You are here:
About the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL)
What We Do
EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) provides international leadership in exposure science and uses an integrated multidisciplinary approach to conduct relevant and responsive research to:
- develop the knowledge and tools necessary to assess potential exposures and risks to emerging environmental threats, and
- mitigate exposures to known contaminants and environmental stressors.
Headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C., NERL has an in-house workforce of more than 400 scientists, engineers and staff across six divisions in four locations: RTP; Cincinnati, Ohio; Athens, Georgia; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Understanding exposures and approaches for reducing exposures is critical in making informed decisions to protect public health and the environment. NERL’s multidisciplinary expertise enables the laboratory to bring cutting-edge research and technology to the field of exposure science to address the critical exposure questions necessary to protect the public’s health and the environment.
Research Projects Managed by NERL
- Human Exposure Database System (HEDS)
- Consolidated Human Activity Database (CHAD)
- Water Resources Database (WRDB)
- Regional Vulnerability Assessment Program (ReVA)
Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Director
- Phone: 919-541-2106
Timothy Watkins, Acting Deputy Director
- Phone: 919-541-2107
- Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Division
- Ecological Exposure Research Division
- Ecosystems Research Division
- Environmental Sciences Division
- Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences Division
- Microbiological and Chemical Exposure Assessment Research Division
Location: Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Interim Director: Dr. Rohit Mathur
What We Do: The Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Division develops and evaluates predictive atmospheric models over different spatial and temporal scales to assess risks from air pollution and to inform policy decisions to reduce risk.
AMAD is responsible for providing a sound scientific and technical basis for regulatory policies to improve ambient air quality. Models developed by AMAD are used by EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the air pollution community to understand and forecast air pollution, and to develop emission control policies and regulations for air quality improvements. AMAD applies air quality models to support key integrated, multidisciplinary research. This includes linking air quality models to other models to address issues involving human health and ecosystem exposure science.
Programs and projects managed by AMAD
- Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) 5.0
- Air Quality Model Evaluation International Initiative (AQMEII)
- Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS)
- Development of a local-to-global air quality modeling system
- Researchers examine nanoparticle impacts on vehicle emissions and air pollution
- Interaction of Air Quality and Climate Change
- Modeling Air Quality Impacts on Terrestrial and Water Quality
- Fine-scale Atmospheric Modeling for Use in Human Exposure and Health Studies
- Emissions Modeling Research
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Director: Mark Bagley
What We Do: EPA's ecological exposure research aims to inform decisions supporting ecosystem protection and restoration by providing a sound biological foundation for ecological exposure science. This research provides relevant, high impact science that addresses enduring Agency needs, focusing its resources and capabilities in molecular, population and ecosystem assessment methods on achievable results in the area of ecological receptor characterization.
EPA Ecological Exposure Research is integrated across three areas:
- Research to characterize ecological exposures through analysis of biological indicators designed to demonstrate contact between biota and specific contaminants or classes of contaminants.
- Research to help estimate the potential magnitude and extent of ecological exposures through characterization and modeling of spatial and temporal distributions and dynamics of resource populations that come into contact with anthropogenic stressors.
- Research to help estimate the potential magnitude and extent of ecological exposures through analysis and modeling of ecological communities and the cascading of ecological exposures and effects through ecosystems.
EERD Related Information
Programs and projects managed by EERD
- Exposure Biomarkers for Aquatic Organisms
- Classification of Functional Process Zones in Large Rivers
- Headwater Streams Studies
- Relative Risk for Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater
- DNA Barcoding Research Supports Biological Assessments
- Future Midwestern Landscapes Study Report
Location: Athens, Georgia
Director: Roy Sidle
What We Do: The Ecosystems Research Division (ERD) promotes sustainable ecosystem health and informs decisions that support environmental protection by applying the best biological, chemical and geophysical science as the foundation for ecosystem exposure research. The core of our program involves assessing and quantifying fate and transport of contaminants in the environment and how physical changes affect the environment. These problems are addressed through a continuum of field studies, bench-scale experiments, laboratory investigations and analyses, and modeling approaches. One of our key challenges is to ascertain and predict how environmental stressors (physical, chemical, and biological) propagate through complex ecosystems to reach important ecological receptors.
ERD employs a multi-disciplinary approach in our fate and transport studies and embraces the concept of sustainability. Our goal is to ensure that process-based research feeds directly into integrated modeling studies that are conducted in environments ranging from single media to complex, interacting multi-media over a range of spatial scales. To accomplish this goal our workforce is focused on an interconnected paradigm of process science – analyzing and connecting processes to models – and integrated environmental modeling.
The employees at ERD believe that scientific excellence, creative multidisciplinary approaches, sustainability, and effective collaborations are cornerstones of our research and development efforts. To support our mission, we deliver high-quality, timely, effective, and understandable scientific products and applications that meet the needs of our partners and the general public, with a commitment to exceed their expectations.
Programs and Projects Managed by ERD
- Metabolomics: Forensic tools as early indictors of wildlife exposure to chemicals
- Environmental Fate Simulator: Forecasting how chemicals move around in the environment
- Designing Urban Detention Ponds to Support Healthy Ecosystems
- Engineered Nanomaterials in the Environment
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment Program
- Virtual Beach: Modeling tool helps beach managers protect swimmer's health
- Disinfection Byproducts: What's in Our Drinking Water?
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Director: Randall Gentry
What We Do: The Environmental Sciences Division conducts research to improve landscape and regional ecosystem exposure assessments through the use of remote sensing, advanced spatial analysis, and analytical chemistry. Located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the division applies a multidisciplinary, multimedia approach in both laboratory and field settings.
ESD Related Information
Programs and projects managed by ESD
- Regional Vulnerability Assessment Program (ReVA)
- Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC)
- Characterization and Monitoring
- Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE)
- Environmental Chemistry
- Landscape Characterization
- Landscape Ecology
- Trace Organic Analysis
- Vacuum Distillation for Identifying Volatile Pollutants
- Ion Composition (ICE) for Identifying Uncommon Pollutants
Location: Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and Las Vegas, Nevada
Director: Timothy Buckley
What We Do: The Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences Division conducts research focused on building a sound scientific understanding of the processes and factors that impact sources of environmental pollutants, environmental concentrations, and human exposure to help protect human health and the environment. The division’s core research activities include:
- Development of sampling and analytical methods for measuring environmental concentrations of organic and inorganic pollutants;
- Measurement studies to understand atmospheric processes and human exposures to environmental pollutants;
- Development and application of models to link:
- Sources to atmospheric concentrations;
- Environmental concentrations to human exposures;
- Human exposures to dose; and
- Human exposures and environmental concentrations back to sources.
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Director: Jay Garland
What We Do: The Microbiological and Chemical Exposure Assessment Research Division conducts multi-disciplinary, problem-driven research to develop:
- Immunological approaches to assess human exposures to bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens;
- Culture- and molecular-based detection methods and spatiotemporal measurements of
bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens;
- Sensitive analytical methodologies for measuring chemical contaminants in aqueous and solid matrices, utilizing state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation and techniques;
- Understanding of waterborne pathogen and indicator microbial ecology in both natural and engineered water systems;
- Microbial risk assessments for alternative, innovative approaches for water/wastewater treatment based on resource recovery (energy recovery, nutrient extraction, water reuse);
- Quantitative microbial risk assessments that link with other sustainability indicators to provide integrated sustainability assessments of alternative systems.
The Division conducts its multidisciplinary research program with a broad skill mix of scientists that includes science expertise in molecular biology, microbiology, analytical chemistry, water methods and microbial processes.
MCEARD Related Information:
Programs and projects managed by MCEARD
- Prevalence of contaminants in treated and untreated drinking water
- Same-Day Monitoring Method for Recreational Water
- Analytical methods for measuring contaminants in drinking water
- Saliva-based exposure assays for detecting exposure to waterborne pathogens
- Pathogens in piped water systems
- EPA Method 1615 for detecting waterborne enteroviruses and noroviruses