientific understanding and technologies needed to support the sound management and conservation of the Nation's biological resources. NBS develops scientific and statistically reliable methods and protocols to assess the status and trends of the Nation's biological resources. The agency uses tools from the biological, physical, and social sciences to understand the causes of biological and ecological trends and to predict the ecological consequences of management practices. NBS develops and uses technologies to synthesize, analyze, and disseminate biological and ecological information.

Species at Risk Initiative (SAR)

SAR develops scientific information on the status and trends of sensitive species, particularly with respect to the relationship of species abundance and distribution to habitat conditions, stresses, etc. The initiative provides an opportunity for investigators to participate through research, inventory, and monitoring activities to fill biological information gaps and to provide resource managers, regulators, and private landowners definable scientific information from which prudent decisions can be made regarding the management of biological resources. Successful SAR projects lead to conservation options and actions that reduce the need for listing species as threatened or endangered.

FY96 funding is extremely limited and opportunities are largely restricted to NBS offices and activities.

John P. Mosesso
202.482.3774 (voice)

National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)

The NBII uses the World Wide Web to support a distributed "federation" of biological data and information sources, including a variety of Federal and State government agencies, universities, museums, libraries, and private organizations ( NBS supports projects to help make significant biological data and information accessible to a broad audience via the NBII. Projects that support NBII-related activities in developing and testing biological data and metadata standards and related tools are also encouraged.

FY96 funding is extremely limited and opportunities are largely restricted to NBS offices and activities.

Anne Frondorf
202.482.3980 (voice)

Population Viability/Declining Species

Small awards are available (only to NBS scientists in FY96) for research on vulnerable populations, with the goal of improving the ability to predict when populations may decline to the point where protection is necessary or to diagnose the causes of observed declines. Most awards are made on species or groups of species accorded high priority by DOI resource managers. Priorities are updated annually through DOI's Bureau Information Needs Process, and current priorities are included in announcements.

Hilary Neckles
703.358.1757 (voice)

Offshore Environmental Research

Offshore environmental research addresses information needs for DOI's Minerals Management Service. These studies assess the effects of offshore oil and gas development on the marine biota of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Studies target benthic biota, marine mammals, coastal environments, and commercial and sport fisheries. Investigations have also involved sublethal toxicity analyses, assessments of physical and chemical oceanographic regimes, and seabird distribution and abundance estimations.

FY96 funding has been determined through the open-competitive procurement process. Limited opportunities will be advertised in the Commerce Business Daily in FY97.

David P. Bornholdt
703.358.1710 (voice)

State Partnerships

One of the key themes in the development of NBS was the concept of a "national partnership" among the broad diversity of agencies and individuals involved in biological science for natural resource management. States play key roles in both natural resource science and management. The NBS State Partnership initiative seeks to enhance and strengthen working relationships between NBS and States. The initiative seeks to build upon existing relationships -- many of them strong and of long duration -- between elements of NBS and State fish and game agencies, heritage programs, natural history museums and biological surveys, and other agencies. NBS also seeks to expand its ties to include States with which it does not have historic ties, and to develop relationships with a broader range of agencies than was historically the case.

In FY96, approximately $450,000 is available through this initiative. About half the funding will be provided to States, with the remainder being provided to NBS units for activities that complement State efforts.

Robin O'Malley
202.482.2348 (voice)

Minerals Management Service (MMS)

The MMS uses a number of vehicles to announce research opportunities. Most research projects are competed in a restricted fashion and are advertised in the Commerce Business Daily -- inviting proposals on narrow, well-defined topics. While MMS does accept unsolicited proposals, few are funded due to limited resources. In the last 2 years, the use of Broad Area Announcements (BAAs) has been employed. This procurement mechanism is widely advertised through the Commerce Business Daily and requires submission of a short "white paper" on proposed research responsive to a series of broad research topics.

Environmental Studies Program (ESP)

Research is supported to provide information needed to predict, assess, and manage impacts from offshore activities on human, marine, and coastal environments. Studies are supported on the fate of potential OCS-related pollutants (e.g., oil, noise, drilling muds and cuttings, products of fuel combustion) in the marine environment and atmosphere. Large-scale oceanographic circulation studies and modeling are supported to provide information for oil spill trajectory analyses. Socioeconomic research is supported to develop an understanding of how OCS activities affect community composition and infrastructure, employment, and culture. FY96 opportunities follow:

  • Long-term monitoring at the East and West Texas Flower Garden Banks
  • Breton Wildlife Area Air Quality Study (Gulf of Mexico)
  • Assessment of historical, social, and economic impacts of OCS activities on Gulf of Mexico communities
  • De Sote Canyon Eddy Intrusion Study (northeastern Gulf of Mexico)
  • Stability and change in the Gulf of Mexico chemosynthetic communities
  • Synthesis of existing community-based information on Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup
  • Improvement and validation of the Coastal and Surf Zone Oil-Spill-Transport (COZOIL) model with data from the Exxon Valdez spill
  • Sediment quality in the depositional areas of Shelikof Straits and Lower Cook Inlet
  • Analysis of economic and social effects of the Alaskan oil and gas industry
  • Environmental compliance monitoring (offshore southern California).
    Kenneth W. Turgeon
    703.787.1717 (voice)

Technology Assessment and Research Program (TA&R)

Research is supported to provide information needed to ensure that offshore operations are conducted in an environmentally sound and safe manner, and to develop performance-based regulations. The TA&R supports deepwater research to ensure that technical issues are adequately addressed for future operational decisions. The TA&R Program also promotes research to assess and maintain the integrity of offshore infrastructure of platforms and pipelines that are functioning years beyond their design life. Research to understand how human organizational factors contribute to accidents and pollution and how they can be mitigated is supported, as are the development and evaluation of innovative oil-spill and containment technologies.

The most recent BAA (issued in the fall of 1995) contained the following research topics in general areas of engineering and safety in offshore operations, as well as spill response and clean-up technology:

  • Deepwater operations, including operational safety issues and structural and pipeline integrity
  • Aging infrastructure, including integrity assessment and repair methodologies for damage to older platforms and pipelines
  • Human and organization factors, including assessment methodologies to mitigate concerns relative to offshore operations
  • Oil-spill mitigation measures, including both clean-up and containment technologies.
    Chief, Technology Assessment and Research Branch
    703.787.1559 (voice)  

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