Environmental Factor, April 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Dearry Represents NIEHS at Ocean Science Public Policy Forum
By Eddy Ball
NIEHS Director of the Office of Environmental Public Health Allen Dearry, Ph.D., (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/od/oeph/index.cfm) was at the speakers' table March 5 when the Consortium for Ocean Leadership held its Annual Policy Forum and reception at the new Capitol Visitor Center on Capitol Hill in Washington. Dearry, the sole NIH scientist on the agenda, was there to offer the NIEHS perspective with a presentation on "Oceans and Human Health" - one of the Consortium's (http://www.oceanleadership.org/about/mission) emerging priorities.
The daylong meeting featured panels and presentations by representatives from federal agencies, Congress, and the ocean science community, with keynote talks by Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA).
Dearry's presentation opened with an outline of the range of research at NIEHS and a review of the oceans' impact on human health. Dearry reminded his audience of new and existing initiatives related to the oceans and the successes in both research and translation produced by the NIEHS Centers for Oceans and Human Health, which are funded jointly by the NIEHS and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Pointing to the impact of global warming on oceans and their growing threat as a vector of disease, Dearry discussed research initiatives ongoing at NIEHS that can have an impact on ocean research. He explained that much of the Institute's work to improve detection and quantification methods, better understand genomics and proteomics to improve the understanding of pathogenicity and more accurately evaluate the risks of pathogens epidemiologically can be readily adapted to ocean research.
Dearry described collaborations among NIEHS, NSF and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Researchers at such institutions as the University of Hawaii, University of Washington, University of Miami and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution receive funding and work with investigators from all three federal agencies. NIEHS, NSF and NOAA also work to coordinate oceans and human health research through various interagency committees and by participating in relevant conferences. Together, for example, they have developed an interagency oceans and human health research implementation plan.
Attendees included leaders from oceans research and educational institutions from around the country, interested non-governmental organizations and congressional staff. The forum was an important opportunity to discuss national issues of importance to the ocean community with this year's forum focusing on the oceans' effects on climate change, human health and energy security. For NIEHS, the forum was a time to build on existing relationships with partners and cultivate new ways to leverage resources in an effort to improve the health of the oceans and ameliorate their adverse health effects on humans.
A reception followed at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.