Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences Research at GERG

Technician preparing samples for analysis

Environmental Sciences aims to understand the changes on our planet due to human interactions with the environment. The group monitors the rate of environmental change nationally and internationally. It predicts potential change and aids in protecting and sustaining the environment for future generations. Environmental Sciences also distributes that information to government and industry stakeholders as well as to clients.

Environmental Sciences strives to better understand the changes occurring across our planet as a consequence of human interactions with the environment. The group's research monitors the rate of environmental change, predicts future change, and aids in protecting and sustaining the environment for future generations. Environmental Sciences maintains a state-of-the-art laboratory of specialized instrumentation. The Environmental Sciences disseminates information to government and industry stakeholders and clients and provides the expertise to interpret the results. Cutting edge research is encouraged through continuous improvement of instrumental sophistication, methods, and efficiency. Training and quality are cornerstones of all laboratory operations.

Research interests in Environmental Sciences include assessment of the current status and future trends in environmental contaminants. Environmental Sciences conducts national and international environmental monitoring programs, and improves and develops analytical methodologies to meet emerging needs for the detection of environmental contaminants. Environmental Sciences projects assess the sources, sinks, and bioavailability of a variety of important environmental contaminants. (e.g., nutrients, trace elements, pesticides, PCB, PBDE, dioxins/furans, petroleum hyrdocarbons, VOC, SVOC, and TBT).

Research: Experience and Credentials

Trace Contaminant Analysis

GERG currently conducts a large number of high quality, trace contaminant environmental monitoring programs. Some of these programs include field sampling and others are strictly analytical efforts.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Contract Laboratory

GERG has been one of the USFWS's contract laboratories for over 20 years. GERG has demonstrated it can meet and exceed USFWS's stringent quality control/quality assurance requirements.

NOAA's National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Project

GERG was a participant in the NOAA NS&T program for over 14 years. GERG has a long-standing record of intercalibration using the NIST/NOAA/NRSC methods for a wide array of trace metal and trace organic analytes.

EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program-Near Coastal (EMAP-NC) in the Gulf of Mexico, Virginian and Carolinian Provinces

GERG was extensively involved in EMAP-NC analytical work for most of the provinces. We have conducted sediment analyses for the Lousianian Province (Gulf of Mexico), tissue analyses for the Virginian province (northern East Coast) and sediment analysis for the Carolinian Province (southern East Coast). Thus, GERG provided the majority of the analytical work for EPA's 1991 to 1995 EMAP-NC program in U.S. coastal waters. These programs involve both trace metal and trace organic analyses and field sampling in the Gulf.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Studies

GERG has been involved in a number of major NRDA studies since 1990. We conducted most of the analytical hydrocarbon analyses for the Trustees as part of the Exxon Valdez oil spill NRDA. As part of this effort, GERG conducted sample analyses for NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the State of Alaska. We also provided Exxon's contractors with hydrocarbon analyses as part of Exxon's Oil Spill Litigation Studies. GERG was the only laboratory that provided high quality hydrocarbon analyses to both parties in the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Another large NRDA effort that GERG participated in was the Montrose (Southern California bight) NRDA effort. On this project GERG provided the Trustees (NOAA and USFWS) with nearly a million dollars of pesticide and PCB analysis. Additionally, GERG has provided NRDA analytical support to a number of other smaller federal, state and private clients.

MMS 's Environmental Studies Programs

GERG has provided the contaminant chemistry work element for many of the Minerals Management Service's (MMS) studies in both the Gulf of Mexico and offshore California. Some examples include:

  • Mississippi-Alabama Marine Ecosystem Study III (MAMESIII)
  • Chemosynthetic Ecosystem Study

Past MMS projects that included trace contaminant analysis included:

  • Gulf of Mexico Offshore Operations Monitoring Experiment (GOOMEX)
  • Mississippi-Alabama Marine Ecosystem Study I (MAMESI)
  • Northern Gulf of Mexico Slope Study
  • South Texas OCS Study
  • Southern California Platform Study

EPA's National Estuary Programs

GERG has conducted several of EPA's National Estuary Program analytical efforts in Galveston Bay, Boston Harbor, Casco Bay, and the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program. The largest of these was entitled "Toxic Contaminant Characterization of Aquatic Organisms in Galveston Bay".

NSF's Bahia Pariso Antarctic Oil Spill and Environmental Projects

In 1989, the National Science Foundation chose GERG to provide contaminant analytical support for the Bahia Pariso oil spill in Antarctic. This project has continued and expanded to include what is now a six year study of contaminant concentrations around both U.S. Antarctic stations (Palmer and McMurdo Stations). The program involves joint funding from NOAA.

IOC's International Mussel Watch

The IOC selected GERG to participate in International Mussel Watch as the only U.S. laboratory.

Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP): Atmospheric Deposition

State of Maryland TMDL/PCB Study

Statewide Fish Tissue Monitoring Program Fish Study - Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Division for Regulatory Services

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Organic Contaminant Sample Analyses

Analytes of Interest

State-of-the-art sampling techniques and analytical methodologies are used to detect environmental contaminants in a variety of matrices.

  • Dioxins/furans
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Aroclor and congeners
  • Planar PCBs / WH0 Toxic PCB / 209 PCB
  • Organochlorine pesticides (e.g., DDT, chlordane, toxaphane)
  • Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
  • Organotins(component of anti-fouling paint)
  • Pigments
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) / Aliphatic hydrocarbons
  • PAH bile metabolites
  • Organophosphate pesticides (e.g., chlorpyrifos)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Trace elements (e.g., lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.)
  • Semi - Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)
  • Nutrients
  • Salinity
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Polybrominated biiphenyls (PBB)

Sample Matrices

  • Soils/sediments
  • Tissues (plant and animals)
  • Water (e.g., rain, seawater, wastewater)
  • Air - Particulate and gaseous organic compounds
  • Semi-permiable membrane devices

Sampling Equipment

  • Sediment sampling (coring devices, grab samplers, dredges)
  • Small boats for coastal sampling
  • Rain Samplers
  • High volume air samplers