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EPA Grants Go to Harvard, MIT

Research to focus on allergies, climate change, and forest fire prevention

By Bethina Liu, Contributing Writer

Harvard and MIT researchers received $2.1 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last Thursday to study the effects of climate change on public health and local ecosystems.

The grants—which are part of $17 million awarded to universities nationwide—will fund two projects at Harvard, the first of which will examine when and where pollen allergies are most likely to increase as a result of changing regional climate conditions.

In collaboration with a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Harvard researchers aim to develop models and maps that will predict when and where allergy “hotspots” will occur in New England, according to the EPA press release.

Additionally, Harvard was awarded a second grant to improve an existing model to predict fires in shrub and grasslands in California, the Southwest, and other forest areas. The team will also work with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to assess the effects of climate change on the length of the wildfire season in North America.

“Emissions from wildfires can have deleterious effects on air quality. As climate change brings higher temperatures and perturbs rainfall patterns over the next few decades, the effects on wildfires and regional air quality could be large,” the Harvard/NASA GISS team said in the press release.

MIT researchers will work with Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a Boston-based regional air pollution control organization, to assess the global and local impact of climate change on air quality by 2050. The study will analyze the costs and benefits of transportation technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and bio-fuels, and their impact on both the economy and global health.

Researchers at Harvard, UMass Amherst, and MIT did not return requests for comment yesterday.

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