UWs ENR Director Appointed to EPA Science Advisory Board

November 16, 2010
Woman smiling
Indy Burke

Indy Burke, director of the University of Wyoming's Environment and Natural Resources Program, has accepted an invitation to serve on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB).

In a letter of appointment, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote that Burke's experience in natural resource ecology would be a great asset to the SAB. Burke will provide advice on technical issues underlying the EPA's policies and decision-making, and provide guidance support to Jackson, who leads a staff of more than 17,000 professionals nationwide.

"This appointment is an honor for Dr. Burke and a testament to her stature as a scientist," says Myron Allen, UW provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Dr. Burke has a distinguished record of teaching and research, and the EPA will benefit from her deep understanding of environmental and natural resource issues facing Wyoming and the at large nation."

The SAB supports credible decision making for national environmental issues. The EPA's science is founded on the principle that "only through adequate knowledge about the risks to human health and ecosystems, and innovative solutions to prevent pollution and reduce risk, can we continue to enjoy a high quality of life." Congress established the SAB in 1978 and gave it a broad mandate to advise the EPA on technical matters.

A key priority for the agency is to base EPA actions on sound scientific data, analyses, and interpretations, says Burke.

"As the national agency charged with environmental regulation, the EPA must be well-informed and advised by a team of scientists with broad expertise that covers water, air, and land systems," she says.

The SAB also provides a mechanism for the EPA to receive peer review and other advice designed to make a positive difference in the use of science for environmental decision-making.

"While the agency has a large number of highly qualified scientists as full-time employees, the Science Advisory Board and its committees can provide some special big picture advice, from an outside perspective," Burke says. "It's an honor to serve in this capacity, and particularly, to represent expertise from the Intermountain West, where the agency has had much less of a focus."

The SAB is administered through its scientific and technical advisory committees. Activities include consultation, peer review of reports and products, commentary on emerging issues, innovative research, and rapid consulting as in the event of national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

Before coming to UW as ENR director and as a UW Wyoming Excellence Chair in Ecology, Burke was a professor in the Department of Forestry, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship at Colorado State University. She received her Ph.D in botany from UW.

Her areas of interest are in soil organic matter dynamics, ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, regional modeling, global climate change, and pedagogical techniques. Her research over the last decade has focused on land use management and its influence on ecosystems and on scientific applications to minimize the threat of wildfires, and studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental science and regulation at the national level.

As director of ENR, Burke works to advance interdisciplinary scholarship at UW. Her appointment to the SAB began this month and ends on Sept. 30, 2013.

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